Clearing Up cap Room For....
Unless the Jets did something wild with the Antonio Cromartie and Wayne Hunter contracts it seems as if the team is carrying a good amount of cap room for no particular reason. My own estimates have the Jets with about 10 million in cap room, if they do not pick use the $3 million in exemptions they have. It could be a bit more or less since I have zero information on Cromartie and am just making a blind guess with him, but the lowest I could imagine is 7 million. The Jets also seem to want to free up another $1.8 million by trading WR Jerricho Cotchery.
So why carry that much room? Free agency is essentially done. All the big names are off the market. The team does have some standing offers out there to their own free agents like Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo, but these are minimum offers with almost no cap implications. The teams own core players are now locked up for the next 4 years so its not like they need to use the money to re-sign anyone. So what is the reason? Here are two big guesses as to what the Jets have in store for 2011.
1. The Return of Braylon Edwards
Edwards market has clearly shriveled up. He priced himself far too high which allowed teams to sign other players while Edwards sat on the sidelines and got himself in more trouble, making himself even less marketable to the NFL. Edwards is a player who has fallen into the trap of looking back on his draft slot and assuming it means something, but he has such a large body of work that the fact that he was an intriguing prospect years ago means nothing. His latest rumored destinations are San Francisco and Arizona, both on very short term deals.
The Jets have been very keen to not disparage their former player. GM Mike Tannenbaum spoke to him to say how proud he was to trade for him and have him as a member of the team. Head Coach Rex Ryan praised his ability and said how he would love to have him back at the right price. Edwards felt he was worth more to the Jets than the Jets thought he was and, in shopping around, has found the Jets to be right. It's debatable whether or not Edwards is better off playing for a bad team in the weak NFC West or as officially accepting the role of 2nd tier receiver on a good team like the Jets on a 1 year contract. He liked NY and sure seemed to want to stay with the team.
Regardless of what he wants to do the CBA has a provision for a team to tender their former players at 110% of their prior years' salary. This maneuver, known as the June 1st tender, will give a team exclusive negotiating rights with the player after a certain date. The new June 1st date is August 20th. The exclusive period begins if the player does not sign with another football team by September 3rd. That's a long way out, but a contingency the Jets have likely prepared for. The catch, though, is that the tender does in fact apply to the salary cap on the day it is offered. The tender offer for Edwards is about $6.72 million, so the Jets need that much space under the cap to begin the process of holding his rights in the event he does not sign a contract between now and September 3rd. For a 1 year deal at that amount of money I think the Jets would be happy to sign him as insurance for Plaxico Burress. They simply do not want a long term commitment at a high dollar value. So that's clearly an option that the Jets may be thinking ahead about with all their current cap moves.
2. Rework the Mark Sanchez Contract
All summer long I felt the Jets would create cap room by fronting Sanchez money in the form of a bonus and spreading the cap charge out over the next few years. Sanchez publically stated that he was open to reworking his deal for the team and it was confirmed that the Jets did at least approach his agents about possible restructures. Nothing happened. Part of it was likely because the Jets needed him to be allowed to practice for the first week of training camp, which the 2011 transitional rules would not have allowed had he restructured, but with so much cap room it doesn't seem like there is much of a reason to reduce his $17 million cap charge.
But perhaps the Jets never considered a restructure about reducing his 2011 cap charge unless absolutely necessary. Maybe the talks were about increasing the cap charge. Sanchez stands to count for $14 million against the 2012 salary cap with the potential to earn even more money based on his performance during the season and possible playoff wins. The Jets did not sign Nnamdi Asomugha and will know shortly if there is any reason to hold cap room for Edwards, so why not use all this cap room to reduce the burden for 2012? If the Jets have a few million to spend in 2011, why not give it to Sanchez? Let him carry a cap charge of $23 million and reduce his cap charge in 2012 to about $8 million.
With the 2011 offseason essentially over this has to be a high priority for the Jets. Get the accounting in the best possible shape for 2012. They have until late in the season to make such a deal with Sanchez, but it would probably be the best use of the cap room they have created and really benefit the team next season when they will likely be active again in trying to sign a pass rusher and wide receiver, two very high priced positions.