The $8.1 Million Salary Cap Space Fallacy

Thanks to Mike Florio and Pro-Football-Talk there is a fallacy running around that the Jets have $8.1 million in cap space to use for the 2012 season.  Even though the September 3rd Florio article had a disclaimer which explained his numbers only included 51 players, not 53 and injured reserve (IR) cost which would count against the cap, still many people overlooked this.  Practice squad salaries were also not included in his calculations and count on the cap as well.

So it has now become common place the Jets sat on over $8 million in cap space that should have been used to improve their roster.  Fortunately Florio has updated his salary cap information to include everything which counts against the cap.  In his new September 7th calculations the Jets have $5.9 million in 2012 cap space, not $8.1 million.

Many fans might still say there’s about $6 million which could be used to sign free agents, why not use it?  First, the team does need some cap space to deal with injuries.  The recent injury to wide receiver Santonio Holmes might be season ending.  If Holmes ends up on IR his 2012 salary will count against the cap as if he were playing and the Jets might need to sign a replacement, so they need space to ensure the ability to deal financially with injuries.

Second, are incentive issues.  At the end of the season a team’s incentives are added up and sometimes there is money credited or taken away from a team’s cap based upon if incentives are reached.  If an incentive counts on the cap but was not achieved the team gets a cap credit or an incentive which did not count on the cap but was achieved a decrease for the amount included in the player’s contract for that year will occur.  All the cap credits and deductions are added together and the cap is adjusted accordingly.

For example LaRon Landry gets a $109,375 roster bonus for each game he plays, so if he plays all 16 games he’ll be paid $1.75 million in roster bonuses.  Only half of that counts on the 2012 cap since last year (2011) Landry played 8 games so half of his bonus is likely to be earned, counts on the cap, while the other half is unlikely to be earned given his history and does not count on the cap unless it is achieved.

So if Landry plays all 16 games he’ll eat into the 2012 cap space $875,000 which currently is not counted but if he only plays 4 games the Jets would get a cap credit of $437,500 since the likely bonus counted 8 games on the cap but he only played 4.

There is no way to know what the fallout from incentives will be until the season ends but it is likely that the remaining cap space will shrink some after they are determined.  In fact if the remaining space was not enough to cover the cost of incentives then the remainder would be deducted off the available 2013 cap space.

Third, is the need to carryover money into 2013.  The Jets are a projected $19 million over the 2013 salary cap and 8 current starters (Greene, Howard, Keller, Moore, Slauson, Bell, DeVito, Landry) will be free agents after this season.

The Jets will need to get as much credit towards the 2013 cap as possible and each dollar they save in 2012 is available for use in 2013.  This is why the Jets were quiet during free agency, bargain hunting, signing mostly one year stop gap players many at veteran minimums, not the high priced multiyear deals we were used to seeing.

During the preseason Jets fans were calling for depth signings like RB Cedric Benson or WR Jabar Gaffney but the team has a strict budget knowing if they overspent this season it would be difficult to field a competitive team in 2013.  So don’t look for any signings by the Jets unless they are absolutely necessary.

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