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The 2018 NY Jets Will Be Swimming In Cap Space

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets under general manager Mike Maccagnan have engaged in a tear it down operation (we won't call it a tank, wink wink) in 2017.  According to Overthecap.com, as a result of the tear down, the Jets currently have approximately $24.2 million in salary cap space for the 2017 season.  That ranks fifth in the NFL, behind the Browns, Jaguars, Titans and Texans.  That cap space isn't particularly useful for the 2017 season, as, barring a blockbuster trade, there are few moves the Jets could make at this point that would involve substantial cap space.  The bigger story is the likely carry over of much of that cap space into 2018, and what the team's 2018 cap space will be as a result.


The $24.2 million current figure for the Jets does not include a few things. The biggest unincluded item is the approximately $3.5 million in cap space that will be deducted when 2017 first round draft pick Jamal Adams finally signs his contract. In addition the 2017 practice squad will cost approximately $1 million in cap space, and the addition of two players to bring the in-season cap calculation to 53 players from the off-season calculation of only the top 51 players will cost approximately another $1 million in cap space. Guesstimating the net cost of in-season transactions at approximately $3 million brings the total costs still to be accounted for under the 2017 cap to approximately $8.5 million. Deducting that $8.5 million from the current $24.2 million in cap space brings the Jets approximate carry over cap space for 2018 to about $16 million, rounding to the nearest million.

If we add that $16 million to the approximately $66 million in cap space Overthecap.com currently lists for the Jets in 2018 we get $82 million in 2018 cap space.  That number does not include Adams' 2018 cap number, which will be a net of approximately $5 million. Accounting for Adams we subtract that $5 million from the $82 million to arrive at a preliminary cap space figure of $77 million for the Jets in 2018.  Making the same adjustments, including 2017 carry over space, for every NFL team we arrive at the following chart, showing the Jets will likely have the third most cap space in the NFL going into 2018 free agency.

Team

2018 Cap Space (Mil)

.

49ers

$101

Texans

$81

Jets

$77

Lions

$77

Colts

$75

Browns

$73

Vikings

$64

Buccaneers

$62

Titans

$60

Bears

$60

Redskins

$56

Rams

$52

Of course that $77 million figure for the Jets is just a preliminary estimate. Let's see what we can do to refine that number.

Let's begin with the 2017 roster. Currently there are at least a dozen players and possibly more who are likely to make the Jets roster but do not count against the cap because they fall below the top 51.  Each of those players will ultimately free up a little cap space for the Jets as they make the roster in place of more expensive players who will be cut to make room for them. Making a simplified estimate of the cap space saved involves simply replacing the bottom dozen or so players on the current cap calculation with their cheaper counterparts, resulting in approximately $1 million in cap savings.

To get a better estimate we can make some educated guesses as to some more expensive players who may not make the Jets' 2017 roster. Let's be conservative in our cuts, as anyone we are unsure of this year can almost certainly be counted among the 2018 cuts we will talk about shortly.

Looking at the 2017 roster, the veteran most likely not to make it through training camp appears to be Steve McLendon, who can be replaced with Deon Simon and/or Mike Pennel. McLendon would save the Jets approximately $2.5 million in net cap space in 2017. Buster Skrine is also a possibility, but I think it is unlikely the Jets will cut him in 2017, as they seem to like him and they have no obvious replacement at slot corner. It is possible Sheldon Richardson could still be traded, but the chances of that faded considerably once the 2017 draft was in the books. Marcus Williams and Demario Davis are the only other veterans who might be cut and would produce significant cap savings, but I think the odds are against either of them being cut in 2017. So we are left with just Steve McLendon and a bunch of guys at the bottom of the current top 51 likely to be cut to make room for the dozen or so players not currently counting against the cap who will likely make the team. The result is approximately $3.5 million in net cap savings in 2017, bringing the 2017 figure to approximately $20 million and the 2018 figure to approximately $81 million in cap space.

Now let's look at the likely 2018 cuts. The veterans most likely to be cut in 2018 who would free up significant cap space are Buster Skrine ($5.5 million net), Matt Forte ($2.5 million net) and Devin Smith (0.75 million net). Together those three players would save a net of approximately $9 million in 2018 cap space, bringing the 2018 space to approximately $90 million. There are other possibilities. Muhammad Wilkerson, if he doesn't regain his Pro Bowl form in 2017, would save a whopping $16.5 million in net cap space in 2018. Ben Ijalana would save $4.25 million in net cap space, Kelvin Beachum would save $3.5 million and Bilal Powell would save $3.5 million. However each of those players, if they perform as currently expected, are likely to remain a Jet in 2018. So let's keep our current estimation at $90 million in 2018 cap space.

We're almost done now. A few minor things remain. Assuming the Jets struggle as most expect them to in 2017, the 2018 draft class will cost approximately $6 million in 2018 net cap space. The 2018 practice squad will cost approximately $1 million, the addition of two players to bring the in-season calculation to 53 players will cost approximately $1 million and in-season maneuvers will cost approximately $3 million. That's a total of about $11 million in currently unaccounted for cap charges. Subtracting those charges from our $90 million estimate brings the Jets usable cap space in 2018 to approximately $79 million, an enormous figure, equal to almost half the expected NFL salary cap for 2018. If some additional veterans like Wilkerson, Ijalana or Beachum are unexpected cuts, the Jets 2018 usable cap space could balloon to more than $90 million, even after accounting for the draft class, the practice squad, the addition of two players to the in-season calculations and some in-season transactions.

$79 to 90+ million in usable cap space in 2018 makes for an interesting off-season shaping up for the Jets in 2018. Looking again at the chart of the preliminary cap space figures for the top 12 NFL teams shows there will be a plethora of teams with similar amounts of space competing for the always limited premium free agents in 2018. It should be noted the kind of analysis of future cuts done for the Jets in this article has not been applied to the rest of the NFL teams, so the Jets figure of $79 to 90+ million should not be compared to the other figures in the chart. Nonetheless, given the number of teams expected to have large amounts of cap space in 2018 it might be wise to take a measured approach to free agency rather than get involved in bidding wars to overpay a few premium players at the start of free agency. Certainly the Jets will be in the market and will likely land a few premier players, but a repeat of the 2015 Jets feeding frenzy in what looks to be shaping up as a hyper-inflationary market for the top free agents may not be wise.

In any event, the 2018 off-season is going to be an active one for the New York Jets. The team will likely have large amounts of turnover once again, and will likely spend enough to substantially improve the team, at least on paper, even if they do take a more measured approach than 2015. How well the Jets fare in choosing the right free agents will go a long way in determining how long the current turnaround will take before the Jets finally return to being a legitimate playoff contender.