Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Smith's 2013 cap value: $12 million
The New York Jets cannot address personnel issues without cleaning up payroll.
According to nyjetscap.com, the Jets' projected 2013 salary cap value is $141.9 million. Unfortunately, the NFL's estimated 2013 salary cap limit is $121 million. Add the Jets' estimated unused capacity or rollover from 2012 and the team's adjusted cap limit is $125.9 million. (To show you how widely projections vary, ProTalk estimates the rollover figure to be $7.9 million as of November 20.)
With a $4.9 million rollover, the Jets must free $16 million in cap room to comply with the NFL CBA.
They'll need to free another $3 million to $6 million to set up a "rookie cap" for signing draft picks and undrafted free agents.
Then, they'll need even more room to re-sign 2013 free agents like running back Shonn Greene, kicker Nick Folk and tight end Dustin Keller. Estimate at least $5 million to $10 million.
Total relief needed is between $24 million and $32 million. We haven't even discussed signing outside free agents.
Where will the Jets find cap relief between $24 million and $32 million?
Here, for example, is an easy way. They could cut almost $33 million by releasing four players: tackle Jason Smith, linebacker Calvin Pace, linebacker David Harris and linebacker Bart Scott.
That means giving up three starting linebackers and a second-string tackle. Hopefully they'd get some draft picks in return.
Second-string tackle, Jason Smith, has the highest cap number of the four: $12 million. That seems excessive for a second-stringer. What's more, 2013 is the last year of his contract, so restructuring without an extension accomplishes nothing. The Jets should try to get something for him. However, they may find few buyers, so outright release would at least free $12 million in cap room.
Calvin Pace also cannot restructure his deal without an extension. His departure adds $8.56 million of cap room.
Losing Smith and Pace would restore $20.56 million of cap space. That would return the Jets to CBA compliance and provide a rookie cap of $4.56 million.
Scott and Harris have two years remaining on their deals, so restructuring is possible.
Scott, for example, could cut his 2013 salary from $6.9 million to $1 million and take the $5.9 million difference as a proratable bonus. That would reduce his drain on the 2013 cap from $8.65 million to $5.7 million, saving $2.95 million.
Of the four, Harris would be the most significant loss as he is the team's leading tackler.
Harris could cut his 2013 salary from $10.9 million to $6.9 million and take the $4 million difference as a proratable bonus. That would reduce his drain on the 2013 cap from $13 million to $11 million, saving $2 million.
The restructurings add another $4.95 million in cap room to establish the maximum rookie cap and leave just over $3.5 million for free agent signings. The cost: $4.95 million applied towards 2014's cap even if Scott and Harris leave the team.
This is not the only scenario. The nyjetscap.com blog offers alternatives in the post "A Look at the Jets Salary Cap Problems."
See how easy it is?
If you want to concoct your own scenarios, check out Football 101, "Explaining Salary Cap Dead Money" from Steelers Depot and Davis Hsu's July 16 and July 17 articles on salary cap rollover from the Field Gulls Seahawks community. These articles explain the terminology you'll need to understand to interpret the nyjetscap.com data.
Suffice it to say that the Jets' bean counters have their work cut out for them. We, on the other hand, can move to another fun topic: repairing public relations.