How do the New York Jets Work the Uncapped Year?
With the likelihood of an uncapped year growing higher each day there have lately been questions about how this year can be used for the benefit of the Jets, with the assumption being that the cap will return in 2011. Just like with everything else on this site pertaining to the cap these answers may not be 100% accurate, but I’ve done my best to interpret the rules and ask some people who may know the answer if they interpret them the same way. There does seem to be a great deal of uncertainty, even in the NFL front offices, about these rules since this is new for everyone involved. It is likely that the NFL will be sending out a memo explaining how everything works sometime in the future, but for now this is how I believe the rules will work. Here are some of the big questions and what the Jets may do:
Can we start tearing up the contracts of are great young players and reward them with new deals?
Absolutely. There is nothing in the CBA that prohibits teams from renegotiating deals with the exception of renegotiating rookie contracts. So yes the Jets are not allowed to renegotiate contracts for Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene. Everyone else is fair game.
So now we can take our stud corner Darrelle Revis, pay him 60 million dollars in 2010, and never get a cap charge again, right?
Not exactly. If the difference between the first and second year of a contact is more than 50% than the difference is treated as a signing bonus. So if the Jets paid Revis 60 million in 2010 and 1 million per year from 2011-2015, the 59 million difference between 2010 and 2011 will be pro-rated over the term of the contract which would mean a 10.83 million per year cap charge for Revis.
What the Jets will have to decide is how many players they want to run the risk of having a high cap charge on when they do a deal such as this one. The Jets can do a deal for Revis that pays him 30 million in 2010, but then would have to pay him at least 15 million in 2011. They could then pay him 5 million per year after that and keep his cap charge low from 2012-2015. But for any player you decide to do that with you are taking a major risk that there will be no cap in 2011. The Jets would be unable to absorb Revis and D’Brickashaw Ferguson both making in the ballpark of 15 million in 2011 assuming the cap returns under the same set of rules.
Of course the Jets can probably always renegotiate those deals if the cap returns in 2011 by converting the huge salary to an option bonus. You are still saving cap room in the long run, but it wont be nearly as much. So to expect the Jets to go wild with new deals with frontloaded money is probably not realistic, but it is likely that they will spend a good deal of money on their key young players come March.
So who would the Jets consider extending?
There are four major candidates and a few others who might get consideration. The two “Tier A” players would be Revis and Ferguson. Because of escalator clauses in their contracts Ferguson essentially is under contract for one more season and Revis for two more. Both will command huge money contracts and huge chunks of cap room in the future. Looking at the top to corner contracts on the market Revis is going to get over 45 million in the first three years of any extension he signs to exceed the Nnamdi Asomugha deal and is probably looking at something like 85 million over 6 years. Ferguson’s low end comparable is Jordan Gross, who received a six year 56.5 million dollar deal. Odds are Brick is looking at either five years for 60 million or six years for somewhere around 75 million. The guarantees for the two players would likely be around 40 million for Revis and 30 for Ferguson. Because the money is so huge it is likely that only one of these “Tier A” players will get a huge amount of money eliminated by taking advantage of the uncapped season. The second will likely get a good portion eliminated but will have to end up with the bonus structure in 2011. Because Ferguson will be a touch cheaper and usually a left tackle has a longer shelf life than a corner the Jets would probably be wise to frontload the Revis deal first and then worry about Brick. The team would probably look to knock off at least 45 million for Revis in the first two years if they took advantage of the rules and something like 35 million for Brick.
“Tier B” is C Nick Mangold and LB David Harris. Both are free agents after the 2010 season, but both are restricted. Mangold already has a salary of over 3 million in 2010 and is clearly the best center in the NFL. Rams center Jason Brown set the market with a five year 37.5 million dollar deal. Mangold will likely shatter that deal and most likely exceed the deal given teammate Alan Faneca. Figure six years for somewhere between 45 and 50 million with 22-24 million guaranteed. Its likely the Jets could handle getting rid of 25 million in those first two years and potentially more.
Harris looks to be a cornerstone of the defense and should not cost a fortune. He is not making much money now and plays a position where there are few really big money deals. What will Harris cost is tough to say. The Jets overpaid for Bart Scott, but it is not likely they will offer the same deal for Harris. Seahawk Lofa Tatupu, more accomplished than Harris when he signed his contract, received 38 million over six years. Saint Jon Vilma’s option was 34 million over 5 years. Other than Scott most top ILBs typically receive guarantees in the 14 million range, easily doable in the uncapped year,
“Tier C” would be players like WR Braylon Edwards, TE Dustin Keller, and RB Leon Washington. None of the three would be extended before the season began as all three would need to show something for at least a portion of the year. In the case of Edwards and to a lesser extent Keller the team might be afraid of paying too much money up front. Both positions, especially wide receiver, have a reputation for big money not equaling big results or effort on the field once those deals are signed. The team may feel a bit burned on the Kerry Rhodes deal and would not want to do the same here. Any money paid to Edwards would probably minimally lower later cap hits. Keller you would extend simply to lock him up for an extra 2 or 3 years at minimal cost. The Eagles do things like this with young players and Keller could get the same treatment. Washington, coming off surgery, could be easy to approach if he proves healed and effective. His cost is way down and it would be smart to be able to easily part ways with a RB in the future by paying him a few million up front in 2010.
I’d have to think the Jets will attempt to do the top four guys and will drastically reduce the cap charges for at least two players and most likely both Tier B guys and one of the big 2. None of the Tier C players should cost that much in 2010 to where their 2011 salaries could pose a problem, so all three could happen if they play well in 2010.
Ok so now we can spend some money on the guys we like, can we save big money by cutting the dead weight?
Obviously this is the big question directed at disappointing LB Vernon Gholston who is so bad can barely play special teams. He carries high cap figures and is a cap space waste going into the future. Other names that have been mentioned are Kerry Rhodes and Alan Faneca, Despite the reports being thrown out there, the should be no acceleration of signing bonus money prorations (the infamous “dead cap amounts”) which usually happens when a player is released. This is an area of much debate and discussion, but this seems to be the consensus. The future prorations remain on the cap accounting books as if the player is still on the team. What happens to that money in the future? Nobody knows. Maybe it all accelerates into 2011 if there is a new CBA. Maybe it remains on the books for every year the player was to be under contract. Maybe it just vanishes. Nobody will know the answer until a new CBA is agreed upon and the language of the CBA will have to specifically discuss the treatment of players released from multiyear contracts during the 2010 season, just like how special provisions were placed in the original framework of the current CBA to account for certain contracts signed before 1993. It does appear if a player is released after June 1, then all future prorations will all accelerate into 2011, though again that could mean nothing once a new deal is in place.
So the bottom line is all the talk of Gholston being off the books in 2010 if he is cut is wrong. What will accelerate into 2010 is future guaranteed salaries which would be paid to Gholston as soon as he is cut from the team. But the cap savings and cash payout for Gholston will be the same whether he is waived tomorrow, March 31st, August 31st or December 31st. That is why it is in the Jets best interest to at least see if there is anything there one last time next season. If there is not then they have to cut him before the end of 2010 to take advantage of the uncapped rules the best they can. If 2010 is uncapped and Gholston is released the Jets will cut about 7.5 million in his money off the accounting books. There would still be 3.14 million in dead money remaining on the books for 2011 and beyond. If Gholston is cut after the season his 2011 dead cap figure would be an astronomical 7.14 million. That is why it is imperative the Jets cut him before 2010 is over.
In the case of Rhodes the Jets would still have 5.64 million in question mark dead money in 2011 and beyond, the same amount as if he was released in 2011 and played next season. About the only reason to cut him would be if he was a locker room problem. Faneca would have 1.68 million left on the books. That is the same amount as if cut in 2011. They would be insane to cut him.