Bye week salary cap Q&A with OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald (Part I)

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

With the Jets on the bye, we thought it would be a good time to look ahead at the Jets upcoming offseason and get an early look at what we can expect in terms of direction and plans.  In the NFL, the salary cap drives those plans and there’s no better person to talk to than Jason Fitzgerald from OverTheCap.com.  Jason started tracking the Jets cap in 2008 and turned NYJetsCap.com into a respected portrayal of the Jets cap.  Eventually Jason decided to cover the entire AFC East and then the entire NFL last year under the banner of Over The Cap.

We asked Jason some questions about how the team is faring under John Idzik and what lies ahead in this two part article. First up, how do we grade the 2013 offseason and how much space can the Jets expect to spend on free agents?

idzik

TJB: Since there’s not much left to do when it comes to the Jets current cap year, how do you think new GM John Idzik did in navigating his first offseason?

Jason Fitzgerald (OverTheCap.com): I think Idzik did well navigating the salary cap in his first year, though I believe he pretty much followed the plan that was in place for most of the players. He was faced with a big decision with Revis and made the right call in getting his salary off the books in 2013 rather than dragging it out for an extra year. He may have make a mistake in the timing of the trade as waiting past his roster bonus date cost the Jets and additional $1 million, but that may have been necessary to get the first round pick.

Idzik’s best move of the offseason was not extending Antonio Cromartie. That will pay off big next year because Cromartie appears to have fallen off a cliff. Why they did not extend him I don’t know. If Idzik saw something in his play that raised a red flag that’s tremendous on his part. It may have just been luck as he was due decent money in 2013 and 2013 and the corner market for players like Cro dropped from $8 to $9 million a year to just $5 million so the Jets had no common ground on an extension.

TJB: How do the Jets look for 2014 once they dump some of the bad contracts?  Assuming they re-sign some of their current players, how much left over can the Jets then use toward free agents from other teams?

Jason Fitzgerald: I have the Jets currently estimated to be somewhere around $22 million in 2014 cap space right now, assuming a flat cap in 2014. That number will grow significantly once they release Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie. Those three moves will free up an additional $26 million giving the Jets around $48 million to spend on 14 players to fill the roster. That should be in the top 5 in the NFL next year.

The Jets only have one key free agent in 2014- starting Right Tackle Austin Howard who has developed into a quality player. Right Tackles are cheap so I would not think Howards costs more than $5 million a season max. Beyond that is Nick Folk who has probably earned more than the vet minimum he has played on the last two years, but that’s still only going to be in the $1.5 to $2 million range at the most. Beyond that the Jets do have the option of extending Muhammad Wilkerson which I think would be a smart move. His price will only go up and the Jets have a great deal of leverage since he still has two low cost years under contract once they pick up his option.

If I’m the Jets I frontload both his contract and Howard’s contract to use the cap space. Regardless, once the Jets sign their futures players and re-sign Howard Id guess they will have around $35 million to actually spend next year.

Tomorrow, Jason gives his overall thoughts on John Idzik and whether or not the Jets can bank on that third rounder from Tampa.

For all your salary cap related information, be sure to visit OverTheCap.com or follow Jason on Facebook or Twitter @Jason_OTC.

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