New York Jets Salary Cap Page

Exploring the Trade and Contract Options For Mark Sanchez

There have been a number of stories coming out in the last two days about the Jets future plans with Mark Sanchez. One option is to attempt to trade Mark Sanchez while the other is to have him battle it out for a starting job with another veteran QB. Keeping that in mind lets take a look at what financial value the Jets can likely receive for Mark in a trade and if no trade can be worked out what they can do to financially lessen the 2013 burden on the salary cap. Remember that the important thing to keep in mind with Sanchez is that he has $8.25 million in fully guaranteed salary plus another $500,000 bonus for completing the offseason workout program, so the Jets will be working from an $8.75 million base with him.

1. Trade

The first thing we need to examine is what dollar value do most teams put on the “first round bust” QB. We can all sit here and say “Mark has no value” because every week the image is fresh in our heads of a QB that looks defeated and plays like he doesn’t belong in the league, but that is not the way the NFL works. Draft status has cache around the league. There is always a team or two out there that believes that they can salvage a highly touted prospect that failed in his first job. I think its well accepted around the NFL that the Jets have handled Sanchez poorly in his 4 years in New York, so there will be takers. The question is how much will they spend?

What I wanted to do was look at every 1st round QB that has been considered a “bust” since 1993, the year the first CBA was signed which led to the salary cap being implemented. I wanted to take a look at the salary received by each player in terms of cash compensation in year 1 as well as guaranteed salary. Now because these are over so many seasons its hard to put the dollars in perspective so to do that fairly I will include a multiplier column. The multiplier is how much more the player was contracted to be paid than a rookie with no credited seasons. If you multiply that figure by todays number (which in 2013 will be $405,000) you can translate the nominal number into todays cap dollars if you wanted to.

Name Draft Slot Year New Team Year Acquiring Team Cash Salary Guarantee Multiplier
Rick Mirer 2 1993 1997 Bears $4,405,000 $2,600,000 33.6
David Carr 1 2002 2007 Panthers $4,100,000 $3,000,000 14.4
Alex Smith 1 2005 2011 49ers $4,900,000 $4,000,000 13.1
Joey Harrington 3 2002 2006 Dolphins $3,000,000 $3,750,000 10.9
Vince Young 3 2006 2011 Eagles $4,000,000 $2,000,000 10.7
Jason Campbell 25 2005 2010 Raiders $3,243,250 $0 10.0
Heath Shuler 3 1994 1997 Saints $1,200,000 $1,000,000 9.2
Byron Leftwich 7 2003 2007 Falcons $2,350,000 $0 8.2
Ryan Leaf 2 1998 2001 Bucs $1,500,000 $600,000 7.2
Patrick Ramsey 32 2002 2006 Jets $1,688,000 $250,000 6.1
Tim Couch 1 1999 2004 Packers $1,250,000 $625,000 5.4
Trent Dilfer 6 1994 2000 Ravens $1,000,000 $550,000 5.2
Kyle Boller 19 2003 2009 Rams $1,500,000 $300,000 4.8
Matt Leinart 10 2006 2010 Texans  $1,000,000 $0 3.1
Brady Quinn 22 2007 2011 Denver $775,000 $0 2.1
Cade McNown 12 1999 2001 Dolphins $389,000 $0 1.9
Jim Druckenmiller 26 1997 1999 Dolphins $325,000 $325,000 1.9
Akili Smith 3 1999 None 0.0
JP Losman 22 2004 None 0.0
JaMarcus Russell 1 2007 None 0.0

As we look at the list we can get a far better idea of what Sanchez will receive in terms of financial compensation. First of all there are a few extremes on the list. Rick Mirer should be completely discounted as that multiplier is far too high to be anything but an outlier. On the low end you have the biggest busts of the first round which were Jamarcus Russell and Akili Smith, both of whom got tryouts with teams but neither earned a contract. JP Losman did eventually receive a contract, from the Raiders, but because it was a midseason type deal I did not include the value of it.

To take a quick look where Sanchez might fit in I created a quick chart of game starts per year and QBR over that period. Yes I know QBR is flawed but the data is simple to get and teams still do use it to try to determine if the QB can be efficient in an offense. Sanchez is right at the top of the list in starts and somewhere around the middle in QBR. So its not as if he is completely worthless as many of us paint him to be.

Name GS QBR Multiplier
Jason Campbell 13.0 82.3 10.0
Byron Leftwich 11.0 80.5 8.2
JP Losman 6.6 75.6 0.0
David Carr 15.0 75.5 14.4
Tim Couch 11.8 75.1 5.4
Patrick Ramsey 6.0 75 6.1
Vince Young 9.4 74.4 10.7
Mark Sanchez 15.3 72
Kyle Boller 8.4 71.9 4.8
Matt Leinart 4.3 70.8 3.1
Trent Dilfer 12.7 69.4 5.2
Alex Smith 10.0 68.2 13.1
Joey Harrington 13.8 68.1 10.9
Cade McNown 7.5 67.7 1.9
Brady Quinn 4.0 66.8 2.1
JaMarcus Russell 8.3 65.2 0.0
Heath Shuler 4.3 58.3 9.2
Akili Smith 4.3 52.8 0.0
Ryan Leaf 10.5 48.8 7.2
Jim Druckenmiller 3.0 39.8 1.9

Now of course as you look at how this list really shakes out we can safely say that perception is far greater than reality. Tim Couch was considered completely damaged goods and could not get much of a contract while Joey Harrington, for whatever reason, was looked at as still having high potential despite the fact that they were virtually equal across the board in a number of statistical categories.

There is a clear leaning towards top dollars being paid to top 10 draft picks. If you take the whole list, the multiplier averages out to a 6. The only top picks that received a contract below that number were Tim Couch, Trent Dilfer, and Matt Leinart. Leinart was a late season cut by Arizona and did end up receiving a 2 year deal the following season in which he was paid $3.75 million for the season, so the figures I have on here are a bit misleading as he didn’t play a down in 2010 to justify the raise. Smith and Russell didn’t receive contracts. The other 7 top 10 picks all were above the average. Only 2 of the non top 10 picks were above the average.

The Jets handled this Sanchez situation so badly I don’t know what the perception is right now. He was benched for a 7th round QB with almost no upside. It’s pretty well accepted that Greg McElroy is not auditioning for a job. I’m not sure that Sanchez is done for the year and I think there is a good chance he starts week 17 in Buffalo as this move is as much about hiding Mark from the fanbase as it is benching him for two meaningless games. But teams do agree he has been handled poorly and that the Jets have no skill around him. While I disagree with the latter statement, as long as people think otherwise it doesn’t make a difference what I or any other fan of the team thinks about him.

I have to assume he will get a contract somewhere. As an average “bust” that will receive a contract the guesstimate based on the multiplier is that a team would be willing to pay him $2.88 million dollars in 2013. If you want to believe that the 5th pick in the draft status helps him you could jump that number to $3.79 million. So I think that is the framework the Jets have to work with. In terms of guarantees I think Sanchez would need to give up his 500K workout bonus to get out of town and convert it to something like $31,250 per game on the active 46 man list. If he does that it lowers the guarantee for the receiving team by 500K and they can control that money. Leinart had a similar 1 year deal in Houston prior to his 2 year extension.

What would be the financial impact if the Jets had to eat the balance of the $8.75 million? On the low salary end a cap hit of $14.773 million and on the high salary end $13.863 million. Both options are better than the $17.153 hit they would take for releasing him outright. As for trade compensation they would get something in return. 7 of these players were trades and 2 were claimed so there is a market. Even Cade McNown was part of a package for a 6th round pick. So the Jets can probably receive a 6th round pick for Sanchez. Not much but better than nothing.

2. Stuck with the Sanchize

Clearly that is an option as well. While there should be some kind of trade market if that perception is so bad that he is JaMarcus Russell then trade clearly is not an option. Teams may balk at that guaranteed salary. Only Harrington, Carr, Young, Mirer, and Smith received guarantees like I am suggesting a team will pay Sanchez and Smith was re-signed by his own team that had a lot invested in him because of his former draft status. So the Jets could be stuck with the idea of a $17+ million dollar cap hit and a huge check to a guy who wont even attend practice for the team. Maybe one is feasible but I don’t think both are feasible.

I actually think the Jets can explore an option that will require doing something kind of out of the ordinary. If Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan are given another chance clearly they are going to have to win now. You can only accomplish that with cap room to sign players and upgrade what is a relatively talent poor roster. Sanchez and his $12.85 million dollar cap hit clearly is going to hurt the team. If you are stuck with him and cant release him because of the cap hit then the Jets are going to have to do what seems unthinkable and push alot of that money off into 2014.

Sanchez is set to earn the $8.75 million in cash compensation from the team this year. As a pro who will be entering his 5th NFL season the minimum salary to pay him is $715,000. What you do at that point is pay him the minimum salary for 2013 and convert the remaining $8.035 million into a signing bonus this upcoming March. His cap charge would immediately fall to $6,826,750 a savings of $6,026,250 which can be used to help the team in the present which is what is needed to save the jobs of everyone in charge of the sinking ship.

Of course that means you are going to have a high cap charge for releasing him in 2014- it would rise from $4,800,000 to $10,826,250- but the Jets are in far better cap shape in 2014 than they will be in 2013. In option 1 you are going to keep him on the team and give him a legit chance to compete for the job against a Matt Moore or Alex Smith. At the $6.8 million figure you could live with him as a backup if you absolutely had to keep him on the roster. In option 2 you are basically going to tell Sanchez that if he will not start the season (or he does not want to be here at all) that you will either release him or trade him to a team of his choosing prior to training camp or whenever he loses the camp battle.

At a guaranteed 715K, and because you prepaid the 500K workout bonus I would imagine not all of the 715K would be protected the way his current salary is, I think a team definitely would be more than willing to give a 6th or 7th round pick for him since the cost is so low. From the Jets perspective they would be more willing to make this deal after June 1 than prior to June 1. Why? The March renegotiation gives them cap room ASAP to make free agent moves. Under the normal trade scenario the Jets get no cap relief under any circumstance so a team has to absorb more money to make it worthwhile for New York. If its best to release him then they can release him, get him out of the room and deal with the cap pain in 2014. It wont hurt nearly as bad then and you are creating more balance in the cap hits than any scenario the team currently has. Is that ideal? Probably not, but at this point there are few alternatives left.

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