There has been considerable discussion already on what the New York Jets can do to rebuild from what has already been, only halfway through, a painful season. This is an early look at the salary cap situation for the Jets this coming off-season. We will revisit the subject once the off-season begins. I will use www.nyjetscap.com for all of the statistics, however the analysis is my own.
According to this article, the salary cap is not likely to increase much this off-season. For hypothetical purposes, let's say that it moves to an even $121 million. If the Jets retain all of their current players (not including those that are free agents), the cap hit will be $141.5m, $20m over the maximum. Yikes.
Let's first cut that number down and get rid of some of the massive contracts we have. The savings from each cut player includes dead money resulting from the loss of the player. The first is OT Jason Smith, who will save us $12m. LB Calvin Pace will remove $8.5m from the cap. LB Bart Scott will end up saving us $7.15m. DT Sione Po'uha can save us $3.8m, and S Eric Smith will reduce the number by an additional $3m. QB Tim Tebow can save us $1.5m if he's cut. A combination of CB Aaron Berry, G Caleb Schlauderaff, WR Royce Adams, and RB Jonathan Grimes can save the team an additional $2.15m. That, in total, brings the cap number down to $103.4m, a total of $17.6m under the cap.
With that money, we will need to find replacements for all of those positions as well as the loss (or re-signing) of our free agents, including Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, Nick Folk (!!!), Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, LaRon Landry, Aaron Maybin, Brandon Moore, Chaz Schilens, Matt Slauson, and Bryan Thomas. In addition, we will need space to sign our upcoming draft picks. We have a lot of holes, and not a lot of space to fix it, especially considering this is the best time to re-sign CB Darrelle Revis with his leverage (due to his ACL injury, and Antonio Cromartie's excellent performance) at an all-time low.
There are some players that I did not mention above as likely cap casualties. QB Mark Sanchez and WR Santonio Holmes come to mind. For better or worse, unless the Jets can somehow trade their massive contracts to another team (doubtful), they are stuck with the two players for at least another year. Sanchez's contract would save the Jets $12.8m, but cost just over $17m in dead money, so the team would lose $4.3m on the cap. Similarly, Holmes' contract, while saving the Jets $12.8m, would cost $11.2m in dead money, so at a balance of $1.25m, and still needing to find a new #1 wide receiver, cutting him doesn't make much sense financially. It's possible they could restructure their contracts, but since Sanchez just got an extension, and Holmes' personality gives him no reason to, so it's doubtful that would happen.
There are a lot of things that are going to happen between now and the end of the season, including breakout players and injuries, so this is just an early look at the cap. The moral of the story is that the Jets do not have a significant amount of money to play with, especially with all the players we're going to need to replace, Revis' contract, and signing draft picks. Mike Tannenbaum (or whoever is managing the cap next year if he's fired) will be living on a string. Take a look here if you're interested in investigating more into the cap, or feel free to ask questions in the comments below that I could possibly answer for you.
Edit: Thank you to EskimoAlva, who rightly pointed out that I forgot to address the unused cap space that can be rolled over from this year into next. We are currently $4.7m under the cap, so (barring additional injuries that require signings) we will have $22.3m to work with.