A Look Back at the Jets 2011 Contracts
With the hurricane pretty much locking all of us in for the next day I thought it might be a good time to review exactly what the Jets did and did not do in free agency. Much has been made of the money the Jets have spent on players and where they stand with the salary cap. While I do not have an official number the Jets should be around 8.5 to 9 million under the cap when the season actually begins. Some of that money will be used to cover for injuries and make some in season signings, but the majority of the money will be carried over to 2012 and added onto the salary cap. The Jets also have $1.5 million in credits that they will likely take from the NFL. So before anyone gets worked up over what are some high contractual commitments on the books in 2012, the Jets will end up at least $7 million under the cap when free agency begins next year and that assumes that the cap doesn't increase 1 penny and that the Jets make no offseason moves. Onto the players:
Holmes was the Jets top offseason priority and they locked him up fast. Holmes was originally reported to have received a much bigger contract that he actually received. The contract was actually for $9 million a year, very close to my estimates from a few months ago and firmly places Holmes as a top 10 player at the position. It is an interesting deal due to the fact that Holmes received such little money in the form of a signing bonus. The cap charges are relatively manageable except for when Holmes cap charge balloons to $12.5 million in 2013 with $11 million in cash salary of which $7.5 million is fully guaranteed. This gives the Jets a number of options with Holmes that year to either spread money out if he is playing really well or potentially ask him to take a pay cut if he is not playing up to expectation levels. The low signing bonus essentially means Holmes 4th and 5th years of the contract have no chance of being earned is he isn't playing at a high level. Cutting him in 2014 only incurs a $2.5 million cap charge, while Holmes would be scheduled to earn $9.5 million. So the 2013 high cap figure is probably nothing more than an on paper number for now and in no way should hamper the Jets in the future.
Some people have pointed out how Larry Fitzgerald's new contract, which is essentially QB money for a wideout, is going to upset Holmes in the future. With the Revis holdout still fresh in everyones mind, the feeling is Holmes will pull a Revis soon. Even if those are Holmes feelings the difference here is that Holmes is being paid right around the top 5 in the NFL. Will Fitzgerald's contract up the market? Absolutely, but who are the receivers who will surpass Holmes? Most of the big names are under contract for years including Roddy White and Andre Johnson. Calvin Johnson already earns more so his new deal will have no bearing on Holmes. Greg Jennings will jump Holmes, but guys like Dwayne Bowe likely will not. Even if they did, Holmes is still going to be in the top 10 at the position through the end of his contract. There is really no leg to stand on unless he is catching 1500 yards a year. If that happens he would have held out regardless of the new market set by the Fitzgerald deal.
This was the one deal the Jets have done in recent years that I was way off the mark on. Harris was already signed to a 1 year fully guaranteed contract, so the actual extension here is 3 years for $25.9 million and a whopping $19.3 million in guarantees. Still, despite the bigger money reports, Harris' deal did not come out to be anywhere near the Pat Willis or Jon Beason numbers. Because the length of the contract is so short the real metric to look at here is the new money being paid out, which is slightly less than what DeMeco Ryans, Karlos Dansby, or Bart Scott were set to earn on their deals. So in that respect the deal isn't as far off as I originally thought.
Harris' agent claimed the Jets were interested in a longer deal but they wanted the shorter deal. Harris' contract is going to carry extremely high cap charges of $12 and $13 million in 2012 and 2013, so this may be a deal the Jets revisit as early as next summer. Harris is only set to earn $5 million in 2014 so there is a spot to throw some 2012 and 2013 money for cap relief by guaranteeing it in the future. The Jets may also just look to extend him further by bringing the annual value of the deal closer to that of the elite linebacker grouping.
Once the Jets lost out on Nnamdi Asomugha they went quickly to re-sign Cromartie. The Jets signed Cromartie to a short deal, which was probably a wise move since he will likely quickly lose value as he gets older and begins to lose some of his athleticism. Like Holmes, Cromartie received a relatively small signing bonus compared to the size of the contract. It's also heavily backloaded with $9.5 million coming in the last year of the deal, so the real contract is 3 years for $22.5 million, which is pretty good value for an above average corner. 2013 is the only season with a cap charge that is difficult. Cromartie is guaranteed to earn $4.7 million in 2013 with a cap charge of $10.75 million. If the Jets were to cut him he would count as $7.2 million in dead money against the cap, meaning a net savings of over $3.5 million. Cromartie's unguaranteed money that season is $4.8 million. It gives the Jets a near perfect scenario to ask Cromartie to take a pay cut to balance out the savings they would realize by cutting him. Unless he is significantly better than he is now, a $2.5 million paycut is completely reasonable and brings his cap charge down to the $8.25 million range.
Wayne Hunter and Eric Smith
I lumped these two together because neither is a large contract, but both are good illustrations of smart ways to lock up players that could become big contributors. It is a similar strategy that the Jets used with Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito a few years back, by locking them up at low costs and low penalties for cutting them. Neither Hunter nor Smith received a signing bonus on their deals making the total values of the deal essentially meaningless. The Jets guaranteed the first two years of the Hunter contract indicating that they have every intention of making him the starting right tackle for the near future and was likely necessary to keep him from signing elsewhere. So this is a 2 year $5 million deal, a bargain if he ends up being a starter these next two years, which helps offset the higher cost of the left tackle and center. If he plays well enough he could earn the final two years of the contract, which average $3.5 million a season, which are a bargain if he really nails down that starter position, but most likely the Jets will be in the market for a new right tackle in 2013 via the draft.
Smith's contract contains no firm guarantees past 2011, so this gives the Jets a good chance to get one more look at Smith before turning elsewhere. I've certainly been critical of Smith in the past, but with cap charges no higher than $2 million in the next two years and no cap penalty for a release, it is a solid signing to fill up the roster. With Jim Leonhard set to become a free agent after the year the Jets will have a decision to make as to whether or not they re-sign Leonhard or stick with Smith. I believe the team knows that the Safety position does need an upgrade with more of a playmaking potential but with so much money invested at corner they can't go out in free agency for a big name player. Most likely they will be looking in the draft, which no longer contains the same financial penalties that the old system often had. The Jets will pair one of their veterans with a young player in the future and this gives the team the flexibility they need to essentially make a free decision as to which veteran to use next year.
Bart Scott and Calvin Pace
These were the two big restructures the Jets made to give the team more flexibility in both 2011 and 2012. Both players took larger than reported paycuts in return for guaranteed money. Neither player was really in danger of being cut, but the Jets could at least put forth the argument that both could be released in 2012. What the team did was give the players an option of taking a paycut in both 2011 and 2012 and in return the Jets would fully guarantee their salaries in 2011 and 2012. This shows why guaranteed money in an NFL contract is by far the most important thing to a player and our often willing to take a little less money if you guarantee the remaining amounts of the deal.
Pace reduced his cap charge by $1 million in both 2011 and 2012 and, considering it would have been very difficult to cut him next year, it's a big savings for the team. The contract is now structured in a way to make certain Pace is cut from the team or extended by the team in 2013.
Scott took an even bigger paycut which is somewhat surprising since he is such an important player in the Jets defense, however the Jets have significantly more leverage with Scott. The team seems to have maintained a tremendous relationship with Scott and his agent as they have reworked his deal twice since Scott signed with the Jets in 2009 in order to best utilize the salary cap. Through some great cap maneuvering the Jets only had $3 million in dead cap money in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013 for Scott, a really low amount for someone who was essentially a market setter at the position a few years ago. Scott gave up $1 million in 2011 and $1.4 million in 2012 and in return received $8.1 million in guarantees over the next two years. Nothing in the renegotiation will sway the Jets decision to release him as his cap charges and dead money charges in 2013 and 2014 remain exactly the same as they did prior to the renegotiation. Player Losses
Some have speculated that the Jets ran out of money for certain players or run at Asomugha cost that certain players, but it's likely not true. WR Brad Smith, who was little more than a kick returner on a team that churns out pro bowl kick returners left and right, received a 4 year deal from the Bills worth just under $15 million. Only $4.75 million is guaranteed and he could be cut next year with only a $1.5 million penalty, so clearly this was not the Jets being forced to wait by Asomugha despite what was being reported. The Bills just valued Smith more than the Jets and Smith will get an opportunity to do more in Buffalo than he could in New York…WR Jerricho Cotchery no longer figured into the plans here, but I think the Jets believed he would be willing to play for the minimum or close to it this season. In hindsight, if Cotchery was really expressing his desire to leave back in February the Jets made a mistake not cutting him as it cost them precious cap room by waiting until the year was underway. The Jets were correct in valuing him the way they did and he seemed to garner almost no interest around the NFL, but he just seemed insulted by everything the Jets did the last two years. He ended up signing for the minimum salary in Pittsburgh, no different than what the Jets were going to give him….WR Braylon Edwards had a limited market and signed for next to nothing in San Francisco, hoping to garner some attention under Jim Harbaugh and see the market increase when the new deals were signed, two things he needs to get the money he wants….DE Shaun Ellis was a part time player for the Jets and the team looked at him as a minimum type player. New England offered him $4 million. While the Jets certainly could have fit him under the cap in 2011 at the same figure, that money is better utilized in 2012 that for a part time player that fans wanted to see finish his career as a J