The New York Jets are scheduled to have plenty of cap room to work with this offseason, assuming they make a handful of moves to trim the fat left over from the previous regime.
These contracts held the Jets back from making substantial moves in last year's free-agency period to field a contending team. Now that the Jets have endured the growing pains of carrying a few bloated contracts on underperforming veteran players, they can make the necessary moves to allow general manager John Idzik to build the team he had envisioned when he took the job.
Here are five cuts the Jets can make to give them the cap space they need to make a big push in free agency.
2014 Cap Number: $13.1 million
Cap Savings if Cut: $8.3 million
Dead Money if Cut: $4.8 million
Mark Sanchez's release has been inevitable ever since Mike Tannenbaum was relieved of his general manager duties following the 2012 season. After signing an extension during the 2012 offseason, Sanchez's contract has been regarded as one of the worst in the league.
The Jets are clearly finished with the Sanchez experiment, evidenced by their decision to draft Geno Smith in last year's draft. Suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the third preseason game against the New York Giants all but sealed Sanchez's fate as an eventual ex-Jet. In fact, Sanchez was only on the team this year because the cap penalty for cutting Sanchez exceeded $17 million.
As much as his reputation has been tarnished, Sanchez would immediately become one of the top backup candidates in the league and could possibly get a chance to compete for a starting job on another team.
Sanchez's contract will still cost the Jets nearly $5 million in dead money, but it would open up over $8 million in cap space—enough room for the Jets to add a top-tier free agent.
2014 Cap Number: $10.75 million
Cap Savings if Cut: $8.25 million
Dead Money if Cut: $2.5 million
Santonio Holmes' disappointing run with the Jets has all but neared its conclusion with his impending release.
The writing was on the wall that this was likely going to be Holmes' last year as a Jet. An injury-plagued season in which he caught just 23 passes for 456 yards will only make the decision that much easier for Idzik.
Holmes is still a talented player who is capable of being productive, but a combination of injuries and character issues have prevented the Jets from getting a full return on their $50 million investment. Even this past year, the organization had reason to believe that he may have been "milking" his hamstring injury in training camp.
There is no way to prove that Holmes would exaggerate an injury to get out of training camp drills, but the sheer fact that the Jets would consider it a possibility tells everything you need to know of what the Jets think of Holmes' character.
Releasing Holmes will leave some dead money behind, but it will open up another $8.25 million for the Jets to replace Holmes with a more productive receiver with less drama attached to him.
2014 Cap Number: $14.98 million
Cap Savings if Cut: $9.5 million
Dead Money if Cut: $5.48 million
If the Jets were not willing to pay Darrelle Revis $15 million to play for them, they sure are not going to pay Antonio Cromartie that kind of money, especially when he is coming off the worst season of his career.
Ranked 103rd out of 110 cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus, Cromartie allowed a 100.7 quarterback rating against him and a staggering 19.7 yards per catch.
Cromartie was not just beat—he allowed huge plays that cost the Jets wins.
Cromartie's struggles could be traced back to a nagging hip injury that followed him all season long, but there is no guarantee that he will ever be the same dominant player he was in 2012.
There is a chance that the Jets bring Cromartie back after his inevitable release, but much of it will depend on how team doctors believe his hip will heal. If the Jets are convinced that Cromartie can return to something close to his 2012 self, he will almost certainly be back at a much lesser cap number.
2014 Cap Number: $7 million
Cap Savings if Cut: $5 million
Dead Money if Cut: $2 million
Coming off a rebound 2013 season, it would be a surprise if the Jets decided to part ways with David Harris—but the move would allow the Jets to spend their cap money on positions that are more valuable and of a bigger need for the Jets.
Harris was one of the best run defenders on the Jets, grading out as the 10th-best run defender at his position in Pro Football Focus' rankings. However, he still struggles in coverage, ranking 43rd in this area.
Every team has some use for a two-down inside linebacker, but such players are becoming more and more of a role player than a necessity in a pass-heavy league. At $7 million, the Jets are not getting the type of player who is going to change the course of games as much as his paycheck suggests.
Again, it is unlikely that the Jets would risk putting a big hole in their third-ranked run defense for the sake of $5 million in cap space when they will have plenty to work with already, but releasing Harris makes a bit more sense than one might initially think.
2014 Cap Number: $1.825 million
Cap Savings if Cut: $1.5 million
Dead Money if Cut: $325,000
Like Harris, it would be an upset if Dawan Landry was not on the Jets' roster in 2014, but there is a scenario in which the Jets would want to part ways with the veteran safety.
Dawan Landry did a serviceable job at strong safety, but he is not the dynamic player the Jets are looking for at the position. After getting just 13 interceptions last season, the Jets need a true "ball hawk" who will give their secondary a dimension it has lacked since they traded Kerry Rhodes following the 2009 season.
With 76 tackles on the season, Landry played the run very well. However, he was very average when defending the pass, allowing a 96.3 quarterback rating when thrown at.
Should the Jets elect to sign a top-tier free agent, such a Jairus Byrd, or draft a player in the first round, the Jets may not have a use for a 31-year-old safety who is only going to decline as he gets older.
Saving $1.5 million may not sound like a ton of money, but it would at least help offset the cost of signing a more dynamic player or the high draft pick who would be used to replace Landry, allowing the Jets to continue to add players at other positions.