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Potential Jets salary cap casualties

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look at potential salary cap casualties for the Jets this offseason.

We will point these out for a couple of reasons. First of all, current estimates of offseason cap space might not include the space these cuts would create.

Second, these show one of the aspects of contracts people forget. When the Jets sign a free agent it is easy to say, “The Jets can get out of the deal in X years if it doesn’t work out.” That is true, but there typically is a cost to cutting a player. Dead money usually remains on the team’s cap after a player is cut. Even if the Jets only release the three players I categorize as likely cuts, the Jets will have over $10 million of their 2018 salary cap dedicated to players who are no longer with the team.

Here are the potential casualties.

Estimates on financials are taken from Over the Cap.

Likely Gone

Muhammad Wilkerson (2018 Cap Hit: $20 million; If Cut: $11 million in savings, $9 million in dead money)

Wilkerson’s big contract signed in the summer of 2016 will go down as one of the worst deals in recent memory. Playing for an exorbitant pricetag, he fell from star level defensive lineman to a low player. Even worse, his big payday did not lead to him taking on a leadership role. On the contrary, the coaching staff benched him three separate times in two years because of his inability to get to meetings on time. The last such incident led to him being deactivated for the final three games of the 2017 season and signaled his Jets career is probably over. The Jets will still have this albatross of a deal eating up $9 million of their 2018 salary cap in dead money after cutting Wilkerson.

Matt Forte (2018 Cap Hit: $4 million; If Cut: $3 million in savings, $1 million in dead money)

Forte was actually more productive in his second Jets season than you might think. Still, this was a failed signing, and the Jets can likely get better, younger, and cheaper at the running back position.

Ben Ijalana (2018 Cap Hit: $5.92 million; If Cut: $4.67 million in savings, $1.25 million in dead money)

The contract the Jets gave Ijalana a year ago was one of the most baffling contracts I can remember. The team invested around $4 million in 2017 cap hit for a guy with zero track record of being a semi-decent NFL player. As it turned out, the deal made even less sense after the games began as Ijalana was essentially relegated to a third string role. The Jets will still be on the hook for over $1 million in dead money. I’m not even sure I’d want to use a million of cap space if that’s what it took to keep this player around. The good news is the Jets can at least open up over $4 million by cutting Ijalana.

Could Be Back; Could Be Cut

Buster Skrine (2018 Cap Hit: $8.5 million; If Cut: $6 million in savings; $2.5 million in dead money)

Skrine was one of Mike Maccagnan’s first major signings in the spending spree of 2015. He was effective in the first half of his first Jets season and has sprinkled in a few excellent games since, but he has mainly been a disappointment. Skrine’s game has been hampered by poor coverage and excessive penalties. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t even think of bringing Skrine back at $8.5 million or anything close. I wonder whether the Jets feel the same way, though. He is a veteran with a lot of experience in this defense. Do the Jets want to keep him around for the sake of continuity? Maybe, maybe not.

James Carpenter (2018 Cap Hit: $6.8 million; If Cut: $4.7 million in savings; $2.1 million in dead money)

Carpenter has been one of the few relative free agent success stories in recent years for the Jets. After putting together solid campaigns in 2015 and 2016, his play deteriorated in 2017, however. The potential hirings of Jeremy Bates and Rick Dennison also could work against him. The duo has traditionally favored a run game based on a zone blocking scheme, while Carpenter is better suited for a power scheme. The former Seahawk struggled in a similar system in Seattle. This could spell the end of Carpenter’s Jets career, although his relatively strong track record with the team could convince the Jets to give him another year.

Bilal Powell (2018 Cap Hit: $4.8 million; If Cut: $4 million in savings; $800 thousand in dead money)

Powell is a good back, but he is turning 30 during the season. This could be another situation where the Jets look to get younger and cheaper. For their part, the Jets have always seemed hesitant to commit to Powell as an integral part of the offense.

Steve McLendon (2018 Cap Hit: $4.1 million; If Cut: $3.2 million in savings; ~$900 thousand in dead money)

McLendon is another good player, but age is an issue as he turned 32 earlier in the month. $4.1 million is also expensive for a part-time run stuffer. You could make a case either way here.

Possible But Not Likely to Be Cut

Jermaine Kearse (2018 Cap Hit: $5.5 million; If Cut: $5.5 million in savings; $0 in dead money)

I think Kearse probably would have been back anyway, but Robby Anderson’s unclear situation makes it all but inevitable. The Jets could use some veteran insurance. As a guy without so much as a 900 yard season in the NFL, Kearse isn’t a great value at $5.5 million, but he isn’t a terrible value as a veteran who can work inside and outside and runs quality routes.

Josh Martin (2018 Cap Hit: $1.95 million; If Cut: $1.65 million in savings; $300 thousand in dead money)

The Jets gave Martin a deal that seemed expensive for a guy who added value mainly on special teams coverage units. They worked him into the defense more as a linebacker this year. He had a few strong games, but he was a liability for the most part. I personally would cut him, but I think the Jets like him as a role player.

Devin Smith (2018 Cap Hit: $1.8 million; If Cut: $1.2 million in savings; ~$600 thousand in dead money)

Smith’s inability to get on the field makes him look like the latest in the long line of second round busts for the Jets. The team could save some cap space by letting him go, but I don’t see much logic in it. They don’t need the small amount of cap savings. Why not at least bring him to camp and see whether he can show some ability? If not, he’s an easy cut at the end of the preseason.