Creating More Cap Space in 2008
Here is a question that seems to be popping up alongside the excitement about Brett Favre every now and again: Just where does the Favre signing leave us capwise and what does that mean for the team? Signing Favre has pretty much eaten away at the teams cap space for as long as they decide to keep him on the team or he decides to continue as quarterback of the New York Jets. The Jets have no wiggle room in 2008 and even less in 2009 as the team is committed to paying Favre 25 million dollars over those two years. Provided the NFL comes to some agreement with the Players Association before the 2010 season, our team is going to have to fine cap room to resign Nick Mangold and extend DíBrickashaw Ferguson and with Favre here that would be tough, but who knows what Favre will want to do 3 months from now, let alone 3 years from now. So letís just concern ourselves with 2008 and take a quick glance at 2009.
With the injury to Brad Kassell the team is now effectively somewhere between 150 and 400 thousand in cap space for 2008 once September rolls around. With injuries to AJ Schable and Clint Oldenburg itís likely that weíll be in the negative territory soon. While the preseason only counts the top 51 active players towards the cap, the regular season number consists of all active players, practice squad players, and players stashed on the injured reserve and the physically unable top perform list. Itís obvious that we have to cut or restructure a player or two in the current top 51 just to comply with the number when the season opens. With an eye peeking at 2009, it would be a huge help for the Jets if they could have some extra room created in 2008 to push into 2009.
So who are the potential releases or restructures?
1 David Barrett- Barrett is an ok player that has been grossly overpaid as a member of the Jets. Heís not a starter for the team and could find himself buried on the depth chart. While he is a capable player, capable players can not count for 4.4 and 4.5 million the next two years against the cap. Barrett is the 8th highest paid Jet this season and would be right outside the top 10 next year. That just canít happen. By cutting Barrett now the Jets would free up 3.6 million in 2008 and 3.7 million next year, which is a tremendous amount of money.
Barrett has never restructured his deal with the Jets, which is somewhat surprising since the Jets reworked so many players under Tannenbaum. Either he refuses to do it or the Jets are leery of extending him longer. He can definitely get a job elsewhere in the NFL and with more playing time, so he has that position to help his cause. Either way he canít be in the teams future at that salary.
2. Cody Spencer- Spencer is a hard worker and the team likes him on special teams, but he makes 750 thousand, almost all of which is base salary in 2008. Spencer rarely if ever will see the field during the regular season on first, second, or third down. While special teams are important, the addition of Favre has to shift the Jets philosophy away from special teamers like Spencer and more on everydown contributors.
3. Matt Chatham- Chatham was one of Manginiís first signings and the former Patriot was met with open arms by Jets fans. People envisioned him having a chance to start and assumed he would repay Manginiís faith in him by becoming a standout linebacker known for a ďnever say dieĒ attitude. Over 2 years later and Chatham canít even crack a linebacker rotation. He is strictly a special teams guy and that is it. Maybe Kassellís injury gives Chatham more of a chance to stick around, but odds are Mangini will have to make a tough choice can cut one of his guys. He had to do it last summer with Tim Dwight and it must happen again. He doesnít fit into the teams future plans since he is a free agent after this year and, to be honest, barely fits into the present. Cutting Chatham saves the team 730K this season.
4. Eric Barton- Barton, like Barrett, is another one who surprisingly never restructured his deal despite making a good chunk of change the last few years. Barton, however, is a starter and nobody has been able to replace him these last two years. I doubt he will be cut as the injury to Kassell leaves the Jets extremely thin at the ILB position and they would be barren if Barton was released. But he could be asked to restructure his deal. Barton is a free agent after the season and the Jets have to decide if they want him back and he has to decide if he wants to be here. If both sides want to continue the relationship itís in the teams best interest to tear up his deal and extend him for another 3 years, pushing his contract into 2010. Barton counts for 4.1 million in 2008 and a simple restructure could probably bring him down to a ballpark of 2.5 million.
5/6. Bubba Franks/Jason Pociask- Franks may have saved his job by immediately becoming Brett Favreís playbook translator the other night in Cleveland. The Jets want to make Favre feel comfortable and Franks is really the only familiar face he would know in the locker room. Franks, after a nice showing in OTAs in June, has been unimpressive in camp. He has had problems dropping passes and one has to question what is left in the tank. With Chris Baker back in the fold and no longer complaining about a contract the Jets could be presented with the option of saving 730K for Bubba Franks. If not the likely casualty would be 4th TE Jason Pociask, which would save the team 445K in 2008. Pociask is another guy who the coach really likes, but can the team really carry 4 tight ends, 5 if you count long snapper James Dearth? Doubtful.
7. Wayne Hunter- Hunter has been an NFL disappointment since being drafted by Seattle a few years ago and he was hoping to catch on as a reserve tackle with the Jets this year. Favreís signing severely limits his chances as he is the only lineman competing for a backup spot that makes more than $370,000. The Jets can save 520K by cutting him and replacing him with someone making close to 300K. It would be surprising if he survived the first set of cuts in a few weeks.
8/9. Jesse Chatman/Musa Smith- It was probably unlikely Chatman made the squad, but Favreís signing should seal the deal. With Leon Washington having a terrific camp and the offense transitioning at the very least from a run first to a balanced attack there will be less spots for runners on the team to fill. At the most the team will keep 4 and Jehuu Caulcrick makes alot more sense at 295K than either of these two do at 445K each.
10/11. Brad Smith/Wallace Wright- The experiment is likely over at this stage for Smith. The Jets are not going to bring him in at QB to replace Brett Favre for a gimmick play. They arenít running the option. They arenít going to have him keep learning on the fly with Favre at the QB spot. Smith is being passed over on the depth charts by both Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney in camp and come September is going to only be a special teams player playing in coverage. Wright just canít pass anyone on the depth chart as a receiver and is strictly a special teams player. There is room for one of these two players on the team, but probably not both as they will each be expected to have the same role---gun down the field and down the ball inside the 10. Smith probably has the inside track to remain as he is on the roster in 2009 while Wright is no longer under contract past this season. Each would lead to the team receiving 445K cap relief this season.
12. Kellen Clemens- Maybe it doesnt seem likely, but the Jets could look to cut ties with Kellen Clemens. Clemens has not developed the way the team has hoped and his failure to nail down a starting job has made him somewhat irrelevant. Clemens would be due a hefty raise in 2009 if he remains on the team and the Jets cant afford to pay a backup that kind of money. With Brett Ratliff having an outstanding camp and 5th round draft pick Eric Ainge seemingly waiting in the wings, Clemens importance seems to be lessening by the day. If the team feels confident that Ratliff could handle a few snaps Clemens would become expendable and could follow the same path that Charlie Frye followed last season when he was replaced as a starter in Clevland and promptly traded to Seattle. Cutting Clemens would save the team 445K in 2008.
The bottom line is the Jets will likely be looking to create somewhere between 5 and 7 million in cap space these next few weeks. That will give them the flexibility to perhaps spread out the cap hit of Calvin Pace, extend Mike Nugent or Justin Miller early, or simply push some extra cap money into 2009 when the Jets really need it. Cutting Barrett, Spencer, and Chatham immediately gives the team nearly 5 million to play with. That is a lot of breathing room. Moving another 1.5 to 2 million shouldnít be too tough.