The Jets didn’t descend into chaos Friday upon receiving the news that D’Brickashaw Ferguson will retire, but here’s the sobering reality for a team that might be farther away from the postseason than we think: Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have legitimate concerns at the three most important positions in the sport.
The Jets have no starting quarterback, left tackle or edge passer at the moment.
Ferguson’s retirement didn’t blindside the organization — they have a replacement plan in place that they hope to execute — but it did prompt legitimate questions about the immediate future of an aging team.
The Daily News reported this week that the Jets recently approached Ferguson, who was scheduled to make $ 10.375 million and count $ 14.1 million against the 2016 salary cap, about a pay cut that would ostensibly help them re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In fact, the team wanted to cut Ferguson’s money for the upcoming season in half, according to sources. The Jets specifically told him that the salary cap relief would help bring back Fitzpatrick.
Ferguson, 32, had been contemplating retirement since the team discussed the pay cut, according to sources. In the end, there were myriad factors for his choice to retire now, but know this: Ferguson would almost certainly have played on his scheduled salary. However, the realization that that was not practical — a significant pay cut was on the horizon — prompted him to consider the benefits of walking away.
His retirement will have a financial ripple effect that should help the organization fill one critical need, while creating another one. The Jets will recoup $ 9.1 million that should be used to bring back Fitzpatrick, who has been at a contract stalemate with the team for more than a month.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson is picked by the Jets with the fourth pick in the 2006 NFL draft.
The replacement plan to protect Fitzpatrick’s blind side is an altogether different story. Although the brain trust believed that Ferguson’s play last season had dipped below mediocre, the veteran was a durable presence — which is hard to find at one of the sport’s most pivotal positions.
Ferguson never missed a snap due to injury in his 10-year career, a mind-boggling Iron Man feat that seems unfathomable given the savagery of the sport. He played 10,357 out of a possible 10,358 snaps in 170 career games. He never even appeared on the injury report.
Ferguson was pulled out for the only time on Eric Mangini’s gadget play on the final snap of the 2008 season.
The Jets don’t have a wealth of quality options to replace Ferguson for this season. Broncos’ four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady might make sense if/when he’s released. The 29-year-old Clady, who has missed 30 games in the past three seasons due to a Lisfranc foot injury and torn ACL, has become expendable after Denver signed tackles in free agency.
The Jets could trade for Clady, who would likely have plenty of suitors if he hit the open market, but the price tag might be prohibitive if he’s not willing to restructure the final two years of his deal that will pay him $ 9.5 million in 2016 and $ 10 million in 2017.
Available veterans Jake Long, Khalif Barnes and Will Beatty, who missed last season due to a pectoral injury suffered during a summer weight-lifting session, are filled with question marks. The draft, of course, is the best option for a long-term solution, but there’s no guarantee that Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, considered the third-best tackle of this class, will even be on the board when the Jets are on the clock at No. 20. Even if he were, would he be a plug-and-play option against the best pass rushers in the league each week? Ohio State’s Taylor Decker is another top prospect who might be better suited as a right tackle.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson was one of the Jets’ most respected players in his time in green.
Ferguson’s play certainly slipped, but he probably could have squeezed out another season or two with the Jets or another team. The home-grown Jet, who was fourth pick of the 2006 draft, had no desire to relocate his family and play for another team, according to sources.
Although the Jets made it clear to Ferguson last week that they wanted him to help the team return to the postseason in 2016, he was concerned that he might ultimately suffer the same fate as former teammate and friend Alan Faneca, who was released during the 2010 draft after the organization selected his replacement. Ferguson didn’t want to suffer the same indignity.
He contemplated taking a fair pay reduction before ultimately choosing to retire. He openly wondered in December about the effects of repeated blows to the head in the trenches on his long-term health even though he never suffered a concussion during this career.
“I think because I’ve played so much, it does make you wonder, ‘Wow, is (CTE) potentially something that could happen to me? Have I put myself in harm’s way and don’t necessarily know the implications of what I’ve been doing?'” Ferguson said late last season after the release of the movie ‘Concussion.’ “That’s a thought I’d have to consider, because there’s no real answer to that.”
Ferguson was the embodiment of a professional, one of the franchise’s most respected players for a decade, who was the anchor for three playoff teams. His departure leaves the Jets in a temporary state of flux.
The team that came within a whisker of making the playoffs last season now finds itself at the crossroads. They have holes at the three most critical positions in football.