Remedying New York’s Messy Salary Cap Situation Over the Next Two Offseasons

January 8th, 2013
Sanchez Tebow

How will the Jets deal with Mark Sanchez’s bloated contract? (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Whoever the Jets eventually hire as deposed general manager Mike Tannenbaum’s successor will inherit a litany of Tannenbaum’s bloated contracts. Fortunately, a handful of these deals can be taken off the books for considerable savings without New York being forced to pay much in dead money.

One of the first orders of duty for the Jets’ next GM will likely be releasing the likes of quarterback Tim Tebow, offensive tackle Jason Smith, linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, and safety Eric Smith. These moves would signal a more responsible fiscal philosophy which could be supplemented in 2014 by releasing quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes for additional savings; at that point, a new general manager would be free to reinvest a significant portion of New York’s cap room in order to rebuild the team according to their own specifications.

Tebow’s cap savings are the least considerable of the aforementioned players; however, his presence was arguably the catalyst behind New York’s well-publicized chemistry issues. Tannenbaum attempted to downplay Tebow’s chances of supplanting starter Mark Sanchez, but vocal demands to replace Sanchez with Tebow persisted throughout the Jets’ dismal 5-11 season, as Sanchez appeared to regress back to his rookie form.

However, Tebow was even bypassed at quarterback by Greg McElroy; the former Florida passer attempted just eight throws on the season and appeared unhappy with his role on the team. Just over $1 million of Tebow’s $2.59 million cap figure would become dead money, meaning the Jets can save roughly $1.53 million by releasing him.

Acquired by New York in exchange for right tackle Wayne Hunter, former second overall draft pick Jason Smith is another player virtually guaranteed to be playing elsewhere in 2013. Smith did not start a game for the Jets all season; his $750,000 base salary looks manageable, but his $11.25 million roster bonus is cause enough for release, especially considering the adequate play of right tackle Austin Howard. The Jets would save a total of $12 million against the cap by releasing Smith, the highest total of any player on roster.

Similarly significant cap savings can be made by releasing outside linebacker Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, two aging players whose contributions last season were limited at best. Pace, 32, played over 1,000 snaps in 2012 but was unable to contribute to New York’s pass rush, finishing with just three sacks on the season. The Jets can save $8.56 million by releasing Pace, although they will still be on the hook for just over $3 million in dead money.

Another $1.5 million in dead money will be owed to Bart Scott, although $7.15 million of his $8.65 million cap figure is non-guaranteed. Scott’s playing time was limited this past season as New York further emphasized their sub packages: he played just 581 snaps on the season, down from 676 the year before and 903 in 2010.

Eric Smith’s $3 million cap figure is also unaffordable considering New York’s transition to a starting safety duo of Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry. While each of those players played over 1,000 snaps for the Jets last season, Smith, a former third-round pick, was on the field for just 329 defensive snaps, starting only two games this season.

None of Smith’s 2013 cap figure is guaranteed, meaning the money the Jets had set aside for him would likely be put to better use as part of a contract extension for a player such as Landry, who is not under contract for next season. All told, releasing Tim Tebow, Jason Smith, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Eric Smith would save over $30 million against the salary cap in 2013, with the Jets forced to pay just over $5.5 million in dead money.

Unfortunately, the Jets will likely be stuck with at least two bloated deals for another year: quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Sanchez’s $8.25 million base salary is complimented by roster bonuses totaling over $4.6 million for a total cap value of $12.853 million.

Although the Jets quarterback will be making much more than he’s worth, New York would be forced to assume over $17 million in dead money should they cut Sanchez, which would cost them an additional $4.3 million against the gap. Simply put, it’s more cost-effective to keep Sanchez for the 2013 season. Holmes’ situation is similar; the high-maintenance wide receiver has a $12.5 million cap figure, and the Jets would save just $1.25 million of that by releasing him, meaning that he’ll almost certainly be back next year as well.

New York would be better off waiting until February 2014 to dump Sanchez and Holmes: while they would still owe a total of $8.3 million in dead money at that point, the Jets would also save $16.55 million towards the salary cap in 2014. Should they also cut Scott and Tebow in 2013 as expected, they would clear another $8.895 million. Because of these savings, 2014 looks more likely to be the beginning of New York’s true rebuilding process; they are expected to retain Rex Ryan for another season, but may opt to move in a different direction after next season, with nearly $50 million in projected cap space.

Tags: new york jets

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