Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $49.8 million ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 52
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 14(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 6
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison is one of the best bargains in the NFL and is a must keep for the Jets. He will be a restricted free agent this offseason so they will likely start with a second round tender, which will eat up over $2 million in space, and go from there. If they can extend him in the ballpark of $5 million a year they should strongly consider it. Even if just from a PR standpoint an extension for “Snacks” would help the new general manager start off with an aggressive and popular move…Leger Douzable is a nice backup player that can provide some pressure on the interior. He signed for $1 million last year and should get a small raise in 2015….John Conner played well in his return to the Jets and is worth keeping to compete for the position, though it would be dependent on the new offensive system utilizing a fullback.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Linebacker David Harris showed flashes early in his career of being a difference maker, but never really played to the level after signing his extension. The Jets need to get younger and faster, which they will not do by bringing Harris back. If he was to come back it should only be on a one year contract and my guess is he could get a better deal elsewhere…Kyle Wilson has been a disappointment for the Jets and has no place on the team moving forward…Michael Vick showed no desire to play when the Jets gave him an opportunity and is definitely not the answer for the team, even as a stopgap starter.
Contracts to Modify
Percy Harvin has a $10.5 million salary in 2015 and a bloated contract in general. While he is not worth the contract, he has talent and the Jets are devoid of it making him a must keep, unless they are certain they can get one of the big names in free agency. This is probably a great opportunity to bring his contract in line with the market by guaranteeing this year’s salary in return for moderate salaries in the future….Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson is not coming off the kind of season he had in 2013, which should make for an easier negotiation. If they work quickly to extend him they can roll his $6.969 million salary into his new contract guarantee, giving them more long term protection if he plays poorly. It’s a hard position to gauge but he will likely end up as an $11M-$12M a year player and the Jets gain nothing by waiting to extend him.
Players to Consider Releasing
Running back Chris Johnson has had a few moments where he has looked productive and others where he looks washed up. He’ll be a major distraction if he is back next season and not the starter so they need to just cut ties with him. They will save $3.5 million in cap space by cutting him…Jeff Cumberland was brought back when things were uncertain at the tight end position, but Jace Amaro is the future in New York and Cumberland is inconsistent. He will earn $1.9 million next year, which isn’t much, but he likely doesn’t fit into the team’s future….With Rex Ryan gone one would imagine that Calvin Pace will strongly consider retirement. Pace has a $2.125M salary in 2015 that can be avoided by not picking up his option.
The Jets have not had a successful draft period since the 2006/07 seasons. That has depleted their roster of good young talent outside of a few first round picks. When you look for key positions in place to build around the Jets have few. They have the defensive line in place but need a quarterback, cornerback, outside linebacker(or pass rushing DE if they switch defenses), wide receiver and, soon, left tackle to rebuild the core of the team. They need a new approach to their draft process and a bit of luck to get those positions in place.
The Jets have either avoided big ticket players or approached those players passively under John Idzik, and it’s probable that their next hire will have the exact opposite philosophy since Idzik was arguably the least popular person associated with the Jets among the fan base since Rich Kotite. The Jets are lagging behind the rest of the NFL in spending and have two years to catch up so it is likely they begin now considering they will have over $50 million in cap space and that is with Harvin on the roster.
Unfortunately for the Jets many of the strengths in free agency this year don’t really mesh with their needs. Much like Oakland and other teams without a great talent base the Jets need to avoid free agents that are going to skew towards the older side of the age spectrum. With the Raiders and Browns both having large cap surpluses expect the Jets to be very aggressive with their offers to make sure they get the players they want even if it means spending a few extra dollars.
I would expect the team to target a pass rushers, 2nd tier corner, running back, backup QB and guard in free agency. Someone like a Jerry Hughes would be a great fit as he is young and productive but it is doubtful the Bills would ever let him walk away. There should be a number of running backs valuable and I would think the Jets would be in play on Mike Iupati at guard, though he may have less shelf life than others. With Idzik out it would not surprise me if the Jets consider finding a right tackle this year to upgrade over Breno Giacomini. Giacomini might be able to slide over to guard for the year if they made such a move.
The Jets will have the 6th pick in the draft and that could present an interesting scenario. They might need to make a trade if they want to draft a QB, but with so many holes on the roster he would have to be an exceptional prospect to make the trade. I’m not sure that prospect exists this year. Negatively if you don’t grab a QB then 2015 becomes some combination of Geno Smith and a Matt Moore type. They could also trade down to try to gain more picks.
I would think if they cant make a move in the draft they want to come away with some combination of receiver, cornerback, defensive end/outside linebacker, inside linebacker, or offensive lineman in those first three rounds of the draft. The Jets really need to hit on those first three picks to begin what looks to be a long process of the getting a strong enought team to get back to the playoffs.