As we head into the new league year, we've been looking at some of the decisions facing the Jets next month.
As we recently established, the Jets have a lot of unrestricted free agents, but perusing the list enables us to identify six players that could be considered key players. These would essentially be regular starters that would leave a hole if they weren't re-signed.
Some of the other guys will be useful to bring back too, but in each case would probably cost less than $5 million per season and often the minimum or thereabouts.
With the Jets currently projected to have just under $50 million of cap space, you could be forgiven for thinking that bringing back these players might wipe out most of that money. With Anderson hoping to earn close to $15 million per year, Jenkins and Beachum potentially due to get around $10 million per year and Poole, Lewis and Shell perhaps in the $6-8 million range, that seems to add up pretty quickly.
However, it's not as bad as it seems. With a standard signing bonus structure, the above contracts would only have a year one cap hit of around $5 million each. Also, you'd save about $3 million because of the rule of 51. Ultimately, signing all six will still leave about half of that $25 million available.
In addition, the $50 million in cap space is before taking into account any potential cuts. Cutting Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts would save about $8 million. Cutting Josh Bellamy, Jonotthan Harrison, Matthias Farley, Blake Countess and Nate Hairston would save another $6 million. Cutting Avery Williamson and Brian Winters would save another $13 million. And that's before you consider trading Le'Veon Bell to save another $9 million. We're not suggesting they'll do all this, but it does underline the amount of flexibility they have.
So, the good news is that the Jets have a chance to address these holes with re-signings but should still have plenty of money left over to bring in some much-needed upgrades.
If all the Jets could afford to do is bring back or replace their key free agents, that would be a depressing outlook because they'd essentially be bringing back the same team or banking on the replacements they signed to outproduce their predecessor.
While offensive continuity and a regression to the mean in terms of injury should enable the team to perform more consistently next year, the team seems unlikely to go anywhere without some key upgrades, so it's reassuring to know they have the flexibility to make this happen.