Throughout the 2015 NFL season, Pro Football Rumors has been looking ahead to the 2016 offseason, gauging the salary cap situation for a number of teams with significant cap charges for next season. The cap for 2016 hasn’t been set yet, but we can still assess the salary commitments made by a club and determine whether or not that club will be in good financial shape going forward.
In addition to evaluating each team’s overall cap situation, we’ll focus in on a few key players who may be candidates to be extended, restructured, or released by their current teams. These lists aren’t comprehensive, and the names in each category are fluid, depending how the season finishes and how a team’s offseason plays out,. For now though, these are some players to watch.
Using data from Over The Cap, we’re making our way through NFL teams in order of total salary commitments for 2016. Today’s team is the New York Jets, who currently have the ninth-highest total for their ’16 cap.
Let’s dive in….
Top 10 cap hits for 2016:
- Darrelle Revis, CB: $17,000,000
- D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT: $14,107,000
- Brandon Marshall, WR: $9,500,000
- Nick Mangold, C: $8,600,000
- Antonio Cromartie, CB: $8,000,000
- Eric Decker, WR: $8,000,000
- Buster Skrine, CB: $7,750,000
- David Harris, ILB: $7,500,000
- Marcus Gilchrist, S: $5,626,000
- James Carpenter, G: $5,575,000
Current 2016 cap number for top 51 players: $135,814,960
Most teams have at least one cornerback among their top 10 cap hits, and many teams have two, but there aren’t many that have three. The Jets’ three cornerbacks here, who each fall within the team’s top seven 2016 cap hits, were all free agent signings in 2015.
Although new GM Mike Maccagnan‘s moves were generally lauded at the time, you could make the case that the club’s spending spree on secondary pieces was just as questionable an approach as John Idzik opting for the opposite extreme a year earlier, when he didn’t spend on cornerback help at all. As such, it’s not a surprise that Revis, Cromartie, and Skrine all show up on our list of players whose contracts could be addressed this offseason.
Candidates for extension:
Among the Jets’ highest-paid players, there aren’t many that aren’t locked up through at least the 2017 season, so genuine extension candidates are few and far between. Richardson qualifies, but there are a number of reasons why the team may want to put off a long-term deal for another year.
For one, as a former first-round pick, Richardson has a fifth-year option on his contract, meaning the Jets can extend his rookie deal by a year, securing him through 2017, without any real risk. That gives the club some breathing room to further assess Richardson’s off-field behavior — after his court hearing this winter, the 25-year-old may be facing another suspension from the NFL, so the Jets will have to be fairly confident that Richardson can stay out of trouble off the field before investing big money in him.
Candidates for restructure:
- Eric Decker, WR
- Nick Mangold, C
- Brandon Marshall, WR
- Darrelle Revis, CB
- Buster Skrine, CB
The Jets have cleverly structured many of their bigger contracts, committing more heavily to base salaries rather than signing bonuses. That gives the team the flexibility to rework certain deals without taking on much future dead money. Marshall, for example, currently has no dead money on his contract. If New York wants to create some cap space for 2016, the club could do so by converting a chunk of Marshall’s salary for next year into a signing bonus. Then, if things go wrong in ’16, the Jets could still cut him without sacrificing a ton of 2017 cap room.
While Mangold’s contract is structured similarly to Marshall’s, Revis’s is a little different if only because there’s still so much guaranteed money left on it. With a $17MM cap hit in 2016 though, followed by charges of $15.333MM (2017), $10.894MM (2018), and $10.894MM (2019), it would certainly make sense for the club to move some salary around in the cornerback’s deal.
If New York needs to create additional cap room, Decker’s and Skrine’s contracts, which feature modest prorated signing bonus charges, are among the many options on the team’s books.
Candidates for pay cut or release:
- Antonio Cromartie, CB
- Jeff Cumberland, TE
- D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT
- Breno Giacomini, RT
- Jeremy Kerley, WR
Effective tackles aren’t easy to come by, particularly ones that can play on the left side, so while the Jets may consider moving on from Ferguson and/or Giacomini – or asking them to take pay cuts – those linemen definitely aren’t locks to be released.
Still, Ferguson is nearing his mid-30s, and his play hasn’t been as strong as it was during his Pro Bowl years (2009 through 2011). He’s also projected to have the club’s second-highest cap number in 2016. As for Giacomini, he was signed by the team’s old regime, and has no guaranteed money left on his deal, so if the Jets think they can do better at right tackle, there’s nothing to keep them from moving on — doing so would create nearly $4MM in cap savings.
The old regime also locked up Kerley to his current extension, and he is one of two pass catchers who has seen his role reduced significantly this season under Todd Bowles. Kerley has been targeted just 26 times this year after averaging 81 per season from 2012 to 2014, while Cumberland has 14 targets after averaging 47 per season during the same period. The duo isn’t particularly expensive, so one or both could stick around, but cutting them would create $3MM+ in cap room.
Meanwhile, Cromartie’s spot on the roster looks less secure than Revis’s or Skrine’s, primarly because of how his contract is structured. Cromartie’s deal didn’t feature a signing bonus, and all the guaranteed money is being paid in 2015, so the Jets could cut him without taking on any dead money for 2016 and beyond, creating $8MM in cap savings in the process. Cromartie hasn’t had a particularly productive season in his return to New York, so the team will have to be pretty certain he’s capable of bouncing back to keep him on his current contract.
Contract information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.