For the first time in years, the New York Jets are headed towards cap stability.
New York looks like it could have tons of cap space this offseason, making them a major player in free agency. John Idzik and company can free up cap space mainly through cutting a slew of high-profile players.
Current Cap Estimate
The Jets look primed to release some of the underperforming big names on their current roster, including Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez.
Gang Green will save $9.5 million, $8.25 million and $8.3 million by terminating the contracts of Cromartie, Holmes and Sanchez, respectively.
That accounts to an astounding $26.05 million in cap savings if New York chooses to release all three players, which seems to be a certainty at this point.
While Holmes is definitely a goner, the Jets could choose to terminate the current contracts of Cromartie and Sanchez and restructure new ones with them.
The Jets may also decide to release running back Mike Goodson. Goodson caused headaches in his first season with the team after being arrested on gun and drug charges last offseason. The move would save the Jets about $1.3 million.
In all, Idzik and company project to have about $30 million to spend this offseason, assuming the salary cap limit for the 2014 season is $126.3 million. The money shelled out to rookies and emergency reserves is accounted into that figure.
The $30 million in cap savings ranks amongst the top in the league for the 2014 season, and it means that the Jets will likely be at the forefront of the free-agent market.
How Will They Spend?
New York will likely use the $30 million in savings to lock up their young star, Muhammad Wilkerson, resign several players whose contracts are up and to sign one or two high-profile free agents.
Wilkerson is coming off an outstanding season in 2013, in which he recorded 10.5 sacks and emerged as one of the most dominant defensive ends in the NFL.
However, Wilkerson's rookie contract is set to expire after next season, so it's critical that the Jets lock the star player up to a long-term extension.
Wilkerson will likely request around $10 to $12 million a year. While the extension will be pricey, Gang Green's front office would save money in the long run by locking up Wilkerson this offseason.
Along with extending Wilkerson, the Jets will look to resign right tackle Austin Howard to a long-term extension and bring back guard Willie Colon to a short-term deal. Neither player will be particularly pricey, but neither will be cheap. However, it's important for New York to bring back both players to shore up the offensive line.
Gang Green will also probably resign kicker Nick Folk, who is coming off a phenomenal season, to a decent contract.
Depending on how the team fairs in free agency and the draft, Calvin Pace, Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow and several other veterans may be brought back at reasonable costs.
New York will also likely be looking to acquire a top-level wideout in free agency to shore up their shoddy receiving corps.
Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson were solid in 2013, but both are better in secondary roles. Stephen Hill, on the other hand, is looking less and less like the starting-caliber receiver the Jets thought he was when they selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft.
While all those wideouts are talented, each come with major question marks. Decker and Jones could easily be products of their systems, Nicks has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies in recent years, Maclin is coming off a major injury and Tate has never gone over 900 yards receiving.
However, Maclin and Tate could be the favorites for the Jets to sign, as Maclin is familiar with the Jets offense (he played under Marty Mornhinweg in Philly) and Tate was drafted when John Idzik was in Seattle.
Other positions the Jets will look to upgrade through free agency are safety and outside linebacker.
Luckily, for New York, the free-agent class is stacked at safety this offseason. Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner and Chris Clemons are all primed to hit the open market.
All four will be expensive, but New York needs to improve at safety if they are going to have any chance of competing next season.
At outside linebacker, Anthony Spencer could be a potential fit, as he is coming off a major injury and is familiar with Rex Ryan's defensive scheme after working under Rob Ryan last season.
New York can, and will, spend freely this offseason, but expect John Idzik and the front office to make smart moves, attempting to bring in players with proven track records who are good fits.
The Jets should be able to make enough big moves to make them legitimate contenders in the 2014 season, as their skill positions and secondary will be drastically improved.
All salary cap information courtesy of Over The Cap