A pair of tackles – both interesting players for their own, different reasons – are about to be free agents.
ESPN’s Rich Cimini reports that the New York Jets will decline the option on left tackle Ryan Clady’s contract, making him a free agent in what Cimini notes could be the start of an offseason purge in New York. On Wednesday, Cimini reported that the Jets informed Clady’s agent the team wouldn’t be paying Clady’s $1 million roster bonus, thus making him a free agent. New York acquired Clady (and a seventh-round pick) from Denver in April 2016 in a trade that sent a fifth-round pick to the Broncos.
Clady is an eight-year veteran who was most productive in his seven years with Denver. He was drafted 12th overall by Denver in 2008 and was the starting left tackle (as a rookie) in Jay Cutler’s Pro Bowl season with the team. Clady is a four-time Pro Bowler himself and was voted first-team All-NFL in 2009 (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, Sporting News), as well as 2012 (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers).
He will play in his age 31 season in 2017 looking to rebound after missing seven games with a shoulder injury. However, Clady’s days as an impact blocker might be behind him. His 47.2 grade at Pro Football Focus was a career low, and also represents a disturbing trend of declining performance as he has been an 80-grade player only once since 2011 after being a top tackle in three of his first five seasons.
Clady played under a restructured $6 million contract ($3 million guaranteed) in his lone season with the Jets.
On the other side of the tackle spectrum is Kelvin Beachum, a 27-year-old tackle who still might have something left to offer a team looking to upgrade at the position. But there is no guarantee he will hit free agency.
The Jaguars declined the fourth-year option on Beachum’s deal, which sets him up to be a free agent if the team doesn’t re-sign him prior to the March 9 start of free agency. Beachum was a productive left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014 (85.6 grade) and 2015 (77.7 grade) before missing the rest of that season with an ACL injury. He signed with Jacksonville in free agency last season and returned with a healthy 2016 where he made 15 starts and missed just one game (concussion). And while he proved to be a serviceable pass blocker (68.7), he was dreadful in run blocking (37.7).
Under new head coach Doug Marrone, Jacksonville could be looking for more out of its rushing attack in order to limit the risk in throwing as often as it did in 2016 with Blake Bortles and his 1.4-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio.
The Bears, as you well know, featured disappointing production and protection from both tackles in 2016. And while drafting a tackle with the third overall pick in the first round might be considered a reach, plugging a hole with a free agent improvement isn’t out of the realm of possibility.