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Jets Offseason Moves: Making Sense of the Cap Situation

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Let's try and get a handle on the current Jets' salary cap situation heading into free agency?

What is the salary cap for 2016?

The NFL still has not announced the salary cap for the 2016 season. If there is one consistent, the projections keep going up the closer we get to free agency. A little over a week ago, there were guesses it would be around $155 million. This week there was a reported arbitrator ruling on a claim brought by the NFLPA that Adam Schefter estimates will raise the cap by around $2 million per team. Let's go with $157 million give or take a few million.

How much space do the Jets have?

Over the Cap currently has the Jets on the hook for $135.8 million after the release of Antonio Cromartie. That would put the Jets around $21.2 million under the cap. Teams are also allowed to carry over unused cap space from the previous season. Just this week the NFLPA put out the figure that the Jets will carry over a shade under $2.5 million. Let's say this puts the Jets around $23.7 million in space.

Can the Jets clear any further space?

Here are some potential cuts and the amount they would save.

  • Breno Giacomini $4.3 million
  • Nick Folk $2.1 million
  • Jeff Cumberland $1.9 million
  • Brian Winters $1.6 million
  • Jeremy Kerley $1.3 million
The savings here add up to an estimated $11.2 million. Add that to our $23.7 million, and you have around $34.9 million in cap space. The players cut all had a role on the roster, but this is largely cutting fat. There isn't much here that cannot be easily replaced.

What do the Jets need to do with that $35 million?

The following positions would either have prominent free agent starters and/or no obvious incumbent starters under contract.
  • Quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick)
  • Running Back (Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell)
  • Right Guard
  • Right Tackle
  • Defensive Line (Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison)
  • Inside Linebacker (Demario Davis, Erin Henderson)
  • Kicker

The following positions have potential internal replacements after the Jets let the incumbent starter go but could potentially use an upgrade.

  • Cornerback (Marcus Williams for Cromartie)
  • Tight End (Jace Amaro for Cumberland)
  • Edge Rusher (Lorenzo Mauldin for Calvin Pace)
What other tools are at the Jets' disposal?

The Jets own their own draft pick in every round but the sixth, which was traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That $35 million gets eaten up really quickly when you factor in all of the players who need to be re-signed. Are the Jets doomed?

No, I will give you two things to consider. The cap hit does not need to be the same for all years of the season. For example, if the Jets give Fitzpatrick a contract averaging $8 million annually, the cap hit for every year does not need to be $8 million every year. The 2016 cap hit could be lower, while the cap hits for 2017 and beyond could be bigger. The same goes for every player the Jets sign to a multiyear deal.

This is important to remember for the second thing to consider. The Jets have a lot of long-term salary cap flexibility. If they cut Darrelle Revis after 2016, it will cost them $8 million in dead money. He is the only player on the roster who will cost the Jets more than $3 million in dead money for the Jets to cut.

What is the bottom line?

That $35 million sounds like a lot, but a lot of it disappears quickly if the Jets have to spend around $15 million of it on Muhammad Wilkerson on a franchise tag. The Jets also have to allocate a few million for the Draft picks and save a few million for the season for when injuries will force them to sign players.

This is not at all a dire situation. Again, the team has long-term flexibility. They can prioritize which free agents they want to keep and perhaps make a few moderately priced signings to upgrade areas of need.

If the Jets lock Wilkerson up long-term, they can reduce his 2016 cap hit and have more room to work with. Of course they could also do this by tagging him and trading them. In that event, the roster also loses its best defensive player, which is quite a cost.

The bottom line is this is not going to be an offseason like a year ago. The Jets are not going to be big spenders in the market.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing either. A year ago the Jets had all of that cap space because their roster was terrible. They had few players who were worth any significant amount of money. Now they do. They have to prioritize which players to keep, and they need to develop cheap young replacements for those they don't.

That's life in the NFL.