In many ways, trying to make sense of a team's salary cap situation is a fool's errand. The cap is so complex that the league office and the team headquarters are probably the only places where the full story is known. I still am going to do my best to try and figure out exactly where the Jets are in relation to the cap as we head to the offseason.
The latest salary cap information I can find is a Florio post from November 20. It has the Jets at $7.9 million under the cap. There were no real big ticket moves so the team probably ended the season somewhere around this figure. This is significant because the new CBA says teams can carry over extra cap space into the next year. This is why I tried to shy away from criticism the Jets are cheap for keeping this extra space during the year instead of spending it. It is possible the team wanted to carry this space over.
The best reference for discussing the Jets' salary cap position is the excellent NYJetsCap.com. If you do not have this site bookmarked, you should. No other place, mainstream media or otherwise, is as reliable. Jason, who runs it, does a better job navigating the complexity of the salary cap than anybody.
According to the team page for 2012, the Jets have a $121.4 million cap number for their top 51 players and $1.7 million in dead money. This makes it roughly $123.1 million. Reports indicate the salary cap will be around the same $120 million figure it is with possibly a slight increase. Let's say there is a slight increase to $123 million. So we'll say their current commitments put them right at the cap. Then you add the $7.9 million credit. Obvious cuts of Wayne Hunter ($2.5 million) and Eric Smith ($2 million) add an extra $4 million of cap space. So that would get us to $11.9 million. Antonio Cromartie ($2 million) and Mark Sanchez ($1.3 million) also have contracts where roster bonuses can be converted into signing bonuses, which would add $3.3 million to the cap and get us to $15.2 million.
If accurate, this paints a picture where the Jets are not going to be able to spend like drunken sailors but could be in good position to at least address some weaknesses. The Jets have some other aces up their sleeve. Ropati Pitoitua would save $1.1 million if cut. That is a lot of free space for a backup player to take up. The team could also look to give contract extensions to guys like Mike Devito, Brandon Moore, and Dustin Keller to reduce their cap cost for next year.
There is another move the team could make that I have to mention. Cutting Mark Sanchez would create $9.2 million in cap space. If the team felt comfortable going with a guy like Jason Campbell, that would create a lot of room to help in other areas. I don't expect this, though, and do not think this would necessarily be the right move. It does deserve a mention, though.
Keep in mind, this is only what I think the situation is from the information available. Things could change. I am very tentative on how accurate this is. Mike Tannebaum has also shown a lot of creativity in his career so there might be a trick or two he has up his sleeve not mentioned here.