Where Should the New York Jets Be Spending Their Money This Offseason?

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Where Should the New York Jets Be Spending Their Money This Offseason?
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

John Idzik knew what he was getting into when he accepted the job as the New York Jets' new general manager last year. They were strapped tight against the salary cap in 2013 due to some poor decisions by the previous GM, Mike Tannenbaum. They wound up spending over $23 million in dead money.

Now that they bit the bullet on some of those bad contracts, they will have a bit more wiggle room in 2014, with over $20 million in cap space to use on new players or to retain players already on the roster.

If the Jets want to know where they should be spending their money, Spotrac has 'em covered. The sports contracts website keeps track of not just how much each player is making but how much each team is spending at each position. This can serve as a good barometer for where the team should be looking to invest its money and where it should be looking to save money going forward.

Here's a look at the Jets' positional spending, as projected for the 2014 season.

 

Offense

Source: Spotrac.com

Positional spending, offense
Position Cap dollars Percent*
Wide receiver $16,395,245 12.98%
Quarterback $14,735,819 11.67%
Left tackle $13,170,073 10.43%
Center $8,292,100 6.57%
Running back $5,874,958 4.65%
Guard $2,052,594 1.63%
Tight end $1,410,000 1.12%
Fullback $930,562 0.74%
Right tackle N/A N/A
Total $81,334,351 64.39%

Source: Spotrac.com (* = % based on projected $126.3m cap)

Where They Can Save Money: Quarterback, Wide Receiver

The Jets have a lot of money tied up in the quarterback position, but a good deal of that cash is expected to come off the books if and when the team makes a decision on the future of quarterback Mark Sanchez. The former starter injured his shoulder in the 2013 preseason and lost his job to rookie Geno Smith. As a bench player coming off injury, Sanchez should not be making anywhere close to the $13.1 million he's scheduled to make. The Jets would get back $8.3 million of Sanchez's cap hit if they cut him.

There's a similar dilemma brewing at wide receiver. The Jets have $10.75 million in cap space tied up in Santonio Holmes for the 2014 season, but the team could save $8.25 million by releasing him outright, bringing New York's wide receiver spending all the way down to around $8 million. 

 

Where They Can Spend Money: Guard, Wide Receiver, Right Tackle

Once the Jets move on from Holmes or find a way to restructure his contract to a more friendly salary cap number, they should turn their focus to improving the wide receiver spot in free agency. The Jets have sorely lacked explosive playmakers in the passing game for years, as injuries have besieged Holmes and a slow development has plagued the young Stephen Hill.

There are a host of receivers available this year: Broncos receiver Eric Decker, Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks, Packers receiver James Jones and 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin are just some of the names. 

Which offensive position should the Jets invest in this offseason?

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One of the Jets' biggest positional weaknesses in 2013 was guard, and it's also one of the positions where the Jets are spending the least amount of money. Last offseason they drafted guard Brian Winters in the third round and signed Willie Colon to a one-year deal. They could bring Colon back, or they could pursue Panthers guard Travelle Wharton as a free agent if they want to significantly upgrade.

Austin Howard was retained last year on a second-round restricted free-agent tender that paid him $2.023 million; the Jets likely wouldn't have to go crazy to retain Howard, who is an above-average right tackle. There are better options out there, like Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer and Panthers tackle Jordan Gross, but Howard may be the best bang-for-the-buck option on the market.

 

Defense

Source: Spotrac.com

Positional spending, defense
Position Cap dollars Percent*
Cornerback $20,689,905 16.38%
Inside linebacker $7,764,490 6.15%
Defensive end $5,202,500 4.12%
Outside linebacker $4,395,762 3.48%
Safety $3,561,055 2.82%
Defensive tackle $1,789,833 1.42%
Total $43,403,545 34.37%

Source: Spotrac.com (* = % based on projected $126.3m cap)

Where They Can Save Money: Cornerback

Former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is set to count for $16 million against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' salary cap in 2014, the most cap dollars for any cornerback next year; coming in second on that list is Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who is set to count for $14.98 million against the Jets' salary cap. If they want to cut him, they can save exactly $9.5 million, with just $5.48 in dead money.

Never mind that he simply didn't play up to that level in 2013, it would be hard to justify spending that much on one player in any case. Cromartie has said himself that he expects to be a cap casualty, and the Jets have to make a decision on his fate before paying him a $5 million roster bonus in March.

 

Where They Can Spend Money: Outside Linebacker, Safety

Jets fans have clamored for a dynamic edge pass-rusher for years, and with the team spending just $4.4 million on the position, it looks like they could afford to make a signing here. Calvin Pace is set to hit the open market, so the Jets could opt to retain him, but his play has diminished over the years, and he was cut for cap purposes after the 2012 season, only to be re-signed at a much cheaper one-year deal.

Which defensive position should the Jets invest in this offseason?

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The Jets could also make a push to sign Redskins free-agent linebacker Brian Orakpo, but he may be the only top outside linebacker available on the open market. They could finally pull the trigger on drafting a top prospect at the position.

Ed Reed is also set to hit the open market, and unless Rex Ryan's love for Reed really knows no bounds, he should be done in New York. Not only do the Jets have better options on the roster (what ever happened to Antonio Allen?) but if they want, they can easily upgrade in free agency with names like the Bills' Jairus Byrd, the Browns' T.J. Ward and the Colts' Antoine Bethea all set to hit the open market.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases. 

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