We have reached the point of pure guesswork. Nobody knows what the new CBA will look like. All we can really do to prognosticate is work off the old model. It's not the best model since the formula changed last time, but it is our best guess right now, albeit a bad one.
Under the last CBA, the cap grew around 7.5% a year. It was $128 million in 2009, the last year of the cap. Tack an extra 7.5% on, and you get around $137 million for 2010. Remember, this was an uncapped year. Tack an extra 7.5% on, and you get around $147 million for 2011. This is a crude estimate, but it at least gives us something to play with. We'll assume the owners will make good on making sure a cap is back.
The Jets have about $117 million tied up next year as a starting point with a number of key free agents.
Let's just take a look at some of the starters.
If Shaun Ellis is looking for 3-4 end money in the range of Pittsburgh's, Aaron Smith, that would be around $4.5 million annually.
If David Harris is looking for inside linebacker money in the range of Baltimore's Ray Lewis, that would be around $7 million annually.
If Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are looking for wide receiver money in the range of Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne, that would be around $6 million annually each or $12 million total.
If Antonio Cromartie is looking for cornerback money in the range of Philadelphia's Asante Samuel, that would be around $9.5 million annually.
If you add those figures up, we are already over the $30 million of cap space.
This is a back of the envelope estimate to say the least. It takes plenty of liberties guessing what the CBA and the market will say. The point stands, though. The Jets are going to have to make some difficult choices. Yes, they can cut some guys and have others restructure. Yes, they can get creative and manipulate cap numbers for a given year. Ultimately, though, they cannot afford to sign everybody to a monster contract. This doesn't even account for money for Draft choices, spare parts like Brad and Eric Smith, or signings from other teams.
Does this spell doom? Of course it does not. Mike Tannenbaum can replace some of the guys who might leave with more one year rentals who have worn out their welcomes in other places. There are always places to buy low. Some of these guys might take deals below market value to stay (I'd never count on anybody to do it until I see it, though). If they test the market, they could easily find suitors offering that kind of money. It might not be that much, but those ballpark figures are likely. It is important to realize the challenge this offseason will present. My numbers might be off, but the point is accurate in any event.