Now is a good time to take a look at the Jets salary cap position before entering free agency. All incentives and raises are over while the cap is set at $120.6 million, so a clear understanding of the team’s finances is available for analysis. Numbers are sometimes rounded and/or approximated just to keep things simple. As always the figures come from Jason at NYJetscap.com and I would like to thank him for answering questions.
Recently D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Mark Sanchez restructured their contracts to create $13.6 million in much needed salary cap space. The NFL is allowing most teams additional cap space of $1.6 million in connection with violations by the Cowboys and Redskins during the uncapped 2010 season. Currently the Jets are $16 million under the cap before starting free agency, but how much can the team actually spend on free agents? We’ll have to look at some known cost and possible moves to get this number.
The Jets just resigned Sione Pouha, while contract details have not been released, a good estimate should be around $4 million in 2012. The team has also tendered Aaron Maybin at $1.26 million. These moves will decrease the cap by about $4.5 million, so $11.5 million is left.
You will have to keep the incoming rookies cost in mind. Obviously the draft class will not count anytime soon but should be included in our overall budget. Their cap charge will be around $2.5 million, so you have about $9 million to spend resigning former Jets and other team’s free agents.
Marquice Cole and Jamaal Westerman were restricted free agents but have not been tendered. Since they were undrafted the lowest tender, right of first refusal, would have been $1.26 million and included in the salary cap when made. The Jets will let the market set their value before choosing to resign one or both of these players.
Here’s a list of former unrestricted Jets which should be considered for resigning:
- Nick Folk
- Jim Leonhard
- Brodney Pool
- Donald Strickland
- Bryan Thomas
- Robert Turner
It is possible these players will fall under the NFL’s ‘minimum salary benefit rule’, which means the cap charge is less than their actual salary. A player under this rule will most likely count $605,000 resulting in a cap increase of $215,000 per signing. Thomas and Turner would be strong candidates for this type of maneuver since they are coming off an injury and Leonhard as well because he will not be available to start the season. There may not be much of a market for these players so it is possible they will accept the minimum salary necessary to take advantage of this rule.
The Jets could sign free agents at quarterback, linebacker, safety, wide receiver, running back, tight end or offensive line. There is no way of knowing who they will sign or exact costs but right now you have a budget of around $9 million which may not be enough to get players you need.
Some likely salary cap reducing moves the Jets can make:
- Under the new CBA teams are allowed a 2012 salary cap exemption of $1.5 million. They can take this money and spread it out into one or parts of 2014-17 caps.
- Eric Smith is going to be cut or restructured, no matter which option Smith takes, the Jets will save approximately $1.5 million.
- Converting Antonio Cromartie’s 2012 roster bonus of $3 million into signing bonuses prorating it over the life of his contract adds $1 million to 2012-14, but results in a $2 million reduction for 2012.
Total additional savings: $5 million.
Mike DeVito might be approached for a restructuring, he is set to make $3.1 million in 2012 and none of it is guaranteed. The Jets may ask him to lower his salary to $2.1 million in return the team will fully guarantee the contract. Why would DeVito take a reduction, because he is getting something in return, a fully guaranteed salary. After an injury filled 2011 season he may decide a guaranteed contract will be protection from release for cap reasons or declining play.
Now a contract where you can make a ‘Ferguson type’ maneuver is Santonio Holmes. Hopefully Holmes can become a team player and cutting him won’t be an issue but the more money you move in his contract the harder it becomes to release him. Holmes is signed through 2015 and has a guaranteed base salary of $7.75 million in 2012. Reducing his base salary by $4 million prorating it over the contract adds $1 million to 2012-15 caps and crates 2012 savings of $3 million. Even after this contract change it will still be possible to release Holmes in 2014 if necessary. Of course the team could prorate more or less depending upon need but Holmes’ contract is most likely to be used for relief after all the other moves have been made.
Between Ferguson, Sanchez, Cromartie and Holmes contract changes the Jets have moved about $5.4 million into 2013 but didn’t touch Bart Scott, Calvin Pace or Wayne Hunter’s contracts, all likely to be cut in 2013, and you eliminated Eric Smith’s salary that year as well. These reductions total $22.65 million, so the team can absorb the additional increase in salary.
Depending upon need the Jets will have $9 million – $18 million to spend on free agents without damaging their finances in future years.