This is the third installment of our offseason blueprint series. While we do not yet know the exact figure of the salary cap in 2017, it is quite likely the team is currently over it. Do not fear, though. There are numerous potential cuts the team can make to create space. Here I will offer my advice for which ones to make and which ones to not make.
Make the following cuts:
These are the players I am not inclined to keep.
Ryan Clady (Cap savings: $10 million): The Jets pushed back the timeframe for a potential decision on Clady by restructuring his deal, but this one is a no brainer. The Jets need to find a more reliable left tackle. In the event they don’t find somebody else, Clady’s cap number needs to come way down. This is a player who has suited up for 27 games in the last four seasons. That is a scrap heap, prove it type of player. His salary will need to be cut three quarters to make it reasonable.
Darrelle Revis (Cap savings: $7.3 million): Revis might go down as the greatest cornerback of his generation. At the very least, he is in the discussion. At his best, he was a pleasure to watch. Let’s put this moving to safety talk to rest, though. Even if we cut his $15.3 cap number salary in half, he’d still be making too much for a first time safety.
Buster Skrine (Cap savings: $3.5 million): I think Skrine would have some utility for a team that was looking to win big in 2017. He would provide a certain baseline level of play out of the slot. Since the Jets don’t figure to be competing for a championship, giving those reps to a younger player who might have a lower floor won’t have a major impact.
Marcus Gilchrist (Cap savings: $4.6 million): It is a similar concept with Gilchrist. On a better team, I could see the argument for keeping him. I don’t think the dropoff is steep enough for a team in the Jets’ position to keep him around, though.
Breno Giacomini (Cap savings: $4.5 million): The way things played out showed that Mike Maccagnan probably mishandled Giacomini a year ago. It wasn’t so much that Giacomini got hurt. It was that the Jets used two scrap heap players and a rookie fifth rounder in place of Giacomini and saw little if any dropoff in quality. There was no reason to have him eating around $5 million in cap space last year, and there certainly isn’t this year.
Steve McLendon (Cap savings: $2.1 million): Damon Harrison had a great year with the Giants, but the Jets’ run defense saw virtually no dropoff after losing the nose tackle. The Jets ranked fourth in the league, allowing 3.7 yards per rush, up only slightly from 3.6 last year. McLendon was a decent signing who helped fill the void. I do wonder whether the Jets would have made it again if they had a chance to do it over, though. It isn’t that McLendon was bad. It’s just the Jets had limited cap space, and Deon Simon looked pretty impressive when he got a chance. In 2017 Simon will see his snap total go up.
Erin Henderson (Cap savings: $2.5 million): Henderson was supposed to be a starter, but Darron Lee took snaps from him right off the bat. Henderson then mysterious disappeared.
Only make these cuts if there’s a plan to replace these players:
As we discussed in Part 1, the Jets need to cut the fat, not cut to the bone. There are veteran players who can play a constructive part in the rebuilding process by holding down critical roles, helping a young quarterback have success, and/or serving as a veteran mentor. I’m not saying the Jets necessarily need to bring any of these guys back. I am saying that if the Jets dump any of these guys, there had better be a plan to bring in a player with comparable talent to fill that same role.
Eric Decker (Cap savings if cut: $5.75 million): Decker was an important part of the Jets’ success in 2015, and his absence was felt in 2016. As we discussed in Part 1, the Jets need to build a roster that will help a young quarterback have success. It might sound enticing on paper to go young and treat 2017 as a glorified preseason to get as many young receivers experience as possible. If the plan is to create the right environment for a quarterback, however, having quality receivers like Decker around is very important.
Brandon Marshall (Cap savings if cut: $7.5 million): Marshall is more of a wild card since there have been a few rumblings about potential locker room problems. It seems like he has had a certain shelf life at each of his previous stops. We can’t say for sure. What I can say is the Jets had better get a top flight security blanket if they jettison Marshall. They can’t trot a bunch of young, inexperienced receivers out there with a young quarterback and expect good things to happen.
Nick Mangold (Cap savings if cut: $9 million): I’d like to reduce this salary, but I’d be inclined to keep Mangold around, even if it’s a tough pill to swallow. The most likely way to lower his 2017 cap number would be to work out an extension, but that is a nonstarter given his age. We’ve created enough cap space to carry him with our other cuts. Again, we have to think of a young quarterback. Having a veteran center to help identify fronts is going to be important, and this keeps some continuity on the offensive line. I haven’t seen enough out of Wesley Johnson to have confidence he’d be a good starting option. I think people are going a little crazy because PFF said he had one good game in San Francisco.
David Harris (Cap savings if cut: $6.5 million): As we’ve discussed, my focus on the offensive side of the ball is building an offensive infrastructure where a young quarterback can succeed. I’m fine with largely going young on defense. I’d like to keep around a veteran or two for leadership purposes if possible. Fortunately, Harris is still a productive player and a positive force to have around.
Nick Folk (Cap savings if cut: $3 million): I’ve made no secret of my distaste for this contract, but the people want Folk, and GM John B gives the people what they want. Well, not really. I have a better reason for this that I’ll explain at the end.
If we add up the savings from the cuts we’ve made and add on the Sheldon Richardson move from Part 2, we will have created over $40 million in cap space. I wouldn’t spend it all. I would want the Jets to use caution.
The players I have kept have a hidden benefit. Marshall, Mangold, Harris, and Folk all have expiring contracts in 2017, which means the Jets could set themselves up for a compensatory pick or two if these guys leave and sign a deal elsewhere. Their ages mean all could regress and/or retire after the season so there are no guarantees. The Jets need to start factoring the potential for compensatory picks into their decision-making, though.