Brandon Moore has been a solid starter for the Jets for a long time … he’s actually the longest continually starting player on the Jets offense, having started every game for the team since Week 9 of the 2004 season. During that time, Moore has quietly established himself as one of the better Guards in the league.
To start, understand that traditionally Guard is an often undervalued position financially. Centers are the QBs of the line and anchor themselves against monster Defensive Tackles. Offensive Tackles are often taking on the game’s very best pass rushers. But Guards generally have shorter (and thus less space to keep defenders at bay) arms, have teammates on each shoulder to help stave off defenders, and are often the least athletic players on a line. It doesn’t mean they don’t produce, but it’s just the economics of the thing … it’s easier to find and plug in a productive Guard than a productive Left Tackle, it just is.
Over the past few years, Guards like Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca have helped break the mold, rising the profile of Guards around the league … and thus the payscale. Looking at the list of Guards who are free in this year’s class, Brandon Moore could stand to make a lot of money. He might be an unknown to many in the league, but if he was to hit free agency, the name would catch on … trust me.
To that end, the Jets have been reported as all over the map when it comes to salary cap. One way or another, let’s assume they’re well under the cap, but they have a number of positions that they are trying to fill via free agency. While I hate the notion of re-making the Patriots South into the Ravens North, it seems a real possibility based on the moves they’re making.
At this point, they know what it’s going to take to sign Bart Scott, or whoever they’ve got their eye on and to do it they need to make some space. The problem comes when they run up against trouble, the evidence started mounting that a divorce might be imminent. More than a week ago, lohud.com’s Jane McManus noted that the team might be looking at Guards in the Draft. Yesterday the team met with a highly touted, though rather out of shape lineman named Alex Smith, who might drop like a stone come April due to his Combine readiness and due to some early meetings with an agent which got him suspended from the Sugar Bowl.
But those are the symptoms, and what’s the cause for cutting a player like Moore? Mostly money. Money that the team doesn’t want to use on him for the 2008 cap, but of course would be received and restructured.
With many years left on his current deal, Moore and his agent likely see this as their best chance to get Moore the payday that he deserves … maybe his last real shot. By Moore being unwilling to restructure his deal, the team is forced to make a decision:
1) Find another player who can fill his vacancy at a lot less money and potentially suffer in the short term at a position with a lower risk
2) pay Moore over seven million dollars for the 2009 season and miss out on some of the positions they’d like to fill out immediately with starters to make this team competitive this year via free agency?
Keep in mind that the team has some flexibility with Damien Woody, so could find a Tackle and shuffle Woody back to Guard if necessary. The bottom line is that the line will suffer initially from this move, but depending on who the team finds to fill the spot, maybe not long-term … say should the team use a second rounder in the draft who would have a very low cap number for the next three years. The fact that the team carried only two backup linemen during the course of the 2008 season could also be a mark in favor a player like Wayne Hunter or Robert Turner.
I think this move is a mistake, not on the magnitude of the Kendall fiasco, but a mistake nevertheless. My hope is that by cutting Moore, the team can avoid the cap hit, but that maybe … maybe the team can somehow re-sign Moore to a more cap friendly deal that still meets his financial goals … but that seems like a long-shot at this point.