DENVER (AP/CBS4) – The Denver Broncos on Sunday officially announced they have agreed to trade left tackle Ryan Clady to the New York Jets along with a seventh-round pick for a fifth-round selection in the upcoming NFL draft.
“Ryan was a great Bronco who made a tremendous impact on our team during his eight seasons in Denver,” Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said. “In addition to becoming a Pro Bowl player, he was such a positive presence in our locker room and community. Our organization thanks Ryan for his many contributions and wishes him all the best in the next chapter of his NFL career.”
The move frees up nearly $9 million in cap space for the Super Bowl champs who are searching for a quarterback to help them defend their title.
It gives the Jets a replacement for the retired D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who played 10 seasons in the NFL and never missed a snap due to injury. Clady, however, played just 18 games the last three seasons.
The 32-year-old Ferguson made his retirement from football official on Saturday in an open, heartfelt letter to fans.
“As I considered the words I would say to you,” Ferguson wrote in the letter posted on his Facebook and Twitter pages, “I recognize a simple truth: it just isn’t easy saying goodbye.”
The man nicknamed the “Brick” first said hello to the Jets and their fans in 2006, when he was the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft out of the University of Virginia. Ferguson was a starter from Day 1, and he made three Pro Bowls along the way while protecting the likes of Chad Pennington, Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Ferguson started every game of his career, 167 in a row, including the postseason, and missed just one snap – when then-coach Eric Mangini pulled the entire offensive line on a trick play in the 2008 season finale against Miami. He never missed a practice or appeared on the team’s weekly injury report.
The last player to start at left tackle for the Jets other than Ferguson was Adrian Jones in the 2005 regular-season finale against Buffalo. New York has the inexperienced Brent Qvale on its roster and is expected to re-sign Ben Ijalana, who was Ferguson’s backup.
Clady gives them a starting-caliber replacement for Ferguson, but the immensely talented left tackle has often been injured.
The 12th overall selection out of Boise State in 2008 was the longest tenured Bronco. But he missed both of Denver’s Super Bowl appearances in the last three seasons, first with a foot injury and then a knee injury. He tore his left ACL last May and missed the entire season.
He also sustained a knee injury in the offseason early in his career that robbed him of some of his lateral movement for a couple of seasons, even though he didn’t miss any games.
Clady’s departure frees up $8.9 million in salary cap space for the Broncos, who signed tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson last month.
He told The Associated Press a week before Super Bowl 50 that he wanted to be a “lifetime Bronco” and was willing to restructure his contract to assure that. He’s due $9.5 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017.
The Broncos met with his agent in March to inquire about a restructure, but those talks cooled after Denver signed Okung to a team-friendly deal.
Clady, whose five-year, $52.5 million contract signed in 2013 is the largest ever for a Broncos offensive lineman, underwent knee surgery last June. In February, he said that he’ll be ready for the start of offseason workouts this month even if management would rather he rest until training camp.
Elway, who has a draft class to sign along with perhaps a veteran QB and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, whom he franchise tagged, could create another $9.18 million in cap space by converting receiver Demaryius Thomas’ $13 million base salary next season into a signing bonus.
– By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)