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New York Jets and the Sunk Cost Fallacy: Should Jordan Whitehead stay or go?

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Syndication: Beaver County Times Michael Longo/For USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

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 fourth installation of this series will feature safety Jordan Whitehead, who was signed last offseason.

Whitehead’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, Jordan Whitehead’s grades were as follows in 2022:

  • Overall: 66.1 (47th overall)
  • As a run defender: 59.4 (62nd overall)
  • As a pass rusher: 51.7 (91st overall)
  • In coverage: 70.6 (27th overall)

Whitehead’s 2023 contract

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

  • 2023 cap number: $10,232,500
  • 2023 dead cap: $2,982,500
  • 2023 savings (cut pre-June 1st): $7,250,000 with no additional dead cap in 2024
  • 2023 savings (cut post-June 1st): $7,250,000 with no additional dead cap in 2024

As commonly done by other teams, the Jets could also look to extend or restructure Whitehead’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 safeties on their second contract who have contracts in the range of 7.5 million dollars per year (the cost savings associated with cutting Jordan Whitehead):

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):

  • Jessie Bates (Cincinnati Bengals: overall PFF grade of 76.8)
  • Jordan Poyer (Buffalo Bills: overall PFF grade of 75.4)
  • Jimmy Ward (San Francisco 49ers: overall PFF grade of 76.1)
  • Adrian Amos (Green Bay Packers: overall PFF grade of 54.2)
  • Vonn Bell (Cincinnati Bengals: overall PFF grade of 66.3)

What do you think?

Above I have laid out what I believe to a general overview of the relevant information regarding Jordan Whitehead’s contract status for the 2023 New York Jets. If you were Jets General Manager Joe Douglas, how do you proceed? Does Jordan Whitehead remain on your roster or do you think his ~7.5 million in cap savings would be better used elsewhere?