The recent releases of Eric Decker and David Harris have shown that the team’s focus on jettisoning veterans isn’t limited by the norms of the NFL calendar. With the team making June cuts, people are naturally curious about whether the Jets will cut more older players before the regular season comes.
Matt Forte’s name has come up as part of this discussion. Unlike an actual cut like Harris or a potential future cut like Steve McLendon, Forte’s finances complicate matters a bit. The Jets saved money against the cap cutting Harris and would by cutting McLendon.
To cut Forte, the Jets would actually lose cap space for 2017 according to Over the Cap. Forte’s cap number on the Jets is $5 million. The Jets would be hit with a dead money charge of $6 million if he was cut. So for 2017, the Jets would cost themselves $1 million in cap space.
The situation isn’t only about 2017, though. You have to also consider the bigger picture. If the Jets cut Forte a year from now (before the 2018 season), they get hit with a $1 million cap charge.
Add that to the $5 million Forte will cost the Jets for being on the team in 2017, and Forte still costs the Jets $6 million against the cap over the next two seasons. The only difference is that him being on the team this year delays $1 million of that cap hit until 2018.
Furthermore, teams can carry over unused cap space from one season to another. So if the Jets keep Forte on the team, that savings of $1 million will be carried over to be used to cover the dead money hit for cutting him anyway.
So really Forte costs the same amount of cap whether he is on the team or not. That cap space is spent. The question is whether it is better to use a roster spot on him or on a younger player who might be part of the team’s future. To me, the answer is clearly the latter.
Forte has a reputation for being a good locker room guy. In that context, I could see the argument for having a true pro around young guys. But the release of Harris shows that the Jets don’t seem to place a lot of value on that at the moment. If you are willing to let go of a guy like Harris who still actually is productive, why use up a roster spot to keep a running back on his last legs like Forte for the sake of veteran leadership?
The answer might have to do with real dollars. When we talk about dead money after a player is cut, we are discussing the team’s salary cap situation. A player might cost a few million against the cap after being released, but the team is usually done giving that player checks with real money.
That wouldn’t be the case with Forte. Over the Cap notes he has $4 million guaranteed for 2017. There are two approaches the Jets could take with that in mind. They could take the sunk cost approach and say, “We are paying him that money either way. It is better for us to clear out the roster spot to give to a young player.” But they could also say, “We are paying $4 million either way. We might as well try to get some value for it.”
I think the sunk cost approach is the better outlook for the health of the football team, but that is easy for me to say. You might agree, but we aren’t the ones who would be paying $4 million to a guy for nothing. The team’s aversion to that might just be enough to keep Forte on the team.