Getting Under the 2009 Salary Cap
It is no secret that the Jets currently have one of the worst cap situations, if not the worst cap situation in the NFL. Published numbers have ranged anywhere from 7 to 12 million over the cap, figures that may or may not include incentive based earnings or dead money from Chad Pennington in 2009. Our estimates have the Jets, after the futures contract signings, at 16.5 million over as of January 27, 2009. That’s alot of money for the Jets need to disappear just to function next season. It is obvious where the easiest salary relief comes. QB Brett Favre carries a 13 million dollar salary cap number, all of which disappears the second he files his retirement papers with the NFL. But there is always the question as to whether or not Favre will retire, and if he retires just when will he actually retire. Most probably the Jets will enter the new league year with Favre still on the books and will be working around his 13 million dollar number. Assuming that is the case here are the potential moves the Jets should make in the coming weeks to clear out cap space for 2009.
CB David Barrett How David Barrett has remained on this team is a mystery to I think every Jet fan on the planet. He had been a mediocre player at best, yet he has found a way to inexplicably remain on the team roster. He basically is the Justin McCareins of the defense. Like McCareins in 2007, Barrett accepted a paycut to remain here this past season. Like McCareins, it is very likely that Barrett gets the axe just one year after taking that cut. Barrett’s cap figure of 4.5 million is just too high for the team to handle in 2009. He should be one of the first cuts of the year.
Cap Savings: $3,710,000
TE Chris Baker- One of the weirdest Mike Tannenbaum player signings in some time. Tannenbaum signed Baker to a relatively generous deal in 2006 when there was no market at all for the young tight end. Baker complained about wanting more money in 2008 and Tannenbaum signed him to an extension that will guarantee him 9 million dollars if he remains on the roster in the first week of March. Baker’s reputation more or less comes from one game in 2005 where he caught a bunch of passes in a blowout loss to Kansas City. Before and after that time he has been a relatively invisible player except when groaning about a new deal. No chance he sees even a penny of that 9 million and will likely be the first cut the Jets make this season.
Cap Savings: $2,100,000
LB David Bowens- Bowens is a player who could be asked to remain on the team but not at his current cap figure of 2.7 million. Bowens is a versatile player that can line up at defensive end, outside linebacker, or inside linebacker and play special teams. That should make him an asset depending on what Rex Ryan thinks of Bowens’ ability on the field. If Ryan likes him the Jets should consider signing him to a 2 or 3 year extension and spreading out his 2.5 million in salary and bonuses over that time while paying him minimal salaries every year. I think he would be open to it, but if he is not they should release him before they owe him any bonus money due this year.
Cap Savings: $2,600,000
LB Brad Kassell Does Kassell make alot of money? No, but when you are so much over the cap every little bit helps. Kassell never really developed here into an everydown player and was little more than a special teams leader in his time as a Jet. He is coming off an injury which could slow him down even moreso and does not seem like the type of aggressive player one would assume the new Jets staff is interested in. This was one of Mangini and Tannenbaums first “try hard, thinker” types and he just may not fit in here with a new regime
Cap Savings: $620,000
CB Drew Coleman Coleman is just a horror show on the field. He seems to float between active and inactive status every week and just serves no purpose for the team. He can’t cover and he does nothing else for the team. He barely snuck his way onto the team last season and will not last this one.
Cap Savings: $530,000
WR Brad Smith One of Mangini’s pet projects, Smith never really caught on in any role other than being a good special teams player his first two years as a Jet. The Jets envisioned Smith as a triple threat player, but Smith never could run the ball effectively if he lined up in the backfield, could never catch the ball or get open as a wide receiver, and was never trusted to throw the ball as a QB. He is only scheduled to make 530K this season, but that number will likely rise close to a million due to escalators in his contract. No chance of him staying at that number.
Cap Savings: $530,000
S Eric Smith Like the Smith listed above, Eric Smith just seemed like one of those Mangini pet projects that never worked out. He also should be due a hefty raise if he remains on the club this year which could lead to him being cut. The one thing that works in his favor to remain is that the Jets are very thin at safety, with only three names currently on the active roster and Smith is certainly a better player than James Ihedigbo. If he is cut it may actually be later rather than sooner, but he should definitely be on the chopping block for the team.
Cap Savings: $530,000
LB Calvin Pace This is one of the two spots where the Jets can get major cap relief by reworking the contracts of these players. The Jets gave Pace 21.5 million in guarantees in 2008 to lure him here and 9 million of it is due as a roster bonus in just a few weeks. That 9 million puts Pace’s cap figure at a ridiculous 11.8 million dollars which just can not happen for the team. In some ways this structure was likely put in the deal so the Jets could walk away in 2010 or 2011 if he flopped with minimal cap penalty, but Pace has proven to be a good player and one that will be expected to flourish in Ryans new system. The CBA will not allow the Jets to fully prorate his roster bonus, but the team can do a portion of it and comply with the 30% rules. If the Jets convert 7.25 million of that roster bonus into a signing bonus they will reduce his cap number from 11.8 to a very manageable 6 million dollars. This will increase his cap hit by 1.45 million every year thereafter which basically guarantees him to be a Jet thru 2012, but its a chance the Jets must take this year.
Cap Savings: $5,800,000
S Kerry Rhodes This is the other huge money deal that the Jets apparently have on their hands. As recently detailed by ESPN, Rhodes cap number is going to balloon to 10.6 million which should be due to a 9 million dollar bonus payable early this year. Like Pace that is way too much to invest in anyone that does not play QB and like Pace this looks to be a player the Jets see as a centerpiece of the defense for years to come. Rhodes should be able to convert about 7.9 million of his bonus into a prorated bonus, reducing his cap charge this season from 10.6 to 4.3 million and increasing the rest of his years cap charges by about 1.6 million. This seems like a no brainer.
Cap Savings: $6,320,000
G Brandon Moore While the Jets would likely not keep Moore at his current cap figure of 5.8 million, the Jets staff knows the offensive line is the strength of the team and do not want to disrupt that by moving away a piece of the puzzle. The Jets should be able to convert Moore’s 5 million dollar roster bonus into a prorated bonus without too much trouble, though recently I was informed that Moore’s contract would need to be reworked to comply with the CBA opt out. In any event the Jets can convert the full amount of Moore’s bonus into a prorated bonus of 1 million dollars per year provided they add an extra season onto his deal extending his contract into 2013. To comply with the CBA the Jets will need to split up his roster bonus money due in 2010, most likely giving him slightly over half the money in 2009 and 2010 and then the remainder in 2013. By doing this the team should be able to reduce his 2009 cap figure o 2.2 million. Moore currently has no prorated money on his deal after 2010, so adding a million per season really has no downside as he could still be cut with little problem if he fell off a cliff by 2012
Cap Savings: $3,650,000
DE Shaun Ellis Ellis is the one long tenured Jet remaining on this team and is a well respected team player. However time is catching up to Shaun and his play fell off as the season wore on. His 6.9 million dollar cap number is very high which puts him in a position to where he either needs to accept a salary reduction or to be extended past 2010. The question is do the Jets want to tie themselves down to Ellis for much longer? Probably not. By the same token does Ellis really want to take a paycut when he saw all the money given to free agents last season? Probably not. Cutting Ellis saves the Jets 4.6 million, which is a good deal of money for a team in a bad cap situation. If there is a middle ground to be found it would be to extend Ellis for one season and prorate 3.65 million of his salary this year as a bonus over 3 years. A move like that would likely ensure Ellis to receive close to 6 million dollars over the next two seasons, which would seem to be fair for both sides. Ellis’ cap number would reduce to 4.8 million with a move like this.
Cap Savings: $2,100,000
If the Jets were to follow these plans or do something similar they would save $28,490,000 in cap space this year which would move them from about 16 million over the cap to 12.5 million under the cap. 12.5 million gives the team ample room to sign their drafted rookies, which will likely cost close to 4 million dollars, deal with contract escalators, likely costing another 1-2 million , and have some money to spend in free agency if they choose this year. A Brett Favre retirement would basically give the Jets about 17 million in cap room to work with this offseason after rookie contracts, escalators, and anything else imaginable. It would move them from a team in the worst cap shape to somewhere right in the middle of the pack with very few bad implications on the 2010 season in the event that the owners and players union come to an agreement about a salary cap this offseason. Favre’s retirement would be very beneficial to decisions with what to do about a player like Shaun Ellis who could do all the minicamp routine with the new staff and be cut or extended much later on. If Ellis remains at his current figure and so does Favre the Jets might look at cutting or renegotiating Kenyon Coleman’s deal to get some cap relief.
At the end of the day the Jets will likely be able to sign at least one of the bigger name free agents if they feel the need and will fill out the roster with a large amount of veteran minimum type players and young players who do not cost much. If the team can somehow find a way to trade disgruntled WR Laveranues Coles expect the Jets to once again be very active in free agency and make a big bid for one of the bigger name free agents.