New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson retired healthy after a 10-year career, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini.
Ferguson, 32, chose to retire because he felt he could not play up to his usual standard, according to Cimini.
He played in all 16 games in each of his 10 seasons in the NFL since the Jets picked him fourth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. In fact, Ferguson has missed just one play out of 10,708 offensive snaps in the regular season, according to ESPN's Field Yates, and never appeared on an injury report, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Jets asked Ferguson, whose 2016 cap number was set to be $14.1 million, to take a pay cut in order to clear cap space to re-sign free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
New York will save approximately $9 million in cap space with Ferguson's retirement, and Ferguson reportely would have played the 2016 season had the Jets not asked him to adjust his contract, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta.
Head coach Todd Bowles had a "lukewarm assessment" of Ferguson's 2015 season when he was asked about him in March.
He wrote an article in Sports Illustrated in December saying he felt "betrayed" by medical personnel after watching the movie "Concussion," which deals with the ongoing issue of CTE in football. He wrote:
This is a total shocker. I had no idea that Ferguson would retire at this point. No one seems to know until right now. What is most disappointing is the way in which his career had to end. Was he forced out by the coaching staff? Was he pressured to take a pay cut to which he was unwilling? Is he worried about concussions or repetitive head injuries of some kind? Ferguson had never missed a game in his career and, as far as we know, was as healthy as one can be at this point. He could have easily taken a little less and played two or three more years either with the Jets or likely somewhere else.
If the Jets had any ideas about not investing heavily in the offensive line in the upcoming draft, they have now been disabused of that notion. The money freed by Ferguson's retirement allows the Jets the space to sign Fitzpatrick if they like, and they would be wise to look at the secondary and tertiary free-agent market at offensive line before using two to three of their first three draft picks on players in that position.
While this has coalesced quickly in the public eye, according to Rich Cimini's report, it doesn't sound like there is any animus between Ferguson and the Jets. While there were no formal contract talks, we can imply there were some informal checking in between agent and team. No one was wronged or mistreated, and the coaching staff and front office didn't want to speak on his behalf before he made a decision. The retirement was more about Ferguson's desire to leave the game still playing at a high level, which anyone can respect.
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Unlike Bassett, I had a sneaking suspicion this might be coming. The whole situation reminded me of the Damien Woody situation back in 2011. While Woody was slightly older than Ferguson and coming off an injury when he made that decision, the situation was still similar in terms of the Jets hoping that the incumbent starter would return on a lower cap number.
It doesn't surprise me at all that Ferguson would take the decision to retire before his level of play deteriorates as he gets older, especially if the financial rewards no longer merit the level of hard work required to try and stave off that downfall.
Where this leaves the Jets is with a major need at the left tackle position, which might bring their draft strategy into much clearer focus. Alternatively, they could make a move for a veteran like Ryan Clady, but no Jets fan will want to see them try and get by with what they have already, especially in the wake of how well that strategy worked for the likes of Adrian Jones, Adrien Clarke and Wayne Hunter.