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New York Jets and the Sunk Cost Fallacy: Should Duane Brown stay or go?

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-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 third installation of this series will feature offensive tackle Duane, who was signed in 2022 following an injury to Mehki Becton.

Brown’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, Duane Brown’s grades were as follows in 2022:

  • Overall: 57.8 (70th overall)
  • As a pass blocker: 72.3 (38th overall)
  • As a run blocker: 44.4 (96th overall)

Brown’s 2023 contract

Brown’s relevant contract figures are now as follows (all data from

  • 2023 cap number: $11,576,000
  • 2023 dead cap: $6,304,000
  • 2023 savings (cut pre-June 1st): $5,272,000
  • 2023 savings (cut post-June 1st): $10,000,000 with an additional $3,152,000 in dead cap in 2024 (note: I think something may be up with OTC on this one as the numbers don’t line up perfectly. The additional 2023 savings should have to come out of the future cap at some point, but they do not seem to)

As commonly done by other teams, the Jets could also look to extend or restructure Brown’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 for both left and right tackles. Below are a list of tackles on their second contract who have contracts in the range of 5.5 million dollars (the cost savings associated with cutting Duane Brown):

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 agents based on spotrac’s market estimates (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):

What do you think?

Above I have laid out what I believe to a general overview of the relevant information regarding Duane Brown’s contract status for the 2023 New York Jets. If you were Jets General Manager Joe Douglas, how do you proceed? Does Duane Brown remain on your roster or do you think his ~5.5 (or ~10) million in cap savings would be better used elsewhere?