As the anticipation continues to build for free agency and the NFL Draft it is time to start looking at some of the financial questions that the New York Jets will have to answer. Recently Jason Fitzgerald from the OvertheCap.com took the time to break down some of the contractual terms that the Jets will be dealing with. For those of you that are not familiar with OvertheCap.com, it is one of the most informative websites on the internet as it provides in-depth information on player contracts and team salary caps.
Tyson Rauch: Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off of his best season as a New York Jet. Many believe that Mo is due an extension. Can you explain his contract terms?
Jason Fitzgerald: Technically this is the final season in which Wilkerson is under contract, but the Jets have an option to increase the length of his contract by one season, which is pretty much a formality at this point. The option must be picked up by early May and the value attached to the option is calculated in a similar manner to the franchise tag, except they use the number 3 through 25 highest paid players rather than the top 5, so it is a value salary for a player like Wilkerson.
The Jets were not allowed to negotiate an extension with him the prior three years but they can begin negotiations now if they choose, so an extension is a possibility. That said, some of the things said by GM John Idzik about contracts in general make me think that they may hold off on an extension until the season would begin.
Since the option year is a new thing, I don’t know if anyone in the NFL knows exactly how to value it within an extension. Normally new contract money and years are simply added on to existing numbers, but there could be a push back on the option year meaning anything. Under the normal system the Jets would be far better off from the point of salary cap management by picking up the option and then extending Wilkerson. The value of the option year will not be known until late February so I would not expect any discussions for any of the 2011 first round rookies around the NFL until then.
TR: Heading into the 2014 season D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the highest paid players on the team. What are the Jets options with D'Brick?
JF: At this point the Jets should really stand firm with Ferguson. They have restructured his contract multiple times for cap relief and its created a situation where in 2016 his cap charge is already over $14 million and releasing him would cost the team $5 million in dead money. He'll be 33 years old at that point so you have to keep the dead money as low as possible.
If the team needed to they could restructure his salary to bring his cap charge down in 2014 but that is going to create a big problem with him down the line.
TR: Antonio Cromartie made headlines with his comment that he wanted to retire a New York Jet. Can this be done under his current contract?
JF: Only if he plans on retiring before March. Cromartie is scheduled to count for $14.98 million and releasing him saves the team $9.5 million in cash and cap charges. He is due a $5 million roster bonus in early March so he either needs to rework his contract or he will be cut.
For Cromartie to retire a Jet he is going to have to take a major paycut from where his salary was before. On his last deal Cromartie was essentially being paid as a 1A/high number 2 corner. Between injuries last season and making the turn past 30 years of age, he has to realize that he cannot be compensated at that level on a new contract. Towards the end of the season the Jets began to give Dee Milliner the harder assignments which shows that they are ready in 2014 to greatly reduce the role Cromartie would have.
TR: The New York Jets are expected to release Mark Sanchez. What will be the cap savings?
JF: That is certainly the expectation. Releasing Sanchez saves the team $8.3 million in cap space and $11.5 million in real cash payments. I think there could be reasons to keep him on the roster but at something close to $2 to $3 million in salary. The Jets would be better off from a cap perspective in 2014 by paying him that salary than a Colt McCoy type.
TR: Many believe that Santonio Holmes' days as a Jet are numbered. Will the team save any money by cutting Santonio?
JF: The Jets will free up $8.25 million by releasing Holmes. He has basically stolen money the last three seasons and it would be hard to imagine him back as a Jet.
TR: Are there any other players that could be cap casualties or that could see their contracts reworked?
JF: The biggest name player to keep an eye on would be David Harris. As things stand right now the team would save $5 million by releasing him but that is a reasonable cost for a LB like Harris. He is in the final year of his contract so the Jets could decide to extend him or release him if they feel they found a better and faster option at the position.
I would think Dawan Landry could be in trouble in the Jets find another safety as they would save $1.5 million by releasing him, though if he is willing to take a depth role he is reasonable at that price.
I also have to think Mike Goodson will be released if he will not serve any jail time. I think the Jets just want to put that situation behind them.
During the season I think Jeremy Kerley could be in line for an extension. This will also be the final year of his contract and teams will definitely think they can get more out of him than the Jets can. But I think the Jets would prefer to wait to see how his health holds up and how the QB position plays out before committing.
TR: Thank you for your time Jason, great information as always!
Please check out OvertheCap.com for excellent contract and salary cap information.