As surprising as it sounds, the New York Jets are back on the upswing.
Even after missing the postseason for the third consecutive year, Gang Green put together an impressive 8-8 record. The franchise also has a young quarterback with potential, a stout, growing defensive front and a fiery and terrific head coach in Rex Ryan.
Fortunately for Jets fans, New York should have tons of money to spend in free agency this offseason to fix some of the roster's biggest flaws.
Here are five cost-efficient moves Gang Green could make to both improve the roster and open up cap space for potential free agents.
Salary-cap information courtesy of Over the Cap.
Just three short years ago, Mark Sanchez was the toast of New York. He had just led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances and appeared to be making strides in his development into a franchise passer.
Today, Sanchez is a backup to rookie Geno Smith, one of the most overpaid players in the NFL and seen as one of the biggest busts in Jets history.
Yeah, those three years seem like an eternity.
Fortunately for the Jets, they can rid themselves of Sanchez forever this offseason.
Releasing the USC product will save the Jets an astounding $8.3 million in cap space. That money could be used to address some key holes on the current roster.
Like Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes has seen an unpredictable fall from grace over the last few seasons.
Three years ago, the former Super Bowl MVP signed a massive five-year deal to stay in New York and was phenomenal in the Jets' playoff run in 2010.
Today, Holmes is an overpaid, overrated, aging receiver who struggles to stay on the field and is a headache off it.
While Gang Green has a massive hole at wide receiver, it's almost an assurance that Holmes will be released this offseason—even with ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reporting in December that Holmes would be open to a pay cut.
Cutting the much-maligned receiver would save the Jets a hefty $8.25 million in cap space and a lot of headaches.
After putting together one of his best seasons of his career in 2012, Antonio Cromartie was a complete disaster this year.
Cromartie dealt with a nagging injury and was constantly burned by the deep ball. Many people expect Cromartie to be a cap casualty this offseason. Cromartie himself told ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini that he expects to be cut.
The move makes sense, as it would save New York a ridiculous $9.5 million in cap room.
However, John Idzik and company would be smart to terminate Cromartie's current contract—thus saving the $9.5 million—and then sign him to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum.
Keeping Cromartie would prove to be the best of both worlds for the Jets. They would still have the cap space to be active in free agency, but they would also be able to keep a player with upside at a position of weakness.
The Jets are almost sure to sign a high-profile, free-agent wide receiver this offseason.
Luckily for New York, there is a slew of young, high-upside wideouts primed to hit the open market in March. Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Julian Edelman, Golden Tate and Jeremy Maclin are all unrestricted free agents this offseason.
While every one of those players would improve the Jets' abysmal receiving corps, Jeremy Maclin is far and away the best option.
Maclin is coming off a serious ACL injury, meaning he is no guarantee to perform. However, the injury will force Maclin to take a much cheaper deal in free agency.
The Missouri product has been consistently productive over his four-year career and served under Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia.
Maclin is a playmaker who fits New York's system and can be had at a relatively low price. He should be one of the Jets' top targets in free agency.
This slide may have you raising an eyebrow.
How does extending a star player before his contract is up instead of signing free agents represent a cost-efficient move?
Well, guys and gals, Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and his stock is only going to rise over the next year.
Extending the 2011 first-round pick in his first year of eligibility for a new deal will be expensive, but will save the Jets a great deal of money next offseason and beyond.
Wilkerson could very well be unaffordable when his rookie contract expires after next season. As long as he continues to dominate, that is sure to be the case.
Extending Wilkerson should be one of the Jets' primary goals this offseason.