Is 2013's Salary Cap Driving the Jets 2012 Decisions? Tweet
We all know that the Jets are in a tough position financially in 2013. As of Wednesday, the Jets only had 39 players under contract of which 3 are
guaranteed cuts, so let’s call it 36 players. The Jets will likely enter 2013, after those moves and carrying over their remaining 2012 cap room, with about
$11 million to spend on those 17 players needed to reach the 53 man roster. They have plenty of other moves that can be made for more financial flexibility,
but you get the idea. It looks to be tight barring a big trade of someone like David Harris or Santonio Holmes.
I admit I’ve been puzzled as to some of the decisions that the Jets have made with personnel this season. It really seems to be the first time I have seen the Jets making moves that appear to be guided, in part, by salary considerations. Now let me just say that some of the things I will talk about here are, to the best of my knowledge correct. However, I want to preface this by saying that things do change all the time in the NFL and if anyone reading this wants to correct something please email me and I’ll fix any errors as long as you can verify the data. I just want it out there up front that this may not be 100% correct in terms of financial implication for the team.
The small ones deal with players who have contracts that call for escalated salaries in 2013 if they reach certain playing time thresholds. If you see players entering their final contract year in 2013 seemingly vanish from the rotation in 2012 odds are it is to save a few hundred thousand in roster money next year or the hassle of guaranteeing them money to have them bring the number back down.
After years of talking about the importance of continuity on an offensive line the Jets have moved into this strange rotation on the offensive line. It is one where they rotate their left guard every third series. Im not sure I can recall too many NFL teams that use a rotation on the line. Usually the starters play all the snaps unless they are injured or ineffective and benched. The Jets clearly made a play in the offseason to push Matt Slauson to take a paycut in return for a guaranteed salary and the starting job which he agreed to. Slauson remains the starter but loses about 30% of the snaps to Vlad Ducasse.
Ducasse has a bonus in his contract that increases his 2013 salary cap figure by $410,000 if he plays in 45% of the snaps this season. If Ducasse fails to earn this year that bonus vanishes, with $410,000 of his 2013 salary remaining guaranteed as protection for the player. The Jets save $410,000 in both cash and cap with this rotational system. Yes it’s a small amount but when you look at some of the moves the Jets have made this past year to free up smalls sums of money (Slauson, Mike DeVito), clearly it is in their playbook. In addition the Jets starting RG Brandon Moore is a free agent. So is Matt Slauson. As an older veteran that seems to be declining it would be unlikely to see Moore remain with a team that looks ready to rebuild. Slauson’s value is driven down on the open market by the fact that he is not an entrenched starter. It gives the Jets an opportunity to bring him back at a low cost with minimal guarantees and probably plug him at the RG position. Slauson isn’t great but he is a capable player for a one or two year period.
But the big one is Tim Tebow. Again I want to mention here that the information I have on Tebow is from his prior contract with Denver which I assume rolled over with the Jets, but I do not know for a fact if this is the case. So take this as a possibility and not 100% accurate.
Everyone is puzzled by the fact that Tebow never plays for the Jets. The starting QB the Jets have is terrible. There is no way to sugarcoat the performances no matter how much Rex Ryan tries to in every postgame press conference. In the games where the Jets have been blown away it was shocking that the team didn’t put in Tebow in mop up duty just to get a look at the player. With the exception of rookies taking their lumps almost no starting QB, except for the superstars, would have remained in the games against the San Francisco 49’ers or Miami Dolphins. In the summer Rex Ryan talked about playing Tebow 25% of the teams snaps. Thus far he has been in 10.1% and the number is falling.
Tebow is one of the last remaining players that should be playing under the old CBA rookie contract structure. Under the old CBA 1st round draft picks often had low base value deals to comply with CBA rules with easily attainable escalators based on playing time. For instance Dustin Keller this year saw his salary increase to $3.052 million as he entered the final year of his deal. As a QB drafted in the 1st round those incentives are increased dramatically. Tebow’s rookie contract had a base value of $9.7125 million with an easily achievable value of $11.125 million based on reaching the standard playing time escalators of either 35% as a rookie or 45% any year thereafter. He unlocked that in 2011 when he played in about 76% of the Broncos offensive snaps. As a first round QB he had the potential to turn the contract into a $33 million dollar deal through incentives that would only be realized if he turned out to be the next John Elway. The more realistic number was that the contract would be worth $22.5 million if he developed into a starting QB.
The additional $11.25 million, if earned, would be added onto the backend of Tebow’s 5 year contract in 2013 and 2014. He had two avenues to earn the escalators. If he played in 55% of the snaps in two of his first three seasons (2010-2012) he would earn an additional $5 million in 2013 and $6.25 million in 2014. If he plays in 70% of the snaps in 2013 he earns the full payment in 2014.
Tebow’s current cap number in 2013 is $2,586,875 which includes a guaranteed payment of $1,531,875 that goes to the Denver Broncos as part of the terms of the trade. If Tebow was to earn that escalator his cap charge would balloon to $7,586,875. That is a number the Jets cant handle next season, considering they owe Sanchez $8.25 million guaranteed next year and a cap charge of over $12.8 million. 2014 is not an issue for the Jets but clearly 2013 is and maybe that is playing a role in the management of Tebow’s snaps.
Over the summer the Jets proclaimed they were going to use Tebow close to 20 snaps per game which is about 25% of the teams offensive plays, specifically in the red zone. The Jets have played 546 offensive snaps through 8 weeks. If the Jets had played Tebow as advertised and continued at that pace the most they would likely be able to start him is the last 5 games to safely avoid the bonus. Had they used him in those blowout games early in the year you would be looking at is 4. With his current snap count and snap averages they should be able to get 7 starts out of him and miss the bonus payment. . Had they made move earlier to start they would be completely stuck with he and Sanchez eating up $20 million in cap room in 2013. If the escalators are a real possibility it at least may explain why the Jets don’t use him at all unless they really see him as that bad of a player in practice, which is why Denver coach John Fox used to say about his views on Tebow.
From Tebow’s side you have to be furious if this is the case and they are managing his potential earnings this way. Had Tebow chosen Jacksonville he clearly would be the starter. Not only is Blaine Gabbert often injured but when healthy he is completely ineffective. There would be no doubt that Tebow would be the starter and be earning the maximum realistic value on his contract. If Tebow is going to remain on the Jets I have a gut feeling that there had to be some assurance, especially the way the season has transpired, that Tebow will get every opportunity to start in 2013 and earn his money as his original contract stated.
Maybe it’s an Oliver Stone conspiracy on my part, but I think he is blocked for another game or two because of the concerns about the teams finances and the need to protect their cap in the event the owner puts his foot down and demands the switch to be made. Between Tebow’s potential salary and sunk costs in Sanchez there is a lot more going on than the negatives of Sanchez’ stats and “belief in Mark” by the head coach as the reasons for why the Jets are doing things the way they are. I just hope in 2013 the team is back to being run the way they were in the years leading up to 2012 where players played on merit and decisions were made to evaluate for the future when things went south. I truly believe that the Jets can navigate their “financial crisis” next year without issue, but something this year just does not sit right with me at all.