BGA: 2012 Salary Cap Update 3.0 – "Glorified Restructure" Edition

Previously on BGA…

When we last did a Salary Cap Update (three days ago), not much had changed since our first Salary Cap Update (back in January). We talked mostly about the possibility of signing Peyton Manning and fitting his deal under the cap.

Things have obviously moved on from there with Mark Sanchez receiving a contract extension and the Jets no longer in the mix for Manning. However, in terms of the cap situation itself, it’s still the case that little has changed since that first update we did. What has changed is that Sanchez’s extension has given the Jets immediate salary cap relief of $6.4m, but we speculated that they might restructure his deal to achieve a cap saving anyway. Without the extension, the cap saving would have been just $4m, but adding three years onto the end of the deal enabled them to pro-rate bonus money over five years rather than two and also helps them keep the cap hit at a more manageable level in 2013.

Have They Even Announced the Cap Yet?

One major piece of news that we’ve been waiting for is the level of the salary cap in 2012 which is still yet to be announced, but Jay Glazer reported earlier that he’s heard “it’ll be right around $120.6m” when they announce it on Monday. Assuming that’s correct, the reports that the cap wasn’t likely to rise significantly have been proven to be correct and once again things are practically unchanged from when we did our first salary cap update. We knew it couldn’t go down, because that was agreed when the CBA was signed, so we’d been using $120.5m in all our projections (since it’s a rounder number than last year’s cap number of $120,375,000). That extra (“right around”) $100K of cap room isn’t going to make any discrenable difference.

The cap didn’t rise much because the Performance Based Pay system is returning this year, which eats into the available money to be divided between teams by $3.46m per team. For a quick breakdown of what Performance Based Pay is, who missed out in 2011 and an overall summary of where this leaves the Jets, hit the jump to read more.

Why Performance Based Pay Isn’t Really Performance Based Pay

The Performance Based Pool is an amount of money distributed to each club in order to divide between their players based on a complex calculation comparing how much playing time they got with what their cap hit was during the year. Everybody who played gets something, but obviously if you’ve got a high cap hit and didn’t play much (Bryan Thomas), you’ll end up with a lot less than someone with a low cap hit that played a lot (Matt Slauson). It isn’t really performance based at all, because – although to an extent performance will have a bearing on how much playing time you get – players that perform poorly but still get a ton of playing time (Eric Smith, Wayne Hunter) will still get more so-called “Performance Based” pay than a player with the same cap hit that played a lot less than them, even if that player played much better. (Sione Pouha, for example).

In 2011, there was no Performance Based Pay and instead that money was allocated to teams to use for salaries, without which the NFL would not have been able to fund a salary cap of over $120m. In 2012, the Performance Based Pool is $3.46m per team. The money does not count against the cap and is not paid until after the season, but it does get taken from the total amount of money distributed to teams, which is why there wasn’t enough left over to increase the salary cap much from last year.

I’ve done a quick broad-brush calculation of what the Jets would have paid out at the end of 2011, if they had $3.46m of Performance Based Pay available, just to give you some idea of the money at stake. I’ve ignored/estimated things like special teams plays (which do count) and aborted plays due to penalties before the snap (which do not) to arrive at the following approximate numbers for how the $3.46m would be divided between the players on the Jets roster in 2011:

Matt Slauson would have been entitled to the most, in the sum of just over $300,000 by my calculations. Brodney Pool, Matthew Mulligan and Marcus Dixon would all have received between $150,000 and $200,000 and John Conner and Jeremy Kerley would have had about $150,000. At the other end of the scale high-salaried full time players like Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis would have been entitled to about $10,000 each, which is similar to guys like Isaiah Trufant and Ellis Lankster, who barely played but had low salaries. Over thirty players would have received between $20,000 and $100,000. When the NFL last paid out from its Performance Based Pool, 12 NFL players earned more than $300,000 with the most going to Vikings C John Sullivan (just under $400,000).

Where Does This Leave The Jets?

Jason’s latest update at NYJetsCap has the Jets at $14.1m under the cap (and he’s been using $120.4m as his estimated cap, so you can add another $200K to that amount once Glazer’s report is confirmed). If they sign Pouha, leave Maybin on an original round RFA tender and set money aside for their rookies, that’s going to leave them with around $7m for free agency. We’ll keep you posted with any changes though.

Quick Programming Note – Since things have already started getting chaotic with the free agency doors about to swing open in a few days, I’m going to park BGA Weekly for the time being and come back to it when things slow down.