Breaking Down the New York Jets' 2013 Salary Cap: Where Is Money Best Spent?

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Breaking Down the New York Jets' 2013 Salary Cap: Where Is Money Best Spent?
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The New York Jets will be major players in free agency. The question is, how will they spend their money?

As I stated in my analysis of the Jets' salary-cap situation last week, John Idzik and company should have plenty of cap room to work with after cutting a few high-profile free agents and taking care of rookies and emergency reserves.

Releasing Mark Sanchez, Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes would save the Jets a staggering $26.05 million in cap space this offseason, and New York is projected to have a little over $30 million in cap space to spend.

That number should place the Jets among the most financially flexible teams in 2014. 

As all Gang Green supporters know, New York has a lot of young talent and depth on the defensive front. However, the Jets are shaky in nearly every other department. 

The receiving corps needs to be seriously revamped, the offensive line lacks stability, and the secondary has to be improved.

It's up to John Idzik and the front office to decide which units should be addressed in free agency, and which areas should be filled through the draft.

However, the Jets should begin the offseason by re-signing some of the core players of last season's surprising eight-win team.

Rich Cimini of ESPN New York recently ranked New York's crop of free agents, and he unsurprisingly ranked Austin Howard and Nick Folk as the Jets' top two priorities.

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Howard had a solid year in 2013, especially in pass protection, and at 26, he still has room for improvement. Expect the Jets to lock up their right tackle to a long-term contract at an affordable cost. 

Folk is coming off a huge season in which he 33 field goals on 36 attempts, including three game-winners against the Buccaneers, Falcons and Patriots. Folk has been one of the best kickers in the clutch in recent years. Expect New York to sign him to a long-term deal.

Other unrestricted free agents the Jets may look to re-sign are right guard Willie Colon, tight end Jeff Cumberland and outside linebacker Calvin Pace.

Colon should be the top priority of the trio. He performed admirably this season and could be had at an affordable price. Cumberland and Pace could still be brought back, though, depending on how the market shapes up.

After re-signing some of their own free agents, the Jets will look to sign their franchise defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term contract.

Wilkerson has just one year left on his rookie deal, and he is eligible for an extension this offseason. The former first-rounder should receive a multi-year deal worth about $10 to $12 million a year.

After locking up their prized star, the Jets will likely look to improve their roster substantially in the open market.

The wide receiver market is extensive this offseason, but none of the players are surefire No. 1 options. However, several young wideouts would be terrific fits for New York's offensive scheme under Marty Mornhinweg

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Jeremy Maclin would be a great signing for New York. He offers game-changing explosiveness at an affordable price. After a serious ACL injury last year, Maclin will likely be underpaid this offseason. 

Maclin also worked under Mornhinweg in Philadelphia, so the wideout is familiar with the Jets' system. 

Golden Tate and Hakeem Nicks would also be affordable options that could open up New York's offense in the near future.

Other positions that the Jets could look to revamp in free agency are safety, outside linebacker, cornerback and tight end. 

Safety is a position that has a lot of top-flight options (Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner) but lacks depth.

What should be the top priority for John Idzik this offseason?

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New York may be able to afford an elite safety if it prioritizes the position. However, the front office may decide to save the cap room and address the need through the draft.

The market is thin at outside linebacker outside of the prized Brian Orakpo, but Anthony Spencer could be an affordable and productive signing. 

The Jets could also look to replace the possibly departed Antonio Cromartie with one of the slew of free-agent cover men available this offseason, and Dennis Pitta would be a nice addition at tight end. 

While it's difficult to predict exactly which players the Jets will target on the open market, the front office should be able to improve the roster substantially this offseason with the right moves. 

With the correct grooming of its young quarterback, Gang Green could emerge as a serious postseason contender next season and beyond.

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