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New York Jets and the Sunk Cost Fallacy: Should CJ Mosley stay or go?

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NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Within psychology, the sunk cost fallacy puts forth that individuals are less willing to alter a strategy or decision when they have heavily invested in it. Importantly, this holds even when altering said strategy or decision may be beneficial.

We often like to think NFL decision makers are immune to such emotionally driven decisions, but at the end of the day these decision makers are human and because of that they just as able to fall prey to these kinds of biases as you or I. Accordingly, I thought it would be interesting to work through some key decisions that the New York Jets must make over the next few weeks as it pertains to whether or not to retain a player. Within this, I will lay out the cap ramifications with a focus on what the team would gain by cutting this player rather than focusing on the dead cap (the sunk cost) attributed to the player. Within this, I will not provide my own thoughts on what should be done, but will instead leave the debating to you all within the comments section.

The first installation of this series will feature inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was signed in 2019 but agreed to a contract restructuring last summer.

Mosley’s 2022 performance

As a proxy for his performance, I am opting to use profootballfocus’ player grades. (Note: By no means is this intended as the end-all, be-all of his performance level but simply as an estimate of how someone else viewed his performance. I encourage you to rely on your own evaluation of the player within this general exercise.)

According to PFF, C.J. Mosley’s grade were as follows in 2022 (rank amongst other qualified players at his position based on snap count found in parentheses):

  • Overall: 69.1 (30th overall)
  • As a run defender: 73.8 (23rd overall)
  • As a pass rusher: 63.9 (51st overall)
  • In coverage: 64.7 (34th overall)

Mosley’s 2023 contract

Following the restructuring of his contract, Mosley’s relevant contract figures are now as follows (all data from

  • 2023 cap number: $21,476,000
  • 2023 dead cap: $14,904,000
  • 2023 savings (cut pre-June 1st): $6,572,000 with $0 in dead cap money on the 2024 books
  • 2023 savings (cut post-June 1st): $17,000,000 with $10,428,000 on the 2024 books

As commonly done by other teams, the Jets could also look to extend or restructure Mosley’s contract to reduce his cap hit, but this would come with additional guarantees in future years.

Comparable contracts within his salary savings (if cut pre-June 1st)

When determining the value of a player, one must also consider the market at large, which can again be assessed using overthecap. Below are a list of linebackers on their second contract who have contracts in the range of 7 million dollars (approximately the cost savings associated with cutting C.J. Mosley):

Available alternatives

We must also consider which players will be available to acquire. This is largely addressed via one of two avenues: the draft or free agency.

Given that any draft-declaring player could theoretically be drafted, I am opting to omit this information but encourage you to do your own research on what players may be suitable fits based on their ability and their projected draft round.

Given the much shorter nature a free agent list, I am providing a list of the top 5 free agent linebackers according to spotrac with the caveat that at this time we are unsure of what players will re-sign with their team by the start of free agency:

  • Deion Jones (Cleveland Browns: overall PFF grade of 48.7)
  • Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers: overall PFF grade of 84.1)
  • Devin Bush (Pittsburgh Steelers: overall PFF grade of 58.8)
  • Roquan Smith (Baltimore Ravens: overall PFF grade of 69.9)
  • Anthony Walker Jr (Cleveland Browns: missed nearly all of 2022 with a torn quad but overall PFF grade of 69.1 in 2021)

What do you think?

Above I have laid out what I believe to a general overview of the relevant information regarding C.J. Mosley’s contract status for the 2023 New York Jets. If you were Jets General Manager Joe Douglas, how do you proceed? Does C.J. Mosley remain on your roster or do you think his ~6.5 million in cap savings would be better used elsewhere?