Now that the NFL offseason is in full swing it is time to start looking at the potential of having a salary cap, as well as the value of free agent players. Recently Jason Fitzgerald from NYJETSCAP.com took the time to answer a few questions regarding the contract issues that Gang Green will be facing. If you are not familiar with NYJETSCAP.com, I truly recommend that you check it out as it is one of the most informative Jets related websites on the internet.
TR: Jason, it appears that the NFL will be going back to the salary cap environment. Where do the Jets stand now in terms of a salary total for the entire team? Any predictions on what you believe the cap number will be for the 2011 season?
JF: Right now the Jets have about $138 million in cap commitments for the 2010 season once all the incentive payments are accrued and the David Harris franchise tag is applied. That is not as bad as it sounds though, as there are a number of players who have large cap hits that have no chance of being on the team at those numbers. The real number is probably around $120 million and will be even less once they renegotiate a few deals.
The real cap limit in 2009 was around $123 million and had been growing between 6 and 7 million a year. If all things remained the same a good guess would be $136 million, but it is doubtful that things will remain the same. The owners want to see a reduction in cap and limit its yearly growth. If the owners get their way the cap will probably revert back to the 2009 limit and see much slower future growth. To be safe I would think teams will be looking at $123 million as the number to be around.
TR: Recently the New York Jets placed the franchise tag on linebacker David Harris. Do you think this was a smart decision by Gang Green, or should the tag have been used on a player like Antonio Cromartie or Braylon Edwards?
JF: The only player on the Jets roster that was somewhat worthy of the franchise tag was WR Santonio Holmes. The other three players are all major stretches to use a franchise tag on. I have to believe that the Jets only put the tag on Harris to retain more or less exclusive negotiating rights with him once the CBA gets sorted out and have no intention of paying him a one year salary of $10 million in 2011.
TR: Jason you always do an excellent job breaking down the value of players. How would you break down wide receiver Braylon Edwards value?
JF: On the open market I would think his maximum value would be around $7 million per year to a desperate team like the Rams or even the Ravens. That would be in line with what players like Bernard Berrian earned. When you look at production and limited upside Edwards will probably end up making around $6.2 million a year on a 6 year deal with a guarantee around $15 million.
TR: Both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are slated to become free agents. Do you think it will be possible in a salary cap environment to get both of these guys signed?
JF: I think so, but it may require some creativity. One, and maybe both, would have to defer some money into the future to help with the cap. What works in the Jets favor is that neither should get paid the salary an elite level number 1 gets, and doing deals that pay for a low level 1 and a high level 2 should certainly be within the budget. The one concern the team may have is if they do have to push the money into the future there will not be much of a way for them to escape the deals after two or three years if the players do not work out. It would almost lock the Jets into having the next four or five seasons tied into two players who be in their early 30s at the back end of their deals. That might scare the team off.
TR: Brad Smith is another player that is scheduled to become a free agent. Do you see Brad getting a contract similar to that of Joshua Cribbs?
JF:Very doubtful. Players like Cribbs and Devin Hester never really had much of a chance to do anything but return kicks so teams believed they had upside as a receiver or a runner. Smith has already shown that he can not be a quality receiver in the NFL and his only value beyond special teams would be as an option QB. Considering that teams seem to be phasing out the Wildcat leaves Smith with less reasons to get a big contract.
I do, however, think another team will offer him much more than the Jets will. The Jets put almost no value on kick returners and have let numerous Pro Bowl players leave in the last decade. Plus the Jets do have a mini-fortune invested in Mark Sanchez and at some point it has to be expected that he will be so good that you can no longer justify pulling him to run the option.
TR: Based on his performance in 2010, what type of contract do you see defensive back Antonio Cromartie getting? Also do you think the Jets will make a concerted effort to re-sign Cromartie?
JF: This is the exact opposite of the Edwards and Holmes situation. The lack of an elite talent at the receiver position makes it possible to sign both. Here the Jets already have an elite level corner making top of the position money. It is very hard to pay elite money and high level number 2 money at one position. I think that hurts Cromartie more than anything else.
One of the issues I think teams will have in signing Cromartie is his age. While he will only be 27 in April, his game is so based on athleticism and explosiveness that there is going to be a big worry that as his body begins to naturally age he will completely fall off the cliff as far as NFL skills go. A 28 or 29 year old Cromartie may be looked at as no different than a 35 or 36 year old player. I think that makes him very difficult to value. My guess is a 4 year deal somewhere in the mid to upper $20 million range, with a guarantee around $12 million.
TR: There have been some rumblings that the Jets could release Damien Woody. What type of money would that save the Jets?
JF: Releasing Woody will save the Jets about $3.2 million. He is one of those players I was talking about when I said the Jets real cap number is probably around $120 million. Others would be Kris Jenkins ($4.6 million in savings) and Bryan Thomas ($3.7 million in savings). It is highly unlikely they will be on the team at those numbers. Depending on how quick the CBA gets worked out expect the Jets to announce something first with Jenkins. He is due a roster bonus this year and there is no way the Jets will pay that until they are certain he can play, and more importantly still wants to play football.
TR: It looks like the Vernon Gholston experience is over. What type of cap hit, if any, would there be if the Jets cut ties with Gholston?
JF: The cap hit will be around $5.8 million. He is going to go down as one of the most epic busts in Jets history, which is a big accomplishment when you consider how bad our teams drafting has been in the past. For a top 10 pick to go 3 years without injury and never register a sack defies logic.
Once again thank you Jason for taking the time to answer a few questions. Please check out NYJETSCAP.com, especially the breakdown on Braylon Edwards free agent value.