Yesterday, Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB.com) had a piece on the salary cap. According to Brandt, this year’s salary cap will be between 130-133 million dollars. Last year the cap was $123 million so a rise of $10 million dollars is huge. Some reports have it at $135 million or possibly more when all revenues are accounted for and the players get their 48% cut. According to Spotrac.com, based on a $132 million dollar cap, the Jets would have $25.7 million dollars in cap room. If the cap was $135 million that number would rise to $28.7 million for the Jets to spend. Cutting Sanchez, Holmes & Cromartie would garner the Jets another $26 million dollars of cap savings leaving them with anywhere from $51-$54 million in cap space.
While having potentially $54 million dollars to spend is terrific there are two problematic aspects of having such a large increase in the salary cap. First, teams that were cap strapped and wouldn’t have been able to sign their key free agents might now be able to do it. Nothing would be worse than the Jets having all this money to spend and then the market getting watered down so much there is no one worth signing. The second potential problem is that so many teams will have so much cap room it will lead to really bad contracts setting the market.
According to Spotrac, before any cuts, the Raiders will have $65 million in cap room, the Browns $60 million and the Jaguars $53 million. Indianapolis and Miami have close to $40 million to spend as well. There will be lots of bidding wars for the best free agents and there will be some awful contracts handed out.
How do John Idzik and the Jets navigate this minefield? First, they need to target players and strike quickly on their priority targets. Now that the Combine is over, the team knows which players have mutual interest in coming here and what their asking price will be when the signing period begins. The key is to set up to get the first visit and not let them leave the building until they have signed. Second, set limits when you enter into bidding wars and stand firm in what you are willing to pay. The more emotion is taken out of the equation the more likely mistakes are avoided. Third, be patient because year after year poorly run teams spend their money in the first wave of free agency leaving some bargains once the smoke clears. The Jets don’t have to force things because they will have roughly 12 draft picks in one of the deepest drafts in a long time. This year’s plan is to find long-term starters just starting the prime of their careers that will supplement both what is already on the team, and the draft class coming in to form the long-term core. If they stick to the plan, stay patient and fiscally responsible the Jets will be set up for success for years to come. If they aren’t they will be rebuilding for a long time to come.