23 million dollars can buy a lot of things. You could get 19,327,730 tacos from Taco Bell, plus all the free sauce you would ever want. You could buy 46 million ounces of Pepto Bismol to chase all those tacos. You could produce the film Napoleon Dynamite 57 times (if you're a jerk). Alternatively, you could invest 23 million dollars in a kickstarter campaign to bury every copy of Napoleon Dynamite ever released and wipe the planets collective memory of the films existence. You can also use 23 million as 17 percent of your total available cap space to field an NFL team in 2014, if that is your sort of thing.
23 million dollars is slightly more (a paltry 52,500 dollar difference) than what the Jets have in available cap space right now, using the data from our friends at overthecap.com. According to overthecap.com, the Jets are projected to have a staggering 47,775,799 USD in salary cap space in 2015. Beginning in 2013, every NFL team is required to spend an average of 89 percent of their salary caps over a 4 year period or must pay the difference to the players.
We interrupt this article to bring you a background piece from a superior writer explaining the spending cap, cash spending, and the as-of-2013 new cash spending floor.
Let's assume the Cap goes up about 5%, or $7 million, to $140 million in 2015, and rises another 5% to $147 million in 2016. If that were to happen, then the Floor for 2015-2016 combined would be 89% of $287 million, or $255 million. But the Jets would be required by the Floor to make up the $34 million shortfall they accumulated in 2013-2014, so the Jets would be required to spend $289 million in Cash Spending. In other words, in 2015-2016, the Jets may well be required by the Floor to have Cash Spending in excess of the aggregate Salary Cap for those two years.
John Idzik is faced with the sort of future predicament that seems like 1985 film Brewster's Millions fan fiction written by a CPA on speed. Because the Jets GM is named John Idzik and not Jeff Parks, the Jets are unlikely to invest in millions of tacos, bismuth liquid, or spreading hundred dollar bills on a mattress and rolling around in money. The Jets likely will have to not only make major signings over the next two years, but they will have to pay several signings handsomely, potentially at rates exceeding market value.
This was an intended effect of the agreement between players and executives. Less players will get automatically rich just for being drafted high in their class, the NFL is designed for controlled economic growth in response to revenue streams while players market values rise with spending, and the clubs are forced both individually and collectively to spend on players as a form of revenue sharing.
So who in the world are the Jets going to pay in the wake of an offseason that was quiet versus the expectations of many fans? The Jets signed some of the best veteran names available at offensive impact positions in Chris Johnson, Eric Decker, and Michael Vick. The Jets also arguably whiffed on one of the best and deepest free agency cornerback groups in the history of the entire game following a season in which the team was vertically challenged on both sides of the ball, and early reports suggest the competition to fill the WR spot opposite Decker is between David Nelson, Stephen Hill, and rookies. No matter how dramatically the Jets over or under-perform in 2014, there will still be gaps to fill.
This isn't a pile on Idzik post, he's done quite a bit to drastically transform the Jets. This is neither praise nor condemnation for his approach. The fact of the matter is that no matter how conservative Idzik is in his approach, he is about to be forced to spend, and spend big. The bonanza many of you were expecting this offseason (and half-recieved) is still coming over the next two years. The question is who will wind up with all of Gang Green's...green? There are several options for New York Jets brass.
Option 1: 2014 Free Agents
One way to confront the spending floor is to spend money this year and raise the 4 year average by making up the deficit now. The con of this is that it forces you to spend on a picked over free agency class and reduces your cap rollover into next season. Idzik is likely deliberately waiting for players he think can make an impact instead of just dredging the bottom of the NFL for recognizable veteran names. So who is available that the Jets could actually use? Let's assume that QB, RB, and the entire defensive line can't be improved upon through free agency this season. I'm also going to assume the Jets won't add any safeties in free agency until next season at the earliest.
This is not an exhaustive list of the available free agents, because we're talking about dropping some serious Idzik loot here. Idzik isn't about to blow his wad on Aaron Murray.
TE: Jermichael Finley, Tony Gonzalez, Dustin Keller, Kellen Winslow; Fred Davis, Ben Hartsock, Dallas Clark, that other Zach Miller (not the good one).
No bank breakers here. If Finley can get healthy he's a potential impact player. Gonzalez is retired to the land of media analysts but could be coaxed out for a respectable salary by the right team, probably Atlanta. Keller was a good player but his injury was so severe that he may never make it back to the game. Winslow and Davis are both a combination of chronically injured and proven dopers. Hartsock and Clark have nothing left, and the other Miller had nothing to begin with.
WR: Santonio Holmes, Earl Bennett, Davone Bess, Josh Cribbs; Plaxico Burress, Brandon Stokely.
No reason to spend any money here. Holmes gets a great big ugh from me and in spite of making some of my most favorite clutch plays as a Jets receiver, I'm not sure if any team is interested in him at any price. Holmes could catch on with a team after someone goes down in preseason. Bennett and Bess are just extra bodies at this point in their career and any salary they could possibly command is minimal at this stage.
OL: Tyson Clabo, Travelle Wharton, Brian Waters, Eric Winston; Jonathon Goodwin, David Stewart, Harvey Dahl, Levi Brown; Richie Incognito, Rob Turner, David Baas.
Some of these guys could fill gaps in a pinch if needed, and that's pretty much what the guys who get phone calls from NFL teams this year will do. Anyone left will likely be signed as injuries occur in training camp and beyond, or as teams lose faith in their starters.
CB: Asante Samuel, Drayton Florence, Jabari Greer, Terrell Thomas; Chris Houston, Quentin Jammer, Dunta Robinson.
All of these players are in their mid-30's sans Thomas who is 29, and almost all of them have serious and persistent injury issues. Greer is as good as retired until you hear otherwise from him. Samuel is a shell of his former playing self but could actually command a few bucks more than the minimum if anyone decides to bring him in. Florence, Houston, and Thomas have a decent chance to get a roster spot somewhere if some DBs go down with injury, which is inevitable. Overall, it's unlikely the Jets can utilize any of these names to perform better than what they have. Even if signing extra cornerbacks proves necessary, their contracts will be a small fraction of the Jets available space.
LB: James Harrison, Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop, Rocky McIntosh; Pat Angerer, Nick Barnett, Jonathan Vilma, Dan Connor; Josh Mauga, Russell Allen.
A few players here could probably help a team out this year if someone gives them a chance. I don't think any of them are fits for the New York Jets at the present moment unless someone goes down for an extended period of time. After the first two names, all of the FA linebackers are minimal contracts if they can even get a team to sign them this year.
K: Josh Brown, Rob Bironas, Lawrence Tynes, David Akers, Rian Lindell.
Nick Folk seems to win any competition against kickers in the offseason, and this appears to have positively impacted his consistency. While kickers like Bironas almost certainly have something left in the tank, it doesn't make sense to sign another veteran to push Folk in camp when he was the most accurate and has beaten out multiple names on this list before. Focus on a real area of need.
If the Jets sign another veteran this year at all, it will likely be due to a longer term injury to a starting or depth player.
Option 2: Trade
The most commonly floated names for trades right now are attached to Houston Texans players, namely Andre Johnson and Jonathan Joseph. Both would be tremendous additions to a vertically challenged team, but the Texans aren't going to part with their most valuable assets (not counting J.J. Watt) without significant compensation, if they can even be convinced at all. The Texans just don't seem interested in spite of being in an obvious rebuilding phase. I can't blame them, Joseph and Johnson are the only threats they have on either side of the ball on passing downs. Either guys or anybody like them would be great for the Jets and automatically make a mediocre position one of strength.
Much like my dreams of polygamous marriage with Jan from Toyota and Clea Duvall, it ain't happening. A stud contract in the ballpark of 10 million would drastically reduce the amount of spending needed to hit the spending floor or above, but that isn't Idzik's style and even if it was, there aren't any viable names on the trading block so you can't blame the Wizard of Idzik for not pulling the trigger on a shot that was never there.
Barring a dark horse candidate, the Jets won't trade for any major additions or big contracts. Andre Johnson remains the most likely of the highly unlikely to be traded.
Option 3: Keep What You Got
There's a reason the Jets will be entering 2015 with so much cap space, and it isn't just that Idzik is the coming of the anti-Tannenbaum. Over the next two seasons, Jets players will be hitting free agency in an exodus that makes Moses look like a travel agent. Here is a list of Jets players by the year they are set to enter free agency. None of the free agents from the 2013 team were retained. If Idzik followed this model and only brought in new players, Eric Decker would be the last remaining 2014 Jet as his contract technically lasts to 2019.
The next two seasons mark the end of the first four year block of cash floor regulations under the most recent CBA. Between now and 2016, the following Jets are due to hit free agency:
2015: Jeremy Kerley, David Harris, Kyle Wilson, Michael Vick; Dawan Landry, Kenrick Ellis, Dimitri Patterson, Willie Colon; Antwan Barnes, Nick Bellore, Garrett McIntyre, Jacoby Ford; Tanner Purdum, Leger Douzable, Bilal Powell, Alex Green; David Nelson, Clyde Gates, Caleb Schlauderaff, Johnny Patrick; Jermaine Cunningham, Benjamin Ijalana, Greg Salas, Damon Harrison; Jaiquawn Jarrett, Matt Simms, Michael Campbell, Brandon Hardin.
2016: Muhammad Wilkerson, Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory, Demario Davis; Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Antonio Allen, Josh Bush; Stephen Hill, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster, Ras-I Dowling; Daryl Richardson, A.J. Edds, Markus Zusevics, Zach Sudfeld; Ryan Quigley, Troy Davis, Chris Pantale, Saalim Hakim.
Obviously, the majority of these player are depth signings or utility players. Keeping players like Wilkerson will be a priority and eat up a massive amount of cap spending, but there really aren't that many studs on the Jets roster that will require a big payday to keep. The Jet will have to make a decision on David Harris (one of the Jets highest paid players), whose contract demands may determine whether or not the Jets pursue an extension. Jeremy Kerley could draw offers from elsewhere and the Jets may have to choose between his consistency and their frugal contract habits. The progress of Dexter McDougle may dictate whether or not the Jets attempt to re-sign Kyle Wilson or any of their other DBs set to depart over the next two years.
Most of these guys are rentals and camp bodies that probably won't merit re-signing, to be blunt. They also account for almost the entire secondary and receiver corps behind Dee Milliner and Eric Decker. This is a profound statement about the both the state of the Jets passing game on both sides of the ball and their frugal, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? approach to signing players. Either Patterson, Nelson, and Hill will step up and fill the needs they were intended to, or the Jets will go back to the drawing board at those positions within the next two seasons. Many of the aforementioned names who do return will be depth signings who command very little money in salary, relatively speaking.
The Idzik approach becomes more apparent and tangible when you examine the contracts. Don't shell out just for a name unless the price is right, award short inexpensive contracts to role-players and revisit their place with the team within a year or two. Idzik still takes the risks Tannenbaum did on aging or injured players, he simply does not mortgage the future on big contracts or sacrifice draft picks for prolific players. There will always be pros and cons associated with this approach. Building a team will be a slow and arduous process, however the Jets will never likely find themselves in cap hell or carrying dead weight in contracts so long as the Wizard is in charge.
Option 4: Future Free Agents
This is far and away the most likely avenue for spending up to the cash floor and beyond within the next two seasons. Let's check out the most notable 2015 non-Jet free agents to see where some of
Scrooge McDuck Woody Johnson's money might go.
QB: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck; Blaine Gabbert, Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez (lol), Christian Ponder; Brian Hoyer, Shaun Hill, Jason Campbell, Ryan Mallett; Terrelle Pryor (for Nicolai).
Dalton is probably the best option available, although I'm not convinced his success is attributable as much to his own play as being on the right team. His performance with the Cincinnati Bengals this season will determine how much money he can seek in free agency and how interested the Bengals and other teams will be in pursuing him. Dalton could get a big pay day like Joe Flacco or he could be replaced completely.
Entering his contract season, Dalton makes millions less in base salary than Jets backup Michael Vick. The only 2015 free agent making more money than Vick at QB this year is Alex Smith, who has a salary of nearly 10 million dollars. While the Kansas City Chiefs claim to be serious about retaining Smith, the fact is he is a game manager who happens to be seriously overpaid. Smith's contract demands and performance will obviously dictate how much money he can make, but I just don't see a bidding war emerging over him.
The Jets could afford to dole out a 10 million dollar contract on a mediocre quarterback, but that doesn't make it a wise approach. You also have to consider how grim the Jets cyclical quarterback situation is if Geno Smith doesn't pan out for any reason. You have a potential one-year stop gap in the declining Michael Vick, but the Jets are faced with a very familiar problem; if their homegrown talent can't get the job done they are back to the drawing board at QB.
The Jets options are then to either draft another passer from the early rounds and/or sign a middled journeyman for more money than he deserves. Whichever option winds up starting behind center, the Jets are still hitting the reset button. Honestly, until I see otherwise from Smith, this is exactly what I am anticipating will happen. This cycle will never end until the Jets draft and develop the right guy for the job, or hit some sort of free agency jackpot. A lot of this dynamic is simply luck, or a lack thereof.
WR: Roddy White, Dez Bryant, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker; Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Washington; Jerome Simpson, Greg Little, Robert Meachem, Randall Cobb; Mario Manningham, Torrey Smith, Brandon Tate, Kenny Britt; Jordy Nelson, Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin, Sidney Rice; Eddie Royal, Brad Smith, Jason Avant, Nate Burleson.
Good dog, that free agency class is deeper than Lake Tanganyika. The Falcons might not be willing to shell out #1 receiver money on both White and Julio Jones. At his age, Reggie Wayne might be allowed to test the market. If the Jets require a re-up at receiver to complement the skill set of Eric Decker, they can make runs at several players who they missed out on in 2014 such as Maclin and Nicks. If Welker continues being so underwhelming he might be available. There's a lot of impact and value players available at this position next year, and I anticipate the Jets adding one or more of these names to their roster, unless one or more rookies drafted this offseason breaks out.
Dez Bryant, Thomas, Crabtree, and others will likely have many suitors, but I predict their current teams will make a good deal of effort to keep them with their respective clubs.
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Joel Dreessen, Kyle Rudolph, Owen Daniels; Jacob Tamme, Demarcus Dobbs, Lance Kendricks.
I have high hopes for Jace Amaro, personally speaking, and I don't see the Jets investing much money building up tight end over the next two seasons.
OL: Michael Roos, Winston Justice, Nick Hardwick, Roberto Garza; Will Montgomery, Rob Sims, Dan Connolly, Mike Lupati; Chris Snee, Daryn Colledge, James Carpenter, Doug Free; Jeromey Clary, Erik Pears, Bryan Bulaga, King Dunlap; Corey Hilliard, Jermey Parnell, Khalif Barnes, Orlando Franklin.
Meh. There's a decent chance the Jets have to pull someone from this pile if they can't come up with a home grown solution at Guard. The entire offensive line of the Jets is on the decline and while the Nick Mangold anchored line can still hold its own, I don't see the Oline regaining its previous elite status until the Jets invest some serious money or draft picks into it again.
LB: Brian Orakpo, Jason Worilds, Lance Briggs, Brandon Spikes; Larry English, Dwight Freeney, John Abraham, Rey Maualuga; Sean Weatherspoon, Darryl Sharpton, Ashlee Palmer, DJ Williams; Chase Blackburn, Kevin Burnett, James Anderson, Akeem Ayers; Justin Durant, Jason Trusnik, Jerry Hughes, Brooks Reed; Justin Houston.
Imagine if the Jets had an LB corps nearly as effective as their defensive line is, or with as much finesse as their secondary used to have. It's been quite a long time since the Jets were a force to be reckoned with at linebacker. Just think what kind of defense Rex Ryan could field if the Jets had more productive run stoppers and pass rushers standing up behind the formidable defensive line.
I expect the Jets to invest heavily at linebacker over the next two years as all the starters and second string LBs on the Jets roster are set to hit free agency within the the 2015 and 2016 seasons. If the Jets can't develop their own talent, they will drop the big bucks rebuilding the linebacker position, giving the front seven more teeth and taking pressure off the embattled secondary.
DB: Tramon Williams, Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Charles Woodson; Louis Delmas, Devin McCourty, Nate Allen, Danieal Manning; Sergio Brown, Rahim Moore, Patrick Chung, Ryan Clark; Will Allen, Quintin Demps, Dwight Lowery, Antonio Cromartie; Tarell Brown, Charles Tillman, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Flowers; Ike Taylor, Kareem Jackson, Carlos Rogers, Terrence Newman; Chris Harris, Darius Butler, Rashean Mathis.
Two things to consider here. 1. Virtually the entire Jets cornerback lineup outside of Dee Milliner is hitting free agency with this class. That includes Kyle Wilson and Dimitri Patterson. 2. The Jets will get a second run on the majority of the cornerbacks AND wide receivers they missed out on or were outbid on by other teams this offseason. Many of the players the Jets supposedly "missed out" on got one year prove-it rentals with other teams. Whether guys like McDougle step up and claim a spot on the roster this season or not, expect the secondary to change drastically over the next two years.
The Jets are probably going to shell out a Spanish Galleon full of loot on free agency over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. IF Idzik doesn't open the purse strings a bit, the Jets might have to fork over the balance of the spending shortfall to the players collectively for nothing in return. To clarify, the team faces no sort of penalty other than the guarantee that they will spend 89 percent of their available funds over 4 years either way.
Barring complete breakouts this season, only a marginal number of Jets approaching free agency should find markets willing to pay them enough to make retaining said players cost prohibitive. If Kyle Wilson is only valued in the slot by the Jets and Dexter McDougle is what some people claim him to be, Kyle could be on the outs in New York but should have little to no trouble finding a team. Jeremy Kerley could potentially be valued by other teams but won't be a bank breaker. David Harris is unlikely to get another contract with such high value.
Wilkerson will almost definitely be extended at great cost to the team, but the brunt of that money might not even necessarily be in 2015 or 2016. Wilkerson's contract year isn't at all guaranteed next season but the Jets picking it up gives him the highest base salary on the team at just shy of 7 million dollars, and only Mangold and Ferguson will make slightly more after roster and workout bonuses. The Jets are showing him the money next year and giving Wilkerson the chance to prove he deserves a loaded contract on a team that is similarly stacked at his position. Don't get me wrong, Wilkerson is invaluable to the team and a great player, but there is a glut of talent on the defensive line that gives the Jets at least a little bargaining power heading into future offseasons.
Everyone else on the team approaching free agency the Jets may pick freely among and choose who to sign and who to replace, all without much regard for financial cost. Only the Jaguars, Browns, and Bengals have more current cap space, and the Jets figure to have nearly 50 million in cap space next season before accounting for rollover. As Smackdad has outlined previously, the Jets are among the lowest cap and cash spenders in the coming seasons without extensions and new signings. Unless Idzik plans to distribute resources among all players equally in some sort of Marxist model, the team will not only easily retain any players it wishes to but also enter the 2015 and 2016 free agency periods with what essentially adds up to a mandate to spend money like this.
tldr: The Jets pretty much have to sign some impact players in 2015 and 2016.
I believe I see a pattern emerging where Idzik isn't fearful of spending per se, but likes keeping his options wide open, and I think the Wizard is purposefully holding over money so he can retain any and all players who demonstrate consistent value on the field to him. Flexibility seems to be the name of his game. The question is this: Is Idzik giving himself so much flexibility in financial operations now that it could pigeonhole him in the future? Can his reputation as a frugal executive drive players to other teams and cost the Jets opportunities? Does Idzik deserve his reputation when other teams also have plentiful cap space and aren't competitive, or does he only appear to be reserved (or even cheap) when compared to his predecessor?
Whether it's his modus operandi or not, John Idzik has some serious spending to do through 2015 and 2016. If only we all had such problems. Here's to the future.
How do you see the Jets spending their money through 2016? Are there any specific players you hope the Jets retain, or target in future free agencies?