With the draft still five months away, the time is now for the Jets to focus on the free agency aspect of the offseason.
For the first time in a long time, the Jets will have a sizable amount of cap space to work with after they shed themselves of a few veteran contracts. They will now be able to build up their roster with some of the more expensive free agents as opposed to scouring the scrap heap for hidden treasures, as they had to do last year.
Here is a full position-by-position breakdown of the Jets' salary cap situation in 2014.
All cap information courtesy by OverTheCap.com unless otherwise specified.
Offensive Total: $60,953,356
Defensive Total: $45,083,565
Special Teams: $1,290,000
Projected Total: 126,300,000 (via Albert Breer of NFL.com)
Carryover from 2013: $1,473,437 (via public NFLPA report)
Current Cap Space: $20,446,516
When incorporating the fact that the Jets will need several million to sign their draftees, $20 million may not look like so much. However, all the Jets need to do is rid themselves of three veteran contracts to give them enough cap room to swim in.
After the swift release of Mark Sanchez ($8.3 million in savings), Santonio Holmes ($8.25 million) and Antonio Cromartie ($9.5 million), the Jets will have saved over $27 million in cap space, giving them a massive total of $46,696,516.
Last year may have been full of growing pains, but enduring these pains will finally start to pay off as John Idzik builds his team this offseason.
Current Cap Hits: Mark Sanchez ($8.5 million), Geno Smith ($1.14 million) Matt Simms ($495,000)
Free Agents: David Garrard
As stated in the previous slide, this number will be a fraction of what it currently is after the inevitable release of Mark Sanchez. Doing so will bring the cap hit of this position to under $2 million—extremely cheap for what is the most important and usually highest-paid player on the field.
Because Geno Smith is on a rookie contract that he cannot get out of, the Jets have a window of opportunity to build up the rest of their roster before he comes up for a second contract (if he makes it that far). They also have enough room to add an experienced veteran in free agency or sign a first-round pick, should they so desire.
Current Cap Hits: Chris Ivory ($1.75 million), Bilal Powell ($745,125), Alex Green ($652,500), Tommy Bohanon ($510,652)
Free Agents: Darius Reynaud
This is another position that the Jets are getting by on the cheap. Both Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are on relatively small contracts, with Powell still on his rookie contract from 2011. Even better is that the Jets have seen enough from Powell and Ivory to not feel the need to spend a lot of money (or a high draft pick) on the position in 2014.
They could certainly bring in competition for the third running back job, but this is a position in which the Jets should continue to get by on the cheap as long as they can.
Current Cap Hits: Santonio Holmes ($10.75 million), Stephen Hill ($1,125,185), Jeremy Kerley ($691,064), David Nelson ($645,000), Greg Salas ($645,000), Saalim Hakim ($495,000), Michael Campbell ($495,000)
Free Agents: None
Just like the quarterbacks, this position is going to see its cap number plummet following Santonio Holmes' release. The position is set to undergo a severe overhaul, as the Jets need at least two new starters and a new layer of depth to bring this unit to the upper echelons of the league.
Still, there are a few good contracts in this group: Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson have provided excellent value on their near-minimum deals and should be retained into 2014.
There will be a lot of room for the Jets to be active in free agency at this position. Expect general manager John Idzik to be active early and often when free agency opens to give the receiving corps a much-needed overhaul.
Current Cap Hits: Zach Sudfeld ($495,000), Chris Pantale ($495,000)
Free Agents: Kellen Winslow Jr., Jeff Cumberland
The only position more depleted than the wide receivers is the tight end group. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow comprised one of the more average units in the league, but with both of them becoming free agents, this now is a position that needs addressing in both free agency and the draft.
The Jets do have a pair of players in Sudfeld and Pantale who provide some depth, but this unit will showcase a different set of personnel by the time training camp opens.
Current Cap Hits: D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($11.7 million), Nick Mangold ($7.2 million), Brian Winters ($689,969), Caleb Schlauderaff ($645,000), Oday Aboushi ($544,750), Wiliiam Campbell ($522,625), Ben Ijalana ($926,658)
Free Agents: Austin Howard, Willie Colon, Vladimir Ducasse
This is a position group that faces a ton of questions heading into free agency.
First, the entire right side of the offensive line is set to hit the open market. Willie Colon and Austin Howard proved themselves worthy on their respective one-year deals, and they will be looking to cash in on their success. Use of the franchise tag could be in play, particularly for Howard.
Meanwhile, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold have enjoyed stellar careers with the Jets so far, but their play is only going to decline from this point on. While unlikely, a restructuring is possible for these two somewhat-overpaid veterans who are eating up a ton of cap space for the position they play.
The good news is that—after using three draft picks on lineman last year—there is a lot of cheap, young talent on the team. If the Jets do lose a player or two in free agency, the cupboard is not completely dry, as some young players are waiting in the wings.
Current Cap Hits: Damon Harrison ($572,334), Kenrick Ellis ($797,500)
Free Agents: None
The Jets are getting as much value from this position as any on the team, mostly thanks to the emergence of the formerly undrafted sensation Damon Harrison. Harrison has been beyond impressive as the Jets starting nose tackle, establishing himself as one of the top run-defenders at his position.
His teammate Kenrick Ellis has also played well in his rotation, giving the Jets a premium combination of young defensive tackles. The fact that they come so cheap because of their age and draft status (Harrison was undrafted, Ellis was a third-round pick), the Jets do not have to pay a premium for elite defensive tackle play just yet.
Current Cap Hits: Muhammad Wilkerson ($2.18 million), Sheldon Richardson ($2.3 million)
Total: $4.51 million
Free Agents: Leger Douzable
The Jets are the owners of arguably the top pair of 3-4 defensive ends in football, but they must take action if they want to keep it that way.
Muhammad Wilkerson is under contract for 2014, but he is a pending free agent after next year. As they start to lock up what is going to be the core of their team over the next few years, the Jets would be crazy to let Wilkerson sniff free agency. While it may eat up some of their cap room this year, the Jets need to get Wilkerson under a long-term deal sooner than later.
The Jets would also like to retain Leger Douzable, who was one of the most underrated players on the team last year, overshadowed by Sheldon Richardson and Wilkerson. However, he will likely be looking for a place to start next season and may want to moveto a team in greater need of defensive end help.
Current Cap Hits: David Harris ($7 million), Demario Davis ($764,490), Quinton Coples ($2.4 million), Jermaine Cunningham ($730,000)
Free Agents: Garrett McIntyre, Calvin Pace
The Jets appear to be set at three of the linebacker positions, but they will have tough decision to make on outside linebacker Calvin Pace.
Statistically, Pace enjoyed the best season of his career by recording 10 sacks, but most of the 33-year-old's production came from a result of good coverage rather than an explosive pass rush from Pace . Still, Pace was clearly a better player than he was a year ago in every aspect, including run defense.
Pace's return relies on whether or not the Jets decide to make any aggressive moves in free agency to address the position.
If the Jets bring in a big-money free agent or use a first-round pick, Pace's career as a Jet could be over. However, if the Jets are content with solid-yet-unspectacular play from the position for another season, Pace could get one more year in a green-and-white uniform.
Otherwise, the Jets are getting good value for all of their contracts, with the exception of David Harris. Harris rebounded in 2013 after a dreadful 2012 campaign, but he is no longer worth the contract he signed in 2011.
Current Cap Hits: Antonio Cromartie ($14.98 million), Dee Milliner ($2.88 million), Kyle Wilson ($2.26 million)
Free Agents: Darrin Walls, Isaiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster
One of the first orders of business this offseason will be the release of Antonio Cromartie. Not only has an injured hip caused him to turn in the worst season of his career, but he is set to take up nearly $15 million in cap space.
He may have been cut regardless of his performance.
There is a chance that he may be brought back at a lesser rate, but the Jets will need to have a plan of action to prepare for life without one of their starting cornerbacks.
The Jets will also have issues in restoring the depth of their secondary. Darrin Walls, Isaish Trufant and Ellis Lankster have played well in their respective roles, but retaining them may be a bit too expensive for a handful of reserves and special teams aces.
The Jets can afford to retain these players, but they don't want to take away resources used to sign starters at other positions of need.
Current Cap Hits: Dawan Landry ($1.83 million), Antonio Allen ($764,490), Jaiquawn Jarrett ($570,000), Josh Bush ($596,055)
Free Agents: Ed Reed
As much as Rex Ryan would love to have his old friend around, the last seven weeks of the season made it abundantly clear that the sun is setting on Ed Reed's career.
And the Jets should let him walk.
Meanwhile, the jets have enough manpower to get them through one more season with Landry and Allen turning in successful 2013 campaigns. However, they will be looking for a more dynamic player at the free safety position in either free agency or the draft who can help them force more turnovers.
Current Cap Hits: Ryan Quigley ($495,000), Tanner Purdum ($795,000)
Free Agents: Nick Folk
Other than a pair of offensive linemen, the Jets' most premium free agent is their kicker, Nick Folk.
Having missed just three field goals and hitting several late game-winning kicks, Nick Folk was the biggest reason why the Jets had a season to collapse in the first place.
Folk has established himself as a premier kicker—but he is still, after all, a kicker. He deserves a raise, but the Jets need to be careful not to overspend on a player who plays a position with a high variance level of performance.
Kickers can go from being heroes to being unemployed in a matter of months, should they get on a cold streak.
Meanwhile, the Jets will almost certainly bring in competition for Ryan Quigley for the punter job, and Tanner Purdum appears to have the long snapper role locked up after another flawless season.