Throughout the offseason, we’ll be profiling players who may end up in Denver when all is said and done with NFL Free Agency. The Broncos clearly have plenty of holes to fill before they get back to Super-Bowl form and we’ll be examining a long list of players they may choose to help the franchise do just that.
The former Denver Bronco and Boise State Bronco is on the open market for the first time in his nine-year career in the NFL. After being selected 12th overall by the Broncos in the 2008 draft, Ryan Clady was immediately one of the best left tackles in the league. While Clady was most recently with the New York Jets for the 2016 season, eight of his nine seasons in the league were with the Broncos.
Clady’s career has been defined by two distinct characteristics: injuries and Pro Bowls. Only two of Clady’s nine years in the league didn’t ended in either a trip to the Pro Bowl or a season ending injury.
It didn’t take long for Clady to prove his value as a first-round pick. During his rookie year, Clady started every game protecting then-quarterback Jay Cutler’s blind side—only giving up half a sack and committing three penalties. Throughout the next four seasons Clady continued to climb the ranks as the best left tackle in the league, earning Pro Bowl invitations in 2009, 2011 and 2012, including two first-team All-Pro awards in 2009 and 2012.
When health, Clady uses his size—6-foot-6, 315 pounds—and talent effectively in both the run and pass game to anchor the left side of the offensive line.
Along with Clady’s elite skill set, another strength, which often gets overlooked, is his toughness. While Clady may have been fragile (read below), he showed that he would fight through injuries that he could. In 2012, after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder midseason, Clady finished the year on the field as a Pro Bowl player before having surgery in the offseason. Then, last season with the Jets, Clady tore his rotator cuff in Week 3, but played with the injury until being placed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 9.
It’s impossible to talk about Clady’s career without talking about the devastating number of injuries he’s had. Clady was placed on season-ending IR in 2013, with a Lisfranc injury, and 2016, with a torn rotator cuff, to go along with missing the entire 2015 season after tearing his ACL in the offseason.
While some injuries can be overlooked for various reasons, Clady’s injury history cannot be dismissed. In the past four seasons, he has started 26 of a possible 64 games—just over 40 percent.
Although his play on the field may be consistent, his ability to get on the field is anything but consistent.
How he fits in Denver
If Clady returns to Denver—less than a year after he left—it would be with the hopes that he would once again be the Broncos’ starting left tackle—likely meaning the end of the Russell Okung era. However, general manager John Elway would have to have a backup plan for if Clady were to get injured.
The ideal, and realistic, scenario would be for Clady to be the short-term left tackle as the Broncos groomed a rookie or young player. That way if Clady did get hurt, the Broncos would insert that young player to take his place, even if it’s earlier than Denver would have hoped.