Getting Under the 2012 Salary Cap
Well it is that time of year again where I start to get emails with questions about the 2012 salary cap and what the Jets can and can not do.
Bent over at the Jets Blog wrote a very good article about the Jets salary cap situation, so rather than rehash a lot of that
Iím just going to play fantasy GM and go over some of the specific ways the Jets can likely create some money for the team in 2012 by tinkering with some of the current contracts and players.
It seems as if the NFL salary cap will not rise in 2012 meaning the Jets adjusted cap will be in the ballpark of $129.5 million once they carry over their 2011 cap room and take their $1.5 million cap credit. The Jets currently have 57 players under contract at an estimated cap of about $124 million, 6 free agents whose rights are controlled by the team, and 11 unrestricted free agents. We also need to account for rookies next year. My estimates say that for the first 4 rounds of the draft the Jets will need to account for about $3.37 million in cap charges. Assumer another $1.5 million on top of that for 5-7 and whatever compensatory picks they receive and we need around $4.8 million in room just to sign rookies. The Jets will likely re-sign both ERFAs and tender 2 RFAs. That will cost the team $1.26 million per RFA and about $1.8 million for the ERFAís. With the exception of NT Sione Pouha no free agent should count more than $605K against the cap as each is no better than a minimum salary player. Maybe the Jets bring back 6 of them, including RFA Marquice Cole at the same number. So thatís $3.6 million and Pouha should be around $3 million if he is brought back. I also think its highly likely that Dustin Keller will receive a $3 million or so raise in the final year of his deal .
Though I think the Jets might add a mid-level veteran safety and right tackle/left guard, I donít see them being too active in free agency otherwise. So Iíd imagine what we are looking at here is the ability to bring our salary cap number down by about $15-20 million in order to re-sign who we want to re-sign and to be somewhat active in free agency. The Jets 2013 cap commitments look to realistically be $90 million for 25 players (not including our rookies we draft this year and next) once we start trimming the obvious fat from the roster so I think we can push a good deal of money into 2013 and be fine cap wise.
Now because of the NFL lockout, a number of contracts were signed in mid July meaning the Jets cant renegotiate those deals and increase the salary over the original terms of the contract until July of 2012 which does the Jets no good for free agency. The only contract I see that effecting will be David Harrisí as it could make it difficult to add another year onto the end of it to spread out the cap charges, but I guess it could be a factor of sorts.
Wayne Hunter- I just can not see any possible way for Hunter to be back on the team. Even from a PR standpoint it would be a nightmare. He was awful last season, the running game fell apart, and he gave up a huge amount of pressures on the QB.
Cap Savings: $2.5 million
Eric Smith- Iím certainly not a fan and Smith gives up so many big plays, but I think the bigger problem is that he is just not a starting player in the NFL. He has tremendous value as a special teams player and may be an ok rotational guy. He has a cap hit of $2.05 million which is too high. I donít see Smith with any value as a free agent meaning the Jets can threaten with release if he does not take a paycut. We all saw this scene play out on Hard Knocks two years ago with Kellen Clemens, albeit in a somewhat made for TV way. Smith can be paid $765K next season and only count towards $605K against the cap Itís a paycut of $1.285 million, but I doubt he has other options. If he balks you cut him.
Cap Savings: $1.445 million.
DíBrickashaw Ferguson- Ferguson is coming off a bad season, but he is clearly in the teams long term plans. Fergsuon carries a high cap charge of $11.65 million in 2012 $8.91 million in 2013, and $8.61 in 2014. His salary is guaranteed in 2012 and 2013, but no guarantees remain beyond that and the cost to release him in minimal. To me that means the Jets have two options. One is that they can defer base salary to the 2014 league year and guarantee a larger portion of it. Iím not sure if I like that option since it limits your flexibility in the event he plays poorly the next two seasons and also sticks the Jets with a huge cap hit in 2014. The other would be to prorate more money by converting some of his base salary into a signing bonus. If you convert $5 million of his base salary into a bonus the Jets will save now and only add an extra $1 million per year charge onto his 2013-2016 seasons. Left tackles generally have a long life and he would have cap charges under $10 million a year until 2016 at which point he could be released with just $1.6 million in dead cap charges. 2017 remains a dummy year in the contract. I think this is a clear winning option for the Jets and they could even do a bit more if needed.
Cap Savings: $4 million.
Mark Sanchez- Sanchez is set to earn $11.75 million in cash from the Jets this season despite the general poor play he has given them. Now the Jets did make a small move with his deal last year so its possible, though unlikely, they brought his 2012 cap number down but my assumption is that they did not. At this point there is no justification that the Jets can give for extending him to lower his cap charges so he has to take a paycut to stay on the team. Sanchez had a very interesting deal in that he carried extremely high cap charges in the meat of his contract and a low cap charge at the end of it. If the Jets were to cut him they would save over $9 million in cap room so the team has all the leverage it needs if they want to force a paycut. Though the potential is there, Sanchez is not going to earn huge money on the open market so I think his side would be willing to move money into 2013, most likely as an offseason roster bonus that will force the Jets to pay him early, extend him, or let him find a new home. It is similar to what the team did with Vernon Gholston the other year. The Jets may look to push Sanchez and maybe the way to do it is with the promise of money rather than a guaranteed paycheck. It could be a situation where they have to pay some of it in the form of a bonus for added job security in 2013. Iíll run with that idea as a worst case scenario and say the Jets fully guarantee his $2.75 million roster bonus to convert it into a signing bonus and push $3 million of his base salary into 2013, probably payable as a roster bonus on the 2nd day of the league year, conditionally guaranteed based on being on the roster in February. Under that scenario his 2013 figure rises from $8 to about $12.4 million with the dead money charge increasing from $2.5 to $3.9 million. Both numbers are reasonable allowing the Jets to go in whatever direction they want.
Cap Savings: $4.375 million
Antonio Cromartie- I think at this point you realize that you are stuck with Cromartie because Kyle Wilson looks unlikely to grow into the role, so you probably are going to just be working with him every year on cap relief. Cromartie has a $3 million roster bonus due in early March and it probably pays for the Jets to convert that into a signing bonus. That does bring his 2013 and 2014 cap charges up to $11.75 million, but I think you simply wait to see how 2012 plays out and worry about what to do with the 2013 cap charge based on how he plays this year. If he plays great maybe increase the length of the deal by a season to reduce that 2013 charge. If not you get stuck with an extra $1 million in 2014 dead money. To me that is not a big deal.
Cap Savings: $2 million
Santonio Holmes- To me this is a very difficult situation. I think Holmes likely has to return in 2012. The trade market is probably soft for him and the Jets need a potential home run hitter with the offense they are going to run next year. There definitely is a relationship that needs to be repaired here and I think one of the ways you can do that is by making more of a financial commitment to Holmes, which can come from fronting him some money in a bonus. Itís basically telling the player we do not want to have the option to trade you anymore. We want you here with us. There are plenty of negatives associated with that option as well, but I think itís something they have to do, unless they do plan on releasing him. Now this is a tricky contract to navigate. Holmes carries a $12.5 million cap hit in 2013 and the Jets can not afford to let that number rise. They also need to have at least a little wiggle room to try to escape by 2014 if he does indeed bust on the deal. So I donít think this is just a cut and dry move where you cut off say $5 million in his 2012 salary and prorate it.
My main criteria is that I donít want his dead money in 2014 to exceed $5 million. To me that is the maximum amount I want to absorb in the worst case scenario that he is a disaster and you just begin counting down the days to a cut by the end of 2012. I also do not want his 2013 cap figure to rise. What I am going to do is reduce his 2012 salary by $3.75 million and 2013 salary by $1.25 million and give that money to him in the form of a salary advance in 2012. I am also reducing his guaranteed 2013 base by the $1.25 million. This actually pays Santonio more this year than expected but keeps his 3 year payout the same, which is all that is important. By advancing the 2013 salary his cap hit in 2013 remains $12.5 million. His dead money charge would increase in 2013 by $2.75 million once you balance out the lower guarantee with additional prorated salary, but his cash and cap charge was so high that it was unlikely he would be released anyway. I now get my $5 million and $2.5 million in dead money at the end of the deal, which gives me options for pay reductions or outright release in those years. New cap charges would be $12 million and $10.5 million at the end, but those will likely never be seen anyway.
Cap Savings: $2.5 million
Im not touching the deal of Darrelle Revis. The corner market is not going to get larger and if anything going to shrink. The team has already paid Revis mega-dollars to stop his holdout and in year 2 they finished 8-8. I see no reason to extend him now. His cap charge the next two years is very manageable and I will worry about extending him at some point in 2013 or right after the 2013 season. Brandon Moore carries a $4.46 million cap charge, but there is limited relief you can get from that unless you extend him. Moore will be 32 next season and I donít think I want to extend a 32 year old guard. Moore has alot of miles on his tires, never having missed a game since 2005, and I think you chalk this one up as a good contract at a good cap figure and part ways after the year.
Iím also not getting involved with Bart Scott or Calvin Pace again. Pace had a great start to the year and tailed off towards the end. Some of his comments about the Giants game bother me a little but I donít want to chance his dead money rising next year. I might consider cutting Bart Scott towards the end of the preseason despite the large guaranteed salary. I canít see him accepting a paycut so I think you just wait to see what you have with him in camp and decide if he needs to stay or go. By cutting him post June 1 you donít really affect this years cap and itís the same as cutting him next season from a cap perspective. If someone picks him up you might earn some money back in cap credits and I think there is a better chance of seeing him picked up week 2 of the 2012 season by another team than going through an entire camp with a team and having his salary guaranteed by being on the week 1 roster. Once two teams give up on you in the same year you are finished and for cap purposes I want another team to pay some of his salary.
I may consider a trade for Dustin Keller depending on what kind of offense we are running. In working over some details on a Keller valuation I think he is in line for a big year if they pass the ball, something crazy like 70-80 receptions, based on the typical career progression of tight ends over the last 10 years. So I may want to keep him just for that, but I donít want to extend him either. The progression would indicate an exceptional year 5 and year 6 before trailing off. I donít want to pay for those trail off seasons and to be honest Iím not convinced he can even be that kind of player as I watch how inconsistent he is week to week for the Jets. Probably best to let it play out and assume you will get a 3rd as a compensatory pick if he has the big year. If someone offers you more, and I donít think they will, I would take it now and deal with the short term consequences, but Iím not going to fool with his cap charge this year.
That said these are guys you can probably work with if the right free agent pops up and it is someone the team just needs to have, but ideally I think you leave them all alone.
Those proposed moves chop $16.82 million off the 2012 salary cap. They only add $6.4 million to the 2013 cap, which is offset by the $7 million you lose by getting rid of the back end of the Hunter and Smith contracts(though those were going to disappear regardless so Iím not sure if Id really consider that as a real offset). That should give the Jets more than enough cap space to get whatever pieces they want and hopefully make a run at the playoffs again. As more details emerge in the coming months on the player contracts Ill do my best to keep everyone aware of changes that have occurred.