The Jets made a conscious decision to build for the 2009-2011 seasons by signing veteran players and pushing their salary hits down the line so they could fit them all under contract. They were also partially hit by the uncapped 2010 season, but even more so by the belief that the NFL salary cap would increase year to year. That all started to rear its ugly head this season, but it will be a major problem for the team in 2013. The decision to extend Mark Sanchez to guarantee his 2013 and 2014 salaries didn’t help, nor did trading for Tim Tebow. But even bigger problems lie elsewhere.
The Jets have 40 players under contract for 2013, and they are already $22 million over the $120 million salary cap, according to a fantastic resource that is NYJetsCap.com. The Jets will be able to carry over $4 million due to under spending this season, so that would put them at $18 million over next year’s cap. Fortunately, there are four or five obvious cuts for the Jets to make to free up some cap room, according to NYJetsCap.com.
The Jets will likely cut Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Jason Smith and Eric Smith before next season. That will free up $30.71 million, to put them at $12 million under the 2013 cap. They could also decide to cut nose tackle Sione Pouha to free up another $3.8 million to put them at $16 million under. What that would also unfortunately do though, is free up even more roster spots. That puts the Jets at just 35 players. Teams enter training camp with 90 players and carry 53 on the active roster, another eight players on the practice squad and however many players they choose on injured reserve. That means the Jets will have 18 active roster spots to field and another 37 camp bodies with just $16 million.
Not only is that an insane amount of players with almost no money to sign them with, but they also have very important starting positions to field. The following players that have played starting roles will not be on the team next season either because they will be free agents, or because they will be cut: Pouha, Pace, Scott, Mike DeVito, Bryan Thomas, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Chaz Schilens, Dustin Keller, Austin Howard, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson and Shonn Greene. Granted, those players are mostly terrible for NFL-starting standards, but that’s a lot of starters to fill without much else on the current Jets roster to fill the gaps. The Jets could resign any of those players for team-friendly deals, but why would you want to? Those are the same players that have created the 4-7 mess the team is currently in.
Of course, the Jets will be able to acquire talent through the draft, but it will also eat another $5 million out of their cap, and even the best drafts only yield about three or four starting-caliber players. As it stands, the Jets will need to somehow acquire two starting linebackers, two starting safeties, a starting tight end and three starting offensive linemen. That can’t be done through the draft, and it can’t be done with the $11 million left to sign free agents.
So what can the Jets do? Well, nothing really. The best option for the Jets is to just suffer through the 2013 season, possibly acquire the No. 1 pick in 2014, and build from there. The Jets are in much better shape for 2014 and there are basically no other players the Jets can cut without incurring severe cap penalties.
Before you get any ideas, cutting Sanchez would cost them $4.3 million on their cap, cutting Santonio Holmes would only free up only $1.25 million — even though he will be making $11.25 million — cutting Darrelle Revis would cost them $3 million and cutting Tebow would only free up $1.5 million. Trading those players would incur similar fees.
If the Jets hope to compete in 2013, it would mean restructuring deals that would put them in even worse shape down the road. That makes no sense, this team is obviously not built to win next season. They could however trade Revis and Antonio Cromartie. According to NYJetsCap, trading Revis would cost the team $1.35 million in 2013, but it would free up $15.7 million in 2014. Trading Cromartie would free up $9.9 million in 2013 and $6.7 million in 2014. It may not be the most popular decision for the team’s fans since those are two of the best players on the roster, but Revis will likely be unhappy with his 2013 contract anyway, and what’s the point in having two great players if the rest of the team is terrible?
If the Jets play it smart, they’ll essentially tank the 2013 season. Keep Sanchez on board, fill in the gaps with whatever they can find, trade Revis, trade Cromartie and build for 2014 and beyond when they’ll actually have enough flexibility to field a decent team. As Jets fans know by now, they don’t always choose the smartest route, so be prepared for the team to try to restructure some contracts and keep building for the present, when that won’t mean contending next year or in the future.