The New York Jets were not a good team in 2016. They had too many players earning top dollars while performing at bottom dollar levels. Hence players like Darrelle Revis and Breno Giacomini had to go. Players like Nick Mangold, Nick Folk and Brandon Marshall, while not performing at terrible levels, no longer were performing at levels commensurate with their compensation, so they also became liabilities and had to go. So far so good.
Not all of the Jets contracts last year were liabilities. Players like Brian Winters, Quincy Enunwa and Robbie Anderson were relative bargains on their rookie deals. Without bargains on the roster it's impossible to succeed. The Jets had some, but not enough, and not at star levels.
Then came the offseason. A player like Winters gets about $7 million per year. Instantly he's no longer a bargain, but there is an argument to be made he is also not a liability. Perhaps he is worth the salary he's being paid. If so then he's at best kind of neutral, neither a liability nor an asset, but worth right about what the Jets are paying. Since he is a starting quality player and young it may be this was a good signing.
Then comes the last few days, in which we have seen Marcus Williams and Wesley Johnson garner $2.75 million dollar deals, Josh Martin get a $2.2 million per year deal, and Ben Ijalana get a $5.5 million per year deal. Every one of those players is a backup quality player. Last year they were all on minimum salary type deals. That made them assets, bargains relative to their performance levels. The current deals convert each of these players into liabilities, or at best neutral signings. Gone are the bargains of last year.
In a salary cap world every team must have a certain amount of bargain players to pay for the full price stars of the team. Those bargain players are your assets. By signing backups to these deals the Jets have eliminated four of their bargains. They have converted assets to liabilities. These are the types of players you should be able to either sign to minimum deals or replace on a regular basis. You should not be stacking the team with midlevel salaries for backup level performers.
These contracts are mistakes. If the Jets cannot retain such players on minimum deals they should be able to find roughly equivalent players off the scrap heap every year. It should not be lost on anyone that in fact every one of these players was a recent scrap heap pickup. By now signing these players instead to midlevel contracts the Jets have erased some of the few advantages they had last season: decent backups being paid next to nothing. Assets are being converted to liabilities, and the Jets team is facing talent insolvency.
In total these four players will take up somewhere between $11 and $13 million in cap space in 2017. Replace them with four scrap heap pickups and they would cost $2 million in cap space and suddenly the Jets can afford another good starter quality player on the roster. This is what poor salary cap management looks like.