One of the biggest challenges facing the Jets as they headed into this offseason was the fact that many of their players were upcoming free agents and that they quite possibly would not have enough money to retain them. Important members of the team's success including Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith, Antonio Cromartie, Shaun Ellis, Brodney Pool and Eric Smith were all set to potentially walk free. Another problem stemming from this is that the Jets would possibly also not have enough money to fill spots of need such as OLB and DL. High priced free agents such as Nnamdi Asomugha also seemed out of reach.
The reason primarily for all this was that the players and owners were in a labor fight with the owners wanting to slash the salary cap sharply. With a lower salary cap the Jets would certainly struggle to fill needs. Another aspect of them reaching an agreement is that players would likely become UFA's quicker and not stay as RFA's. This would greatly impact the Jets have many players who would be affected by this. Holmes Cromartie and Smith all are currently RFA's but would probably be UFA's under a new CBA. Had the NFL and the Union actually come to an agreement prior to the start of FA this most likely would've been the case.
Unfortunately though, this did not turn out to be the case. Fridays deadline came and went and the Union decertified while the owners followed up by locking out the players. The case is now headed to court (hopefully of Judge David Doty) and on April 6 the hearing on the players injunction to stop the lockout will start. If the Union wins and the lockout is stopped, then FA will start.
Here is where the silver lining comes in. It's quite possible that when FA starts, the rules will be similar to those in place in 2010, an uncapped year. This would mean that all the guys mentioned above would retain RFA status. This would be bad for them but very good for us. The Jets took preventive measures to protect themselves if players were to retain RFA status. Holmes and Cro were giver 1st and 3rd round tenders while Smith was given a 2nd rounder.
The ways this could help the Jets are immense. For one thing, the Jets could sign Holmes and Cro to far smaller 1 year contracts if they are RFA's, than what they would receive on the open market. Secondly, even if another team were to attempt to poach Cro or Holmes they would be forced to part with a 1st and 3rd rounder in the draft if they wanted to sign them. Thirdly, with an uncapped year we're not blocked b the salary restrictions we'd have otherwise and we can sign players we want. We would then be able to push off our tough economic decisions for another year. Here's my ultimate wish. We're able to keep Holmes and Edwards but some team decides to take Cro off our hands. With savings we get from signing Holmes to a smaller deal and the fact that it's an uncapped year, we go out and sign Nnamdi. The net result: we have Braylon, Santonio and Nnamdi along with an extra 1st and 3rd round pick.
Lets hope that the judge (whoever it will be) rules in favor of the players and blocks the lockout and free agency starts soon enough. On top of that it would be fantastic if when it does we are are able to keep the uncapped year.