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Inside The Jets Salary Cap And Contract Issues

By Tyson Rauch and Jason Fitzgerald

With the National Football League heading to an “uncapped” year, the New York Jets are set to face several challenges this upcoming offseason. Jason Fitzgerald of NYJETSCAP.com was kind enough to take a few minutes to breakdown some of the salary cap and contract issues Gang Green could be facing.  If you are not familiar with NYJETSCAP.com it is one of the most informative Jets websites on the internet.

Tyson Rauch- NYJets Examiner: Jason, it is looking more and more like the NFL will be heading to an “uncapped” year in 2010. With the Jets appearance in the AFC Championship game can you go into how the “Final Eight” rule impacts the Jets?

Jason Fitzgerald- NYJETSCAP.com: The Jets will be restricted in their ability to sign what the NFL classifies as an “unrestricted free agent(UFA)”. The NFL’s definition of a UFA is a player whose contract has expired with a team, not a player who has been released from his former team. The basic restriction on the Jets is that they may only sign one UFA for each of the Jets own free agents who signs with another NFL team. In addition the player the Jets sign may not have a first year salary cap number that exceeds the departed players first year salary cap number with his new team. The player the Jets sign is also limited to an annual yearly raise of only 30% of his first year salary over the course of the contract. In addition there can be no “sign and trade” agreements for any players who fall under the UFA category. Had this limitation been in place the last two years the Jets would not have been able to have signed players such as Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, and Bart Scott.

There is no restriction on the Jets to sign players who have been cut from their former teams, players who have been designated a franchise or transition player, or players who are restricted free agents. The Jets may also re-sign their own UFA’s without limitation.

TR: Who are the unrestricted free agents on the Jets roster and do you think they will have any value on the open market?

JF: The Jets free agents are LS James Dearth, T Wayne Hunter, FB Tony Richardson, K Jay Feely, DE Marques Douglas, DT Howard Green, LB Larry Izzo, TE Ben Hartsock, and LB Ryan Fowler.

None of these players have significant value on the open market. Jay Feely had the highest cap count of any of these players last season at 1.5 million. He would likely carry the highest value of their free agents.The Jets can also create a few more free agents by not picking up the option on CB Lito Sheppard or not tendering their restricted free agents.

The Jets have already announced the intention to tender WR Braylon Edwards and RB Leon Washington and it seems likely they will do the same with QB Kellen Clemens. Sheppard would draw the most interest around the league.

TR: Many Jets fans are determined to get rid of linebacker Vernon Gholston. Can you explain the cap hit/finances if Gholston was to be cut?

JF: It was reported that the Jets fully guaranteed Gholston’s salaries for skill and injury, so if the Jets were to cut him tomorrow they would still owe him about 5.9 million in cash. If the Jets cut him in an uncapped 2010 the cap money that would come off the books is 7.47 million. There would be a potential 3.14 million in cap money still on the books, the treatment of which would likely be determined in the new CBA.

TR: Former fan favorite Kerry Rhodes appears to be working his way off the team. What would be the cap hit if Kerry was traded or released?

JF: The team would only clear about 1.9 million in cap money by moving Rhodes this year with a potential dead cap hit of about 5.7 million down the line. Again the treatment of this money is going to be decided by the NFL and NFLPA during their bargaining sessions. Rhodes is due a roster bonus
of 2 million dollars in early March, so a decision about Rhodes will be made very soon.

TR: There have been some rumblings about Pro-Bowl lineman Alan Faneca possibly being released due to a huge bonus payable this spring. Do you
have any insight on this situation?

JF: As far as I know Faneca has no bonus due this season. If I had to guess I would think that his base salary, which is 7.5 million, becomes guaranteed (or at least a huge portion of it guaranteed) if he is on the roster at a certain date.

TR: It has been reported that in an “uncapped” year both Leon Washington and Braylon Edwards would enter the 2010 season as restricted free agents.

Can you explain their contract situations?

JF: In an uncapped year the time needed to be an unrestricted free agent is increased from 4 to 6 years. This has affected a number of Jets including Washington and Edwards. A RFA can negotiate and sign a contract with another team, but the Jets will have the right to match the offer and likely receive draft choice compensation from the team that signs them if the Jets choose to not match the offer. In Edwards case, he will receive a one year contract from the Jets worth about 5.6 million dollars and the Jets would receive a 1st and 3rd round pick if he signed elsewhere.

Washington will make anywhere from 1.3 to 2.5 million depending on what draft compensation the Jets desire.

TR: Of course have to ask the million, well multi-million, dollar question. It is no secret that the Jets are going to look to lock up Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis long term. How would the Jets be able to go about that under the existing CBA?

JF: There is no restriction on teams from renegotiating the contracts of their current players in the uncapped year which is why both Mangold and Revis are rumored to seek new deals. The goal of the team is to give the players as much money as possible in the uncapped year to reduce their future cap costs in the event the cap returns. The only rule that is in place that dictates the amount of salary paid in 2010 is a rule where there can not be a decrease in salary of more than 50% from year 1 to year 2. If the decrease is more than 50% it will be treated as a signing bonus and spread out over the life of the contract, which negates the benefit of paying the high salary in 2010. That rule will require the Jets to be careful with how much they spend in 2010. They will not want to pay Revis 40 million dollars in 2010 and have the potential for a 20 million dollar salary on the cap books in 2011. If I had to guess I could see the Jets paying Mangold somewhere in the realm of a 14 million dollar salary in 2010 and Revis close to 20 million to drastically lower later cap costs. I would also think the team may approach David Harris and D’Brickashaw Ferguson about new contracts.

TR: Once again Jason I want to thank you for your time and effort.
NYJETSCAP.com is one the most informative Jets related sites on the internet. It is a definitely a must view for all of the die-hard Jets fans out there.

JetNation.com Edit: Tyson Rauch covers the Jets for the Daily Examiner. His blog can be found here.  You can discuss the Jets salary cap and this article in the New York Jets message board.

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