(Disclaimer: much of the info in this post will be courtesy of the fantastic nyjetscap.com and overthecap.com)
The Cap - This Season:
As it currently stands for the 2013 season, the NFL salary cap comes in at around $123 million allotted per team (53 players). The Jets situation this season is actually pretty interesting as the Jets have managed to use all their allotted cap space despite the fact that the current roster is only taking up a paltry $81.37 million of said cap space. The reason for this is pretty much twofold
2) Dead Money - most of which is coming due to the Revis trade as his dead money cap figure is an astronomical $13 million ("dead money" is money that a team is required to pay a player even if he is no longer on the team due to being cut or traded - this money is counted against the cap). Throw in another roughly $8 million in dead money from Calvin Pace, Timmy the Tebow, Sione Pouha and Bart Scott (as well as about $2 million combined from many others) and the Jets have committed nearly $23 million of this seasons cap space to dead money.
Thus the Jets salary cap total ends up coming out to $123 million. When combining the current roster ($81.37 mil), the injured reserve list ($17.6 mil), dead money ($23 mil) plus the suspended Kellen Winslow and the practice squad players ($1.1 mil combined) and the Jets total comes in at the $123 million total.
So, as we see, the Jets are using only roughly 2/3 of their allotted cap space on players currently performing on the team; a vast waste of team resources. Clearly this is not a good solution and something the Jets must improve on.
Luckily, the light is indeed on at the end of the tunnel and the Jets look to have a good cap situation for the upcoming season.
The Cap - Next Season:
Originally, it was predicted that in 2014 the NFL salary cap would see a large increase over the current $123 million figure as the league would see vastly increased revenues from the new TV deal. However, this does not necessarily seem to be the case and the cap may very well stay flat at roughly the $123 million figure. Even so, the Jets still figure to have loads of cap room entering the offseason.
As listed at overthecap.com, the Jets are only committed to $100,761,921 against the salary cap next season for 40 players. This, as a starting point, would give the Jets just a tad under $22 million to spend on 11 players for next season (the salary cap only counts the salaries of the top 51 players on a team).
However, this is just a starting point as there are many factors to look at when figuring out how much cap space the Jets will actually have.
Cuts and Restructuring:
While the Jets cap figure originally stands at that $100.76 million figure - with nearly $22 million in spending potential - it is quite unlikely that that is actually how much cap space the Jets will have to work with. That is due to the fact that Jets have quite a few players who either will be cut due to their salary figures or who at the very least will possibly be asked to restructure their deals as their performance does not match their pay. Below, I will go into which players possibly qualify as candidates to be cut or asked to restructure and how much that may save for the Jets.
Just first, before we get to that, it is important to note that just because a player makes a salary figure that doesn't match his performance, doesn't mean the player is a good candidate to be cut.
A good example of this is D'Brickashaw Ferguson; a player who is good but probably not worth the $11.7 million pricetag he'll drop on the Jets next season. He's a terrible example of a player to cut due to the aforementioned concept of "dead money". Brick is owed $13 million of "dead money" against the cap next season regardless of whether he plays. As such as his salary for playing is lower than his dead money number, the Jets would actually lose out on $1.3 million against the cap rather than save money if they were to cut Brick. Thus, he is pretty much un-cuttable. The same concept also is the reason why Mark Sanchez wasn't cut before this season. Sanchez's "dead money" number for this season was about $17 million; roughly $5 million more than his ridiculous salary of $12 million. The Jets would have lost $5 million extra against the cap by cutting him. This leads me to my next point......
Sanchez is gonna be cut this year. Whereas this past year, cutting him owuld have been stupid - it makes tons of sense this coming offseason. While cutting him will still carry a dead money weight of $4.7 million, it will still give the Jets a cap savings of $8.3 million which would push the Jets' overall cap savings to around $31 million.
Next up are a few guys who are making far less money than Sanchez but really have no reason to be on the team next year and don't have the downside of prohibitive amounts of dead money being involved. The prime guys I'd look to cut would be Mike Goodson (cap savings of $1.3 million and dead money totaling $666k), Ben Ijalana (cap savings of $926k with no dead money), Alex Green (cap savings of $652k with no dead money), the unbelievable Clyde Gates (cap savings of $645k and no dead money). Cutting all these guys would save an additional $3.5 million against the cap, putting the Jets cap room at about $34.5 million.
Cro is set to make an astronomical sum of $15 million, a contract he certainly has not upheld this season. If the Jets were to cut Cro or trade him, they'd still be on the hook for $5.5 million of dead money. Still, cutting Cro would net the Jets savings of roughly $9.5 million against the cap. The conundrum the Jets face is that Cro is still far and away their best cornerback. It may just be worth it to eat his contract and the possible huge benefit of cutting him around since the team desperately needs him. In the end of the day, I suspect that the Jets will look to restructure Cro's contract for a 2nd consecutive year, but not to cut him outright.
Holmes case is probably an easier one. While the Jets have major issues at WR, it's not like Holmes has actually helped out all that much. He pretty much hasn't seen the field at all the past 2 years and acted like a big baby the season before that. Furthermore, it's not like he was lighting up the field this year when he did play. Either way, he certainly hasn't lived up to his enormous contract extension and I fully expect the Jets to either cut him outright or at the very least restructure his awful contract. Cutting Holmes would net the Jets almost the same amount in savings that cutting Cro would (cutting Holmes would save $8.25 million) without such a large dead money hit (he's only be owed $2.5 million in dead money). It would shock me if the Jets made a move on Cro but not on Holmes.
The end result of all of this is, that before any offseason signings take place, the Jets should have a minimum of $34.5 million to spend with quite possibly a lot more depending on Cro and Holmes.
Jets Free Agents / Extensions:
Not only will the Jets have tons of cap room, but they basically will have just about none of their own players leaving via free agency. Per overthecap.com again, the Jets have few good UFA's (goodbye Vlad Ducasse!) with the exceptions of Willie Colon, Austin Howard, Jeff Cumberland Kellen Winslow and Calvin Pace. Meanwhile, for the most part, all the RFA's are scrubs (Konrad Reuland, Darrin Walls, Nick Bellore, Garrett McIntyre). Thus the Jets won't have to spend much, or any, of their cap space signing their own.
Furthermore, I can't really think of any players the Jets have deserving of a contract extension. At best, the amazing Mo Wilkerson deserves one but I find it hard to believe that John Idzik would give him one already this offseason.
Depth Chart Heading into Free Agency / Draft:
Based on everything outlined above the Jets should go into the offseason with max 33-35 players under contract, needing to get up to 51. The depth chart would look as below (sorry if I dont include some of the lower level feeder players - they can be cut too)
QB - Geno, Simms
RB - Ivory, Powell, Bohanon
TE - Sudfeld
WR - Kerley, Hill, Nelson, Salas (Holmes?)
OL - Brick, Mangold, Winters, Schlauderaff
ST - Folk, Quigley, Purdum
DL - Wilk, Snacks, Ellis, Richardson, Coples
LB - Davis, Harris, Barnes
S - Landry, Allen, Bush
CB - Milliner, Wilson, (Cro?)
Clearly the Jets have big needs at WR, TE, OL (unless they resign Howard and Colon), LB, S and CB along with possibly RB
There are quite a few free agents out there that the Jets could look at for next season, especially considering they will have money to spend.
At WR, the Jets mainly need to look for #1 and #2 receivers (assuming Holmes is gone/hurt again and that, like me, you're not convinced Hill is ready to be a #2). The market isnt great but there are some quality players available such as Hakeem Nicks, James Jones, Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Maclinand Julian Edelman.
At TE, Dennis Pitta, Dustin Keller, Greg Olsen and Jermichael Finley (provided he comes back healthy) are available. Not a fantastic group, but certainly fairly decent, though I would like to see Cumberland re-signed.
I honestly don't know so much about about OL's so I'm not gonna even bother with them....
There are some very good safeties available, led by Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner and Bernard Pollard while there arent any truly dominant CB's available (though I'm sure everyone here would love some more Nnamdigeddon ;)
All in all, there are good players to be had and the Jets will have plenty of money to spend. If John Idzik does a solid job this offseason, the Jets should be in excellent shape to build on this campaign.