Sizing up Jets Salary Cap
Let me start by first stating how awful I am at math. No seriously. Just plain awful. I use my fingers to add up tips for big checks at restaurants. But I will NOT use my cellphone’s tip calculator. You got to draw the line somewhere.
In high school, math IV was nearly the downfall of what was lined up to be a most glorious post-graduation bender. Booze, babes and beaches all were left waiting in limbo while Ms. Keavey’s hellish red pen left marks all over my loose leaf assignments. Only my marked propensity for chitter chatter and a knack for getting under her skin kept me from spending four hours a day couped up in a stuffy Catholic school in mid-July. I needed a 65 average for the year to pass. I skittishly skated my way across the graduation platform with a 65.7 average, holding on to my diploma for dear life in the fear that they might try and take it from me. Talk about a real snatch and grab job.
It just never stuck with me. My mom told me I was a left-brain thinker, whatever that means. The worst part of it all was I didn’t even need to take math my senior year. It was an elective. Foolish.
The reason I’m sharing these rather embarrassing high school memories (and trust me there’s about 1,000 more that are 10x worse), because I found it funny when the thought crossed my mind that I was going to tackle the Jets salary cap stance and break it down in a way that even someone like myself could understand. If only Ms. Keavey could see me now.
But enough about my senior year math teacher, she’s gotten her 15 minutes of fame. Let’s dive in to the pressing issue as the thick of the NFL off season prepares for kick off. (2/21 — teams can place franchise tag on 1 player, 2/22-28 — NFL Combine in Indianapolis).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: RAW DATA
Every team enters the 2012 season with a cap of roughly $120 million. Because of the new CBA teams could “borrow” up to $3 million in cap space and apply it to a later year (2014 thru 2017). Many teams, including the Jets, did this. So starting out the Jets adjusted cap for 2012 is roughly $122 million. Including “dead money”, guaranteed money that is still owed to players who were cut, already have $123 million committed for the 2012 season — putting them $1 million OVER the cap.
But also because of the new CBA, teams are allowed to take any unused cap space from 2011 and apply it as a credit in 2012. With about $8 million in unused 2011 space, the Jets now stand roughly $5 million UNDER the cap. And the roller coaster ride is only beginning. Add in possible player escalators for this season (Dustin Keller – $3 mil, Mike DeVito – $2.5 mil, Kyle Wilson – $1 mil roster bonus & Mark Sanchez – $750K roster bonus *might be waived in lieu of him being a 3-year starter) and the Jets have $6 million in possible commitments. That puts them $1 million OVER the cap.
GETTING UNDER THE CAP:
Eric Smith and Wayne Hunter both received publicly criticized multi-year deals leading up to the 2011 season, which were considered a disappointment by many. The upside? Their contracts have flexibility on the Jets end, where they can opt out with out taking a hit after the first year. Cutting both players would have freed up $4.5 million of space, however Hunter’s contract has been guaranteed as of last week. Cutting Smith could save up $4 million alone, with the distinct possibility of him re-signing at a much lower price. For those keeping tabs at home that’d put the Jets approximately $3 million UNDER the cap. And parting ways with those players, an area of need via draft or free agency as it is, wouldn’t prove to be a huge loss.
Brandon Moore is coming off a fine season in which he made the Pro Bowl. But at 32 and with a problematic hip issue, durability issues are certainly a question. If the Jets were to cut him or Mike DeVito, who had a strong output on the defensive front, they would save $3 million each, respectively.
Mark Sanchez is due to make $12 million this year, after having statistically his best season and publicly his worst. General manager Mike Tannenbaum admittedly stated that Sanchez hasn’t progressed the way the team has hoped to this point. In 2011, Sanchez had been on the record stating he was willing to restructure his contract in order to free up cap space. If that offer still stands in 2012, the Jets could shave off $3-5 million of guaranteed money with the possibility of earning that back with incentives. Cutting Sanchez would burn a bridge but save the team close to $9 million.
Forget about cutting Bart Scott and/or Calvin Pace. Both linebackers have guaranteed contracts in 2012, cutting them would save the team nothing financially.
Both David Harris and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have high 2012 salaries at roughly $10 million a piece. It would be a shame if the Jets asked to restructure Harris’ contract, as he’s been worth every penny thus far. But Brick is a different story. After coming off one of his worst years since entering the NFL, it would make sense that the Jets may look in to giving Brick a pay cut. Much like they would do with Sanchez, the Jets could shave off $3-5 million with the ability to earn that back with player incentives — which would not go against the cap.
No-Brainer Cap Saving Moves:
- Cut Smith – $4 million
- Restructure Ferguson’s and Sanchez’s contract – roughly $8 million
- Cut Scott, Pace, Moore, Keller and DeVito – $7 million
The Jets are financially strapped in 2012. Plain and simple. Luckily, they have only one high-priced free agent in defensive tackle Sione Pouha. Look for the Jets to retool their roster through the draft while doing some bargain bin shopping for players who’ll fit into their system and command little money in the process. Our very own Chris Nimbley points out some savvy players available this off-season that do not come at a high-fashion price.