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NY Jets: Trading Kerley

The costs and benefits of trading Jeremy Kerley.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Kerley is not a favorite of the New York Jets coaching staff.  That much is fairly clear.  Kerley played one offensive snap on Sunday, and fielded a few punts.  For that the team is using $2.6 in 2015 cap space, seemingly a rather large price to pay for such a small contribution.  So what should the Jets do?  Cut Kerley?  Trade him? Let's see if we can make some sense of the various possibilities.

First, the team can keep Kerley on the roster for all of 2015.  Keeping him costs the Jets a remaining $2.5 million in cap space for the rest of the season, after we subtract the $100,000+ in base salary already spent in week 1.  That seems like a lot for a punt returner who isn't very good at returning punts and a 5th wide receiver once Devin Smith returns.  It seems like a lot for that role, but it isn't exactly a huge cap hit overall, constituting less than 2% of the current Jets salary cap.

Next possibility: cut Kerley.  In doing so the Jets lose a 5th wide receiver, a player who will rarely see the field, and will not play any significant role on offense unless the team suffers multiple wide receiver injuries.  That role has some insurance value, especially in light of Devin Smith's rookie status, Chris Owusu's concussion history, and Brandon Marshall's age.  The Jets also lose their punt returner, which seemingly isn't much of a loss considering Kerley's less than awesome efforts in that role.  However, if the Jets suffer some botched returns in the process of finding a suitable replacement, Kerley's value here might be more than generally expected.  Overall, Kerley's services in his current role on the team seem less valuable than the $2.5 million in cap space the team spends on him in 2015, so the Jets should cut him, right?

Well, it's a bit complicated. Kerley's contract runs through the 2018 season.  This is what Kerley's cap numbers look like for the remainder of the contract term.  All numbers are in millions:


Base Salary

Pro Rated Bonus

Total Cap #


















*Signifies the current remaining amount on Kerley's base salary for 2015, accounting for the $100,000+ already paid for Game 1.

Generally speaking when you cut a player the entire remaining pro rated bonus is immediately accelerated into the current year.  So you might think if the Jets cut Kerley today, they would be on the hook for $0 2015 base salary (since he's been cut) and $2.4 million in prorated bonus, for a total of $2.4 million in cap space in 2015.  Considering he is only accounting for $2.5 million in cap space  if he stays with the Jets in 2015, the resulting savings of a paltry $0.1 in cap space seem trivial.  His value to the team, as reduced as it now is, surely is worth more than $0.1 million in cap space, right?

Well, as I said before, it's a bit complicated.  Let's start with Kerley's remaining 2015 base salary of $1.9 million.  You might think if the Jets cut him, that comes off the books.  It doesn't.  With 4+ years in the league, Kerley is now a vested veteran, meaning if he is on the roster on Opening Day, his entire base salary becomes fully guaranteed.  Thus cutting him wouldn't save $1.9 million in base salary.  It wouldn't save anything at all in base salary.  So cutting Kerley makes no sense at all, right?  Not so fast.  Let's keep going.

If the Jets cut Jeremy Kerley today, his entire remaining $2.4 million in pro rated bonus money will count against the 2015 cap, right?  Well, no.  You see, today is September 14, which as it turns out falls after June 1 on the calendar.  And the NFL has an entirely different set of accounting rules for cuts occurring after June 1.  After June 1, the pro rated bonus money for any player cut is treated as follows: the current year allocation remains the same, while the remaining bonus money all accelerates into the following year.  So in this case if Kerley is cut today, $600,000 in prorated bonus money counts against the Jets' 2015 cap, and $1.8 million counts against the Jets' 2016 cap.

That leaves us with Kerley counting $1.9 million in base salary plus $0.6 million in pro rated bonus money in 2015 if he is cut today, which is right back where we were before he was (hypothetically) cut!  It also leaves us with the need to replace him on the roster, which would cost about $0.5 million for a back of the roster type guy.  So the final calculation leaves the Jets exchanging Kerley in 2015 for some back of the roster scrub, and ADDING $0.5 to the 2015 cap number.  Doesn't sound so appealing, does it?

Hold on a minute though, there's more to this than just 2015.  Let's follow through with the calculations and the impact on 2016, which is when the Jets will really need some extra cap space.  If the Jets cut Kerley now, they suffer a $0.5 million loss in 2015 cap space, which will roll over into 2016 (i.e., they would have had $0.5 million MORE in cap space in 2015 if they had kept Kerley, which extra space would have rolled over, so cutting Kerley eliminates that extra cap space in 2015, resulting in a loss of $0.5 million in rollover space in 2016).  They also have $1.8 million in accelerated bonus money on the 2016 books, which is $1.2 million more than the $0.6 million they would have had on the books if Kerley wasn't cut. In addition, the Jets will need to replace Kerley on the roster, adding approximately $0.5 million for a back of the roster type.  Finally, the Jets will save the $2.5 million in base salary they won't be paying Kerley in 2016.  Add it all up and we get $2.5 million in base salary saved less $2.2 million in added cap costs for lost rollover space, accelerated bonus, and cost of a replacement player, resulting in savings of a gigantic $0.3 million in 2016 cap space if the Jets cut Kerley today.  Doesn't sound worth it, does it?

But what about cutting Kerley in 2016?  Are the savings better that way? Here's how that works out.  Kerley remains on the books for all of 2015, resulting in $0 savings in 2015 and $0 added rollover cap cost since no replacement player is needed.  In 2016 the Jets will save his $2.5 million in base salary as long as he is cut before the start of the 2016 regular season.  They will, however, lose $1.2 million in accelerated bonus money, and they will lose $0.5 million in the cost of a replacement player, resulting in total cap savings of $0.8 million if Kerley is cut in 2016.  Again, hardly seems worth it, even considering Kerley's reduced role, unless there are clearly five or six better receivers on the team by 2016.

So cutting Kerley doesn't seem like a great option, regardless of whether it is done in 2015 or 2016.  How about trading him? Although there is room to differ here, I believe Kerley's value on the trade market is minimal.  If the Jets could get anything better than a 7th round pick I would be very surprised.  If that is the Jets' return, would trading Kerley be worth it?

You might think, well, Kerley is much better than the typical 7th round draft pick, so trading him would be absurd.  But there is more to the calculation than that.  We must also factor in the cap savings, if any, and whether the total package of 7th round pick plus cap savings is worth the trade. So let's go back to the cap calculations.

Trading Kerley today would have the same June 1 treatment as cutting him.  So the Jets would be on the hook for $0.6 million in pro rated bonus money in 2015 and $1.8 million in pro rated bonus money in 2016 (pro rated bonus money always stays on the books of the team who is trading the player). The Jets would also be on the hook in 2015 for the acquired draft pick, or if that player is cut, some other replacement player at about $0.5 million in each of 2015 and 2016.  But unlike the case of cutting Kerley, if he is traded the Jets will get cap relief from Kerley's base salary going over to the acquiring team.  Thus trading Kerley would result in a cap benefit of $1.9 million in base salary in 2015 and $2.5 million in base salary in 2016.  Where does that leave the Jets in regards to the cap if Kerley is traded?  In 2015 the Jets would be on the hook for $0.6 million in bonus money plus $0.5 million in replacement player money for a total of $1.1 million, a savings of $1.4 million from Kerley's current 2015 cap number of $2.5 million.  That $1.4 million in savings rolls over into 2016.  So the 2016 numbers look like this: the Jets are on the hook for $1.8 million in accelerated bonus plus $0.5 million in replacement player money.  That $2.3 million cap hit in 2015 if Kerley is traded today represents a savings of $0.8 million over the current Kerley 2016 cap number of $3.1 million.  Add in the rollover number from 2015 of $1.4 million and we get cap relief of $2.2 million in 2016 if the Jets trade Kerley today.

So there you have it.  Cutting Kerley appears to make little sense in 2015 or 2016 from a cap perspective, unless the Jets simply have five or six receivers clearly better than him.  On the other hand, trading Kerley is a more interesting debate.  Is a 7th round pick plus $1.4 million in cap savings in 2015 and $2.2 million in cap savings in 2016 worth the loss of Jeremy Kerley today?  Does the fact that the Jets are currently looking at virtually zero cap space in 2016 (before any roster cuts) sway your opinion of a hypothetical Kerley trade?  Are you more likely to say yes to that trade if you knew the savings would go towards signing Wilkerson?  What would you do if you were Mike Maccagnan?