As I finish up my look at the AFC East I turn my attention towards the New York Jets. I’m hoping that for the fans this will be something of a definitive guide on the salary cap going forward and I’ll break this up into three parts because I know it’s lengthy. As with all the articles I write from an “amateur capologist” perspective the numbers come from my own database I keep and thus there will always be some errors here and there but by and large the numbers have proven to be pretty accurate over the years. Hopefully this can clear up some misconceptions on the Jets cap situation and paint it more in a realistic light as the team moves forward and be a nice little resource for the fans of the team.
Now before we start lets just say we have been over the Darrelle Revis situation over and over again on this website. There is no need to rehash most of it and while I will touch on Revis a little bit the only thing we need to concern ourselves with is the fact that if the Jets trade him this season it adds $3 million onto the 2013 salary cap and if we fail to trade him and he leaves via free agency it will add $9 million in dead money onto the 2014 salary cap.
Where the Jets Stand on February 1, 2013
I currently estimate that the Jets have $147,380,333 in cap commitments for 2013 that will count towards the salary cap when free agency begins. This number is the current Top 51 salaries plus dead money that already sits on the roster. This year I am making my first (and maybe last) attempt at tracking cash budgets and right now I have their top 53 cash at $119,904,199. When you see that type of discrepancy between the two budgets it likely means a great deal of costs of in older players who are at the backend of their contracts which is certainly the case with the Jets. Regardless, its not a cash payroll that is going to make an owner stop spending money.
As we turn towards 2014 the Jets have an estimated $101,471,040 in cap charges and $75,371,148 in cash charges but for only 28 players. These numbers are presented with the assumption that Revis bolts the team after the season. In looking at the roster I would say that around 30 players on the 2013 roster and 22 players on the 2014 roster would be considered NFL talent that at least holds enough name value to get a shot at a roster somewhere for a full season. So clearly the Jets need cap space to fill the roster with quality talent.
The 2013 salary cap is estimated to be $120.9 million and the Jets are expected to have an adjusted cap that is $3.6 million larger than that according to a report by John Clayton. I do not know if the number Clayton reported has been adjusted for Laron Landry’s NLTBE roster bonus money from 2012, but if it has not that would reduce the adjustment by $875,000. All teams will also take a mandatory $504,000 “Workout bonus charge” at the start of free agency. While teams will receive credit for money not paid that does not occur until June, well after free agency. So keeping that in mind and assuming the $3.6 million number is accurate the Jets stand $23,384,333 over the cap.
One of the things when it comes to planning is that we can not just look at today’s figures and assume that this number is the realistic number. You also need to allocate money that you need to spend beyond free agency for draft picks. The Jets have 7 draft picks in the 2013 draft. Those players will all need to be paid. Here are my projections, assuming the NFL does not make drastic changes to the rookie formulas (which they shouldn’t since the cap continues to remain flat) for cap charges for the 2013 and 2014 league year for the Jets rookie class. The total 2013 figure should equal what will be reported in a few weeks as the Jets “Rookie Pool” for the season.
|Round||Pick||Signing Bonus||2013 Cap||2014 Cap|
Now each of these players will replace someone on the current roster, so only the signing bonus allocation will impact the cap in 2013. The full figures will add onto 2014. So our real cap/cash situation following the draft is as follows:
2013 cash: $131,006,079
2013 Cap space: ($26,159,803)
2014 Cap: $108,345,179
Yikes! Now we have some issues. That’s a gigantic cash payroll this year that could make an owner say no to spending and that’s probably only $13.1 million of projected 2014 cap space for just 35 players. Those are numbers that would scream “salary cap hell”. Of course looks can be deceiving so lets dig in and see what suggestions I would have for the team this year.
Our first step in navigating the cap is to get the “dead weight” immediately out of the way. So lets start with the players who most likely will be cut before the start of the league year. This doesn’t mean that they will not come back just that if the prorated implications in future years is minimal there is no reason to wait to make a move.
Jason Smith- Smith has an $11.25 million dollar roster bonus that is due on the first day of the new league year, which I believe is March 12. That means if Smith is on the roster at 4PM on that day the Jets owe him the bonus. Clearly there is no chance of that happening. While I do think the Jets could consider retaining him and moving him to guard to follow in the footsteps of other busts like Robert Gallery and Leonard Davis, there is almost no chance he would re-sign until testing free agency to see if a team like the Bears will pay him some money and give him a chance to start. So the Jets should just cut him this week and get it over with.
2013 Savings: $12 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $0
Bart Scott- Scott has a cap charge of $8.65 million and base salary of $6.9 million in 2013, neither of which are figures that resemble his value on the open market. Scott battled injuries again this season and in general is ineffective. At best he is a two down player, but in todays NFL where the passing game is so wide open he may only be useful in certain situations that favor running the ball. Last season they could find no takers for his salary at $4.2 million when they tried to trade him and realistically his value is that of the minimum salary for a veteran. Even if Scott was to accept that pay reduction it’s probably best that the Jets move forward. Scott is too vocal for a team experiencing changeover and the coach loves him which is a detriment to getting younger bodies experience in the game.
2013 Savings: $7.15 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $8 million Cash and Cap
Eric Smith- This was a head scratcher that the Jets allowed him to play 2012 at $2.05 million, which was a total waste of cap dollars. The Jets knew they were going to replace him as the starting Safety so paying him that salary was a bad idea from the start. He had no leverage to maintain the salary, but somehow escaped a paycut. Smith has no guaranteed or prorated money in his contract, but he does have a $450,000 roster bonus due on the 4th day of the League Year so he needs to be moved before that date. Like last year I would recommend bringing him back under a minimum salary benefit contract, but he has to be off the books before that.
2013 Savings: $3.0 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $0
Tim Tebow- Unless the Jets are going to give him an opportunity to start there is no reason to have him back on the sidelines this season. Going into the trade everyone knew it was a bad move and the negative publicity that came with it in November and December is part of what got Mike Tannenbaum fired. Tebow needs to find a team which has a college style offense in place where he can be a more effective backup that doesn’t require an entire shift in offensive philosophy when he comes in. That is unlikely to be NY. The Jets should have waived him last season in the hopes that the Jaguars would have claimed him. That ship has now sailed and realistically the Jets will be unable to find a trade partner for him now, which means they will be on the hook for $1.531 million in payments to Denver when they release Tebow. Everything about this trade was bad.
2013 Savings: $1.055 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $895K Cash and Cap
Here is where we stand after these moves:
2013 cash: $109,421,079
2013 Cap space: ($4,574,803)
2014 Cap: $90,450,179
Not too bad. We have cut our cap and cash budgets by $21.585 million by releasing two backups who never played (J. Smith and Tebow), a backup who played in certain defensive packages (E. Smith), and a player nearing the end of his career (Scott). Is anyone going to miss these players? No. Will losing them have a material impact on the 2013 Jets? No.
Paycut or Release
Calvin Pace- Normally I would put Pace in the pure cut category, but he did play in over 90% of the teams defensive snaps last season and considering the Jets already need another outside linebacker, unless they do make a full time switch to the 43 defense, there could be reason to maintain this relationship, albeit at a greatly reduced cost. Pace currently carries the 4th highest cap charge on the roster at $11,573,335 and will cost the team $8.56 million in cash to play out the season. While Pace is worth more than the minimum salary he isn’t worth anywhere near $8.56 million. There are few 34 OLBs that generate less pressure than Pace and none who play as many snaps as he does. Pace is a perfect example of why you never overpay a guy coming off the first decent season of his career.
That being said the Jets do need bodies so it may be worthwhile to explore cutting his salary down to the $4 million dollar range to retain him. My guess is that at 32 years of age Pace would not agree to that and instead look to see if there is a market in free agency where he might be able to get a 3 year deal. Jarret Johnson received a 4 year contract at 31 from the Chargers at $4.75 million a year with $7 million guaranteed and I’d imagine Pace sees that as something close to what he could get from another team. A team like the Bills might even do it. If Im the Jets I cant go beyond 2013. He isn’t productive enough and the fact that he failed to do anything special in what was realistically a “walk year” makes me ultra nervous. The Jets will need to make a decision before the 3rd day of the League Year when Pace is due a $2.5 million dollar roster bonus. . Most likely he’ll be on the move and cut.
2013 Savings: $8.56 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $0K Cash and Cap
Sione Po’uha- Here is what I wrote about Pouha when he signed his contract last year:
Pouha has never played this amount of snaps before in his career and it is really unknown as to how well he will hold up as a full time player. So in 2013 the Jets decision is to have Pouha for a cap charge of $6,166,666 cap charge or release him and only absorb a dead money hit of $2,333,334. Nothing precludes the Jets from negotiating that salary downward as well if his play drops off. It’s a great deal for the team.
I’d say what I wrote last March still certainly holds up this February. I thought the Jets slightly overpaid for Pouha since players at his age and his position are usually on 1 and 2 year contracts, but the Jets put plenty of protections in there to essentially cut it down close to that. I was worried then about how his body would hold up to being a full timer and it really didn’t as he was injured throughout 2012, which I guess was related to the wear and tear from 2011. In hindsight Pouha probably benefitted from all the locker room mess of 2011 with the Jets giving good money to someone who was a hard working player that never complained or made noise about the lack of success of the team.
But, like Pace, Pouha does have a role on the team if he is healthy enough to play. Really who else do the Jets have to play NT? Kenrick Ellis? Damon Harrison? Last year the Jets leaned on Mike DeVito to slide inside at times and he will most likely not return. So there is no safety net for the team at the position. But again it comes down to health because if Pouha is what you saw last season then its best to just move on now. Pouha will earn $5 million in cash in 2013, which is too high. Pouha will be 34 and the market at that age is, at the high end, maybe $3.5 million and more likely closer to $2.75 million. Players just don’t hold up because of the physical nature of the spot and the size that they carry through their careers. I wonder if his body is as broken down as it looked last season if retirement could even be an option.
Unlike Pace, I think Pouha might be willing to make a deal. He’s only known the Jets and with his career just about over does he want to move his family for what will likely be a 1 year $3.5 million dollar deal with some other team? He might not even get the call considering the injury issues this past season and that will cost him money if he has to come back to NY with the knowledge 31 teams passed on him. My feeling is when you consider all those soft factors that a $2.75 million dollar fully guaranteed salary gets the deal done and is a fair enough offer to make him give it a go this season. I am not prorating any of that money because I know he is not in my 2014 plans and I don’t want to add more cap dollars to that year. . The decision date on Pouha is the 3rd day of the League Year. On that day his $4.9 million dollar salary becomes fully guaranteed, so the Jets either have to reduce his pay or cut him outright before that date. Note if Pouha is cut the Jets save $3,833,332 in cap in 2013 and $6,666,668 in 2014. By waiting a year for him they will only save $5.5 million in 2014 cap room when he is released next season, which I think most would agree is a foregone conclusion.
2013 Savings: $2.25 million Cash and Cap
2014 Savings: $0K Cash and Cap
Here is where we stand after the paycut given to Pouha and release of Pace:
2013 Cap: $118,165,803
2013 Cash: $99,016,079
2013 Cap space: $5,830,197
2014 Cap: $90,450,179
While we didn’t do anything to our 2014 numbers we now have real spending room. While a team obviously needs to keep cap room in their back pocket the Jets can safely spend $5 million in free agency in cap and our cash budget is clearly low enough to encourage spending on players. FWIW, in 2011 that was about the cost of Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie so while it may not seem like much it can be a lot especially if you consider the room the following season. Of course that’s just an example that doesn’t pertain to the Jets since they probably need at least 10 new decent players beyond rookies, not one or two higher profile guys.
Nick Mangold- Mangold carries a cap charge of $9,117,100 in 2013 with $3 million due in the form of a roster bonus on the 3rd day of the league year. Clearly he is not going anywhere in 2013 and the Jets should simply guarantee the roster bonus and prorate it over the next 5 seasons, reducing his cap charge to $9,117,100 and only increasing his future cap charges by $600,000 per season. You could go further and convert more of his base salary to a bonus to gain more cap room, but I would not do that . I am getting nervous about Mangold’s long term prospects with the team. His play has been down two seasons in a row and I fear that he hasn’t allowed his body to heal right the last two years. Nick has an incredibly high cap charge for a center in 2015 in what is essentially a true extension/renegotiation year. If you go more than this conversion amount it gives the Jets no outs from the contract in 2015 and I think they need to keep those outs in place.
2013 Savings: $2.4 million Cap; $0 Cash
2014 Savings: ($600K) Cap
Santonio Holmes- Set to count $12.5 million against the cap in 2013, Holmes represents the third largest cap hit on the team. Holmes’ contract is one of those I often talk about that has built in flexibility due to the fact that the Jets used a large guarantee rather than prorated bonus in structuring his deal. While he has almost no trade value the Jets could opt for the prorated bonus method to bring his numbers back in line with where they would have been had they used that structure in 2011. I probably would not opt for that but we’ll discuss it.
In some ways Holmes probably should go in the paycut or release category, but ego is involved with him and even a paycut on paper is going to have to be a reshuffling of money to the backend of his deal. Holmes is set to earn $11.25 million in salary plus a $250,000 workout bonus. Of that money $7.5 million is fully guaranteed and $250K is guaranteed for injury, but being that he is injured the Jets are probably stuck with that payment so its $7.75 million in guarantees. That all sounds bad, but let’s look deeper and see where the Jets have some power.
If released Holmes will count for $11.5 million in dead money. While that is a high figure the Jets will gain $1 million in cap space. That’s a little power, that one would think is offset by the need to cut Holmes a $7.75 million dollar check. Unlike most of their other contracts, though, Holmes’ guarantee was reported to be of the much weaker variety in that the team receives offset credits if he signs with another club. How does that matter? If the Jets cut him the Jets pay him $7.75 million. He is going to sign with another team. For how much? Considering injury, ineffectiveness in 2011, and a bad reputation around the league $4-$5 million a year would be the most I think he would earn. Since he can’t double dip his max earnings are likely $7.75 million this year. The Jets get credits for salary earned so that $1 million in savings can quickly grow to $4 or $5 million and their cash obligation reduce to $3 or $4 million. That’s power. It renders the $11.25 million base salary worthless .
What that means is the best financial future for him is tied to staying with the Jets both in 2013 and an opportunity to earn his $9.5 million in 2014. So in my mind the difference between $7.75 and $11.25 immediately comes off the books. Like I said he is going to want the contract to still say he makes his $45 million so you simply roll that $3.75 million into 2015 as a roster bonus. By doing this we don’t touch his 2014 cap number while lowering his 2013 cap charge to $9 million. Now some may say why not just release him. While I could see that point he still is a talent and the Jets do need something on offense in 2013. While I do not think he fits at all in a WCO system maybe you can get something out of him. I look at that as different as Pace’s situation where you could probably replace him with a warm pulse. The dropoff between Holmes to Clyde Gates is huge, no matter how much Holmes mopes around the field.
Do you want to cut more out of Holmes’ cap? There are two avenues by which we can do that. One of the good things about a player being injured is that you can work with his contract to skirt the salary cap for a season by using in game roster bonuses as a replacement for salary. Holmes was only active for 4 weeks in 2012 so only ¼ of the total roster bonus would count on the 2013 cap if the Jets went that route. This is what they did with LaRon Landry last year to save on cap space.
Now the negative with that move is that I don’t think his side would be as willing to accept a pay reduction since there is danger that the bonus money will not be earned. To make it work you would have to do something that most of the fanbase would be against and that is guarantee an offsetting amount of salary in 2014, a guarantee that would void only upon playing a certain number of games in 2013. How would that work in practice? You would pay him a base salary of $4.3 million in 2013 plus his $250,000 workout bonus. Those salaries are earned regardless of injury. You would convert the remaining $3.2 million into per game roster bonuses worth $200,000 per game in which he is on the gameday active list. Because he was only active 4 games in 2013 only $800,000 of the roster bonuses count towards the Jets 2013 cap with the rest only affecting the cap at the end of the season. This brings his cap charge down to $6.6 million. I could see doing that since the only pain in 2014 is if he doesn’t play 16 games in 2013 because he would be more difficult to cut. The $200,000 per game was just for illustration and you could do any number you want as long as his base salary is at least $840,000 in 2013. I like this idea if he is staying here.
The other option is to go all in on Holmes and decide you definitely want him here in 2014. What you do in that case is take the $7.5 million base, reduce it to $840,000 and convert the remaining $6,660,000 to a signing bonus. That reduces his 2013 cap charge to $4.56 million, but it increases his 2014 cap to $12.97 million and his 2014 dead money to $6.94 million. I don’t like either of those numbers. Even if he plays well it puts you right back to square 1 with his contract. I don’t think he is worth the risk of this move even if it means short term health. Im going to aim for a paycut and a “lets play ball” mentality with the contract.
2013 Savings: $5.9 million in Cap and $3.5 million in Cash
2014 Savings: $0K Cash and Cap
David Harris- Overpaid with no escape for the Jets as more or less his entire salary in 2013 is guaranteed with no offsets so he has no reason to give anything up for the Jets. $13 million as a cap charge for Harris is ridiculous. You could shuffle some of his money into 2013 and take $10 million in cap charges each season, but that seems foolish. You could go the void clause route, but that also seems foolish for the future. Really I think this is a situation where you have to look to extend Harris and get his value back in line with the marketplace. A few years ago I thought Harris was worth around $6.5 million a year which makes much more sense than his $9 million a year he earns now. The realistic guarantee for an ILB is just under 30% so on a 3 year extension my guess is we are looking at $19.5 million in new money and $5.9 million in new guarantees.
How do I accomplish this? I guarantee the next two years base salaries at $1.4 million a year and then prorate the current $9.5 million in guarantees plus a new $3.1 million to fulfill the remainder of the new contract guarantees. This gives the Jets major cap relief in 2013 and minor cap relief in 2014. It maintains a slight escape in 2015 and a realistic escape in 2016. Here is how I would potentially structure the deal:
2013 Savings: $6.98 million in Cap and ($3.1) million in Cash
2014 Savings: $980K in Cap and $3.5 million in Cash
Antonio Cromartie- I don’t think the team is good enough anymore to justify Revis and Cromartie, so my feeling is if the decision is made to keep Revis the Jets need to trade Cromartie, a move that must be made within the first 3 days of the League Year. That move saves the Jets $8.25 million in cap space in 2013 and $10.75 million in 2014. If Revis is going to leave the team then it means the Jets need to make the full commitment to Cromartie and extend him. I think the market for corners at his level is around $9.75 million a season with about 45% of the contract guaranteed. My guess is you would be looking at a 4 year new money total of $39 million and 6 year total contract worth $58 million. What would a guesstimate structure look like:
Such a deal, in which the 2013 and 2014 base salaries are now guaranteed, guarantees him a roster spot in 2014, which he did not have before, and most likely 2015. That’s a takehome of $31.15 million in cash for Cromartie from 2013-2015 which is a pretty fair number. Once 2016 rolls along its anyone’s guess what happens.
2013 Savings: $2.19 million in Cap and ($10.25) million in Cash
2014 Savings: $1.19 million in Cap and $4.3 million in Cash
Mark Sanchez- Of course I saved the best for last. I think we all agree that the dead money charge associated with cutting Sanchez, over $17 million in 2013, is simply unreasonable. In a prior posting I outlined the realistic trade market which is probably going to still hit us with $14 million in dead money. So the bottom line is that barring a miracle the Jets are stuck so we need to make the most out of a bad situation and do what we can to reduce his $12,853,125 cap charge. Now what I am going to propose is based on the thought that the Jets can not trade him this season.
I am going to reduce Sanchez’ base salary to $715,000, give him the remaining $7.535 million in the form of a signing bonus and also fully guarantee and prorate his $500,000 workout bonus. What does this do? It reduces his 2013 cap charge to $6,826,875 while increasing his 2014 cap by $2,008,750. If a miracle happens and Sanchez is the man the added money onto the future cap is no big deal. If he stinks well the dead cap in 2014 rises from $4.8 million to $10,826,250. While that number is difficult it is far better than the $17+ million in 2013 if we release him. It gives us an avenue to actually release Mark in September if he simply can’t play and becomes a distraction to the team. I like the idea of helping my team now and dealing with the dead money in 2014, which still represents a savings of his current 2014 cap number of $13.1 million.
Now if the Jets believe there is a trade market for Sanchez I would prorate less of the deal and have him keep around $3 million in salary that transfers to the trade partner. Under that scenario Sanchez’ 2013 cap is $8,540,625 and the dead money in 2014 is now $9,112,500. As I type that out that may be more reasonable and a safer play, but that is a decision that the Jets have to make as it pertains to his perceived trade value. I think he is so damaged that a trade may be very difficult, so Idopt for more immediate cap room, but either is acceptable.
2013 Savings: $6.026250 million in Cap and $0 in Cash
2014 Savings: ($2.00875) million in Cap and $0 in CasH
Well now it comes time to wrap it up. If you made it this far congratulations that was a massive read. If you skipped to here well you probably made the smart choice! If you want to go back and review here is Part 1 and Part 2, but more likely you just want to know what is the new bottom line? Here is where we now stand:
2013 Cap: $94,669,553
2013 Cash: $109,366,079
2013 Cap space: $29,830,447
2014 Cap: $99,888,929
Not bad. We went from $26,159,803 over the salary cap to $29,830,447 under the salary cap while reducing our cash spending by about $22 million. In doing so we reduced our 2014 payroll by nearly 17 million and created nearly 9 million in future cap room. The only players we needed to release to do it are Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Tim Tebow, Eric Smith, and Jason Smith. I’m not missing any of those players. I doubt you are either. Tebow was the only player who was removed from the 2014 roster so its not like we gutted our future to gain cap room in 2013.
We would still be able to release Mark Sanchez either in September or next year and could do the same with Santonio Holmes if he is healthy in 2013 so we don’t have any new guarantees to worry about in 2014. The only true long term commitments are Antonio Cromartie and David Harris who now become part of the roster thru at least 2015. The Jets only have 11 players under contract in 2015 so its no big deal for two players to extend beyond what may be their useful life. Remember all of these numbers include projections for the 2013 NFL Draft so this is money in excess of the rookie class. It’s a lot of spending money.
Does it mean the Jets will want to make all of these moves? No but I think the work here at least dispels the notion that GM’s did not want to touch the job because of the salary cap. If a guy sitting at a computer desk in his office can detail this plan I’d expect a GM candidate to do the same rather than coming out and blasting the organization as lost and in a “cap nightmare”. Salary cap hell is a term used for teams that are in a position where they have to release or trade contributing players because of the salary cap. The Jets were in that place in 2006 where they realistically could not keep certain players because of cap considerations. Cap hell is not a situation where you get rid of dead weight and restructure a few deals and get spending room. And please don’t tell me the Jets cap is keeping them from re-signing Revis. Revis’ asking price is what keeps the Jets and probably 27 other teams from even considering it.
The Jets structured many of these deals in preparation for this and while it will certainly take some elbow grease to get these kind of deals done it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities. Harris’ proposed extension is the only one that really concerns me, even more than asking Holmes to take a paycut in 2013. He is the only person to really wield power over the Jets and have no incentive to change a thing. They may need to meet somewhere in the middle of my suggestion which could be a dealbreaker for me. Even still it leaves the Jets with more than enough cap room to get by. Well in closing I hope if you made it this far you enjoyed the read, typos and all. Feel free to leave any of your comments in any section of the articles, in the forums, email or anywhere else on the web as I’ll likely see it at some point and be able to comment on it. Go Jets!