According to ESPN NFL Insider, the New York Jets released offensive tackle Ryan Clady after just one season with the team. Prior to that lone campaign, Clady had spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos. With his old franchise needing help on the offensive line, could a reunion be in order? Perhaps, but it would come with plenty of risk.
Early in his first tenure with the Broncos, Clady proved to be an elite talent. Then, in 2013, the injuries started to pile up. After not missing a game for the first five seasons of his career, he only played in 27 of a possible 64 over the next four campaigns. Last season, Clady played in nine games.
Clady cannot help fix the Broncos’ woes on the offensive line if he’s not on the field. At 30-years-old, the risk of injury will likely follow him for the rest of his career, and should weigh into any team’s decision when it comes to signing him.
Also, his production, when healthy, over the last couple of season, has fallen off somewhat. During the 2014 season, which was the last campaign in which he saw regular season snaps for the Broncos, he was called for holding five times (one of which was declined, one of which offset). Playing on a subpar Jets team last season, he seemed to have corrected his penalty problems; and while his play was okay, he was no longer elite. He was far from the team’s biggest problem, but was not the solution they had hoped, either.
Clady’s exodus from both Denver and New York had to do with money, not the team’s desire to rid themselves on the tackle. He didn’t want to take a paycut to remain with the Broncos, so he was traded. He didn’t want to cut from the $10 million he was set to make next season for the Jets, so he was released.
Again, a decision on Clady would probably come down to money. In free agency, it’s a weak offensive tackle market. Like Clady, Russell Okung was serviceable, if not great last season. Like Clady, Okung is reportedly unlikely to take a paycut.
If the Broncos pick up Okung’s option, it would lock him in for four years and $48 million, with $20.5 million guaranteed. That might be too rich for the Broncos blood. Clady could be a cheaper alternative, though how much cheaper he would come, in a weak market that may see guys get overpaid, is a huge question.
If Clady would come cheap, he could be a worthwhile investment. He had his best years under former and current Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy; but with him would come an injury risk that the team would also need to prepare for (possibly by retaining Donald Stephenson to be a swing tackle or selecting someone early in the NFL Draft).
Giving Clady a slice of the large amount of money the Broncos are expected to have to spent could make a lot of sense, but they need to leave enough for others. How big a slice it would take could be the deciding factor in the decision.