Analyzing New York Jets' Next Big Contract Decisions

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Analyzing New York Jets' Next Big Contract Decisions
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Exercising Muhammad Wilkerson's fifth-year option means he can't be a free agent until 2016.

Muhammad Wilkerson's future contract with the New York Jets has received the most analysis of any upcoming deal. It's unfortunate, because there are big contract decisions that John Idzik can't postpone by invoking a renewal option.

After the last snap of 2014, Idzik must decide the fate of key players whose departure could affect the team's depth almost anywhere you look. Many players will have completed one-year contracts. Some will have been franchise mainstays for years.

The mainstays are where most of the big decisions lie. They have drawn our cheers and boos for most if not all the Rex Ryan era. It's time to forget all that. It's time to put on the general manager's hat and ask the following questions:

  • How much money does the player want? Idzik would learn that from the player's agent. We outsiders have to check out comparable players.
  • Is the money available? Factors to consider here are the number of roster spots that need filling and the cap room available to fill them. Even now, the Jets' cap consumption for 2015 is $97.3 million for the top 51 contracts; $99.4 million for everyone signed. That will change by Week 1.

The next list of issues Idzik is contemplating are the focus of this slideshow:

  • How much is the player worth? It's up to Idzik to determine if the player's performance matches the contract he wants. Dollars and cents aren't the only issue. Longevity and amount of guaranteed money are also points to ponder.
  • Who else is available? Even if the player's demands match his performance, there may be a free agent or draft prospect who would upgrade the position. A younger, less expensive player on the roster might be ready for the job.
  • What is the outlook for the player? This is the player's prognosis. Is he on track for stardom, winding down a long career or a fringe player who will battle each year for a veterans' minimum contract?

This list examines the chances of Jets' starters who become free agents in 2015 after completing multiyear contracts. The basis for ranking is the player's chance of wearing green and white in 2015.

The Jets have approximately $20 million of cap room. Releasing one of  the listed players early will not have negative cap consequences. There's only a couple of 2015 free agents who are likely to dent it.

Idzik's decision process is just beginning. The Jets have a season to play before he gets the evidence he needs. There are players on one-year contracts who have never played as Jets. Their bargaining position may be much better by January.

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