The New York Jets lost a key player on Friday, as left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson will announce his retirement at the age of 32, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.
The loss of Ferguson, a former Pro Bowler who only missed one snap in 10 seasons at one of the most important positions on the field, is certainly a blow for the Jets.
However, it is not a complete loss as it may actually help the Jets re-sign another key player at an even more important position — quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Despite most assumptions that the Jets would re-sign Fitzpatrick after his successful 2015 season, the best of his career, the two sides have yet to reach a deal. The biggest issue appears to be that the two sides are far apart on money. The retirement of Ferguson could free up some more money for the Jets to use on Fitzpatrick’s deal.
Peter King noted how far apart the two sides were in mid-March:
Close as I can figure, the Jets have an offer of slightly more than $7 million per year on the table for Fitzpatrick … There is zero urgency to get this contract done now. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan will bring up his offer, in time, to something in the $12-million-a-year range, if he’s being fair. Until then, Fitzpatrick and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, should sit back and hope the phone call from Denver or San Francisco or Cleveland comes with some interest.
Another issue is salary-cap space. According to OverTheCap.com, the Jets currently have just $20,547 in cap space, the smallest amount of all 30 teams.
This is where Ferguson comes in.
Ferguson was set to make $8.6 million in 2016. More importantly, he would have counted as $14.1 million against the salary cap because of bonuses received in previous years. Even if the Jets had cut Ferguson, he would have counted as $5 million against the cap in the upcoming season. Instead, because he is retiring, the entire cap hit will be wiped from the books, clearing up more than $14 million cap space.
That doesn’t mean the Jets will necessarily raise their offer to Fitzpatrick, but it certainly opens up that possibility. But even if they don’t increase their offer by a significant amount, this makes it less likely that the Jets will have to cut other players or rework other contracts just to sign Fitzpatrick.
The Jets will undoubtedly miss Ferguson. But their biggest offseason headache just got a little easier to deal with.