In discussing the Jets potential cuts this offseason Gilchrist was on the top of the list because of his bloated salary of $6 million, health status, and low level of productivity. When the Jets drafted two safeties with their top two draft picks it seemed clear that Gilchrist was done with the team and the Jets made it official today. A bit surprising to me, though, was that this was listed as a post June 1 designation on the official transaction wire.
While the Jets are towards the bottom of the NFL in cap space there is nothing that should have forced them to use a June 1 designation on Gilchrist. The June 1 is generally used when the salary cap impact of cutting a player is simply too high and the team needs to find a way to spread that hit across two seasons. Cutting Gilchrist outright frees up a pretty healthy $4.6 million of cap space, but instead the Jets will now free up $6 million for this year and take a $1.375 million cap charge in 2018 for Gilchrist. I estimated that the Jets had in the ballpark of $7.9 million in cap room before cutting Gilchrist. $12 million in cap room should have been more than enough to cover rookie signings (about $4.8 million) and for expanded accounting in September.
So why use the June 1? My guess is there are two considerations that the Jets have. One deals with injury protection that likely will allow Gilchrist to collect $1.15 million this year. Gilchrist was seriously injured last season and would qualify for injury protection under the CBA because of that. He was cut with a failed physical designation so unless he is able to pass a physical and sign a contract with another team the Jets will be on the hook and deferring the bonus charge until next year kind of offsets the immediate impact and gives the Jets more flexibility.
The other consideration may lie with some other veteran decisions the team could make. If the team trades away Sheldon Richardson it is probable that they would eat $4 million of his salary in order to facilitate a trade. While that would still create a good deal of cap room this would give them a little added breathing room. Though there has been zero indication that the team is considering moving on from Matt Forte he is a player who could be released and cost the Jets on the cap.
Of the two, the part about the injury protection makes far more sense as to why to use the designation since the others wont really cost the Jets anything (Richardson would still save some cap room and they could just June 1 Forte too) while the injury protection liability was out of the Jets control.
For what its worth the Jets restructured Gilchrist’s contract last year to gain cap relief by converting $2.25 million of salary to bonus money, a move that probably would have been better done with another player. The Jets initial contract with Gilchrist for $5.5 million a season was pretty bullish at the time and seemed to represent the front offices faith in the head coach to get better play out of Gilchrist. This was something that seemed to be a constant with Bowles’ defenses in Arizona.
Thus far that has not really worked out for anyone in the secondary on the Jets. Neither Gilchrist nor cornerback Buster Skrine ever justified the cost while Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were both released after two and one seasons with Bowles. In addition Bowles was unable to make anything out of Dee Milliner (admittedly a major reclamation project) and has yet to do anything significant with Calvin Pryor. The Jets have to hope things turn around with their two new additions to the secondary.