A few weeks ago it was reported that Jamison Crowder was working through a contract issue with the Jets. I had guessed at the time they were looking to cut his pay down to around $5.5 million and according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini it sounds like I was on the right track. Per Cimini the Jets would like to cut Crowder’s salary by at least 50% (Crowder’s P5 this year is $10 million and he has $500,000 in per game bonuses) in order to bring him back this season. I think this is a pretty interesting decision for Crowder and thought I might walk my fellow Jets fans through some of the reasons why.
I think most Jets fans have thought since the end of last season that Crowder was going to be cut or released this year given his $11.5 million cap charge and the front office turnover. The teams bullish signing of Crowder seemed to be more of an Adam Gase pleasing move than a market move and Gase is gone. The Jets offseason activity also pointed to them distancing themselves from Crowder with the signing of Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, with Cole playing a similar role to Crowder. The Jets then drafted Elijah Moore in the 2nd round of the draft which only made Crowder’s roster spot even more rocky.
The 50% pay cut would be in line with a few moves that were made by Joe Douglas in the last two years. Last season the Jets brought Avery Williamson’s salary down from $6.5 million to $3.5 million (46% cut) and this year dropped Alex Lewis’ from $6.4 to $3.5 million (45%). It would put a comparable drop for Crowder to between $5.5 and $5.7 million which is probably the Jets max that they would be willing to go before releasing him. $5.5 million also happens to be what the Jets are paying Cole and I would think that Crowder would like to earn at least that much if he were to stay. For what it is worth Crowder will also be giving up one weeks additional pay with any straight pay cut.
None of Crowder’s current salary is guaranteed and if he fails to accept a new deal from the Jets it is unlikely he would earn anywhere close to $5 million in free agency at this point in time. Crowder, however, should have some other considerations. He is scheduled to be a free agent next season and at 29 years of age has what may be his last chance at earning a good contract.
It is doubtful that Crowder fits into the Jets future plans given their draft and free agent signings so staying with the Jets this year is basically nothing but audition tape for another team. The Jets will have a rookie QB this season and while Crowder might be a nice safety net for Wilson rookie play is often erratic and probably not the best situation for a free agent showcase.
The Jets will also likely look at Crowder as trade bait. The trade deadline should be around the 8th week of the season. Crowder’s highest value on the trade market should come around that time which is when teams will know if they will or will not be a solid contender for the playoffs. Under his current contract the cost to acquire would be around $5.5 million, which would likely lower his value. Under a new deal it would only be around $3 million at the deadline which makes him more valuable.
While that benefits the Jets does it benefit Crowder? In a sense he is negotiating a cheaper contract to probably get traded mid-season. While slotting into a playoff team and playing well could be a big win, playing poorly could be a career killer as it was for Mohamed Sanu when he was traded to New England in 2019. Sanu spent last year bouncing around the NFL on minimum salary contracts and practice squads. If I were in Crowder’s shoes I think I would rather pick my own location now rather than having the Jets choose it in October even if it means a loss of $2-$3 million this year.
There is also the consideration of not getting traded. If Crowder does not generate interest at the deadline the Jets need to showcase him likely vanishes. They have a rookie and 2nd year wide receiver they want to focus on as well as their prized free agent addition. If Crowder falls to fourth or fifth on the depth chart that also is going to hurt him in free agency. Again this is a spot where controlling your own destiny might make more sense than the extra money.
It is a strange spot to be in for Crowder. Most of the time players get backed into a corner with these pay cuts but I think this is more unique. Crowder should still have a NFL future beyond 2021 and could be a good addition for the right team this season. We will probably get some clarity in Crowder’s future sooner rather than later but this may be one that sees the player decide to look for a new home rather than take the bigger salary for the season.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.