Monday, February 28, 2011

New York Jets Pre-Combine Mock Offseason I

With the NFL Combine in full swing and the end of the league year coming at 11:59PM EST Thursday night, now is time for the first New York Jets mock offseason.  In it will include players let go and players that will be brought in while being cautious of cap space.  Since the salary cap is yet to be determined, I have done my best to balance the money saved and money spent budget.

Expiring Contracts (Italics indicates player not projected to be retained):

DE  Shaun Ellis - $3.35MM cap value last season
P  Steve Weatherford
S  Brodney Pool 
FB  Tony Richardson - $912,280 cap value last season
WR  Braylon Edwards
OT  Wayne Hunter
DE  Trevor Pryce - $ 387,059 cap value last season
CB  Antonio Cromartie - $1.695MM cap value last season
LB  Lance Laury - $687,280 cap value last season
WR  Santonio Holmes 
S  Eric Smith - $1,183,280 cap value last season
WR/KR  Brad Smith - $1,766,280 cap value last season
CB  Drew Coleman
QB  Kellen Clemens - $700,000 cap value last season
K  Nick Folk
S  James Ihedigbo
C/G  Rob Turner

$10,681,179 in freed up money

The most interesting name here is Antonio Cromartie.  The Jets paid a heavy price for Cromartie – a 3rd rounder that escalated to a 2nd round pick – and will ultimately see him walk.  This one chalks up as one of Tannenbaum’s calculated risks that paid off in the short term but definitely not in the long.  Though he was adequate and an upgrade at the #2 CB position from the 2009 season, the reality is not all of the big names will be able to be kept this offseason.  When it comes down to it, a guy who relies so heavily on athleticism and little on experience and technique might not be one you want to sign to a deal that would keep him until his thirties, especially when you have a 2010 first rounder in Kyle Wilson that you want to see was worth the investment or not.

Brad Smith is going to be a guy that will get overpaid this offseason because one team will think they can make him a larger part of the offense and will thus price themselves out of the Jets range.  That team will be disappointed when they find out that Smith is an excellent role player but not a more central focus.  Furthermore, Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff has groomed a slew of potent kick returners in his eleven seasons, including guys like Craig Yeast, Chad Morton, Justin Miller, and Leon Washington.

Shaun Ellis was one of the first to clean his locker out after the loss to Pittsburgh, and I don’t think the Jets longest tenured man will be brought back to eek out one more year.  I could easily see him in another uniform on a desperate or newly formed 3-4 defense is in need of a veteran five technique end.

Safety Eric Smith has value on special teams and occasionally makes the big hit, but he makes far too many mistakes in space.  James Ihedigbo possesses similar skills and could be used as a cheaper alternative to Smith...  Laury can have his role replaced by ILB Josh Mauga, whose athleticism will at least help on specials...  Based on his feelings during Hard Knocks, Kellen Clemens wants one more training camp battle.  He won’t get that here.

Predicted Cuts:

DE  Vernon Gholston -$6,273,333 cap value including $2.565MM Roster Bonus - $5,806,667 dead money, $466,666 cap savings
OT  Damien Woody - $4.26MM cap value including $400,000 Workout Bonus - $1.02MM dead money, $3.24MM cap savings [UPDATE 2/28: CUT]
OLB  Bryan Thomas - $3.7MM cap value including $500,000 Bonus - $0 dead money, $3.7MM cap savings
TE  Ben Hartsock - $1.65MM cap value including $50,000 Bonus - $0 dead money, $1.65MM cap savings
QB Eric Ainge - $603,530 cap value including $7,280 Bonus - $41,250 dead money, $562,280 cap savings
OLB  Jason Taylor - $2.275MM cap value - $0 dead money, $2.275MM cap savings

$11,893,946 in freed up money

Vernon Gholston has been a monumental bust and the biggest blemish on GM Mike Tannenbaum’s nearly squeaky clean résumé.  The front office will gladly eat the nearly $6MM in dead money to show him the door...  Damien Woody served as an excellent RT for the past three seasons, but an Achilles tear in the Wild Card Round put that to a screeching halt.  It’s the worst injury to endure, and players rarely return to their normal levels.  It’s even possible the 33 year old will retire.  Either way, the Jets will likely move on and have Wayne Hunter serve as the starter with Vladimir Ducasse competing…  Bryan Thomas is a JAG at this point of his career and the combination of cap savings and zero dead money sounds like an appealing cap-saving cut…  Ben Hartsock commands zero respect as a receiving threat and can be cheaply replaced…  Ainge showed little long term promise, and that was even before he went to rehab.  Nuff said…  Jason Taylor has a few playoff victories to add to his career accomplishments, but I’m sure he’d say this year left a sour taste in his mouth.  He’ll be gone, but my respect level for him is infinitely higher than it used to be.


OLB  Jason Taylor
DE  Trevor Pryce
FB  Tony Richardson


QB  Mark Sanchez – 2011 $17,753,125 cap value including $500,000 Bonus - $16,509,375 dead money if cut, $1,243,750 cap savings if cut
New 2011 cap value: $12MM

NT  Kris Jenkins – 2011 $6.4MM cap value including  $1MM Roster Bonus - $1.8MM dead money if cut, $4.6MM cap savings if cut
New 2011 cap value: $2.2MM

$10,123,125 in freed up money

Now that the bust label is pretty much shed from Sanchez, now is a good time to lock him up for the considerable future.  Even more so, his $17+ million cap figure for 2011 is exorbitant.  The best thing for both sides is to lower the 2011 figure while also adding more years and total guaranteed money to his contract.  Adding say three more years to his contract keeps him under Jets rights through the 2016 season.  A $12MM figure for 2011 seems reasonable.

Kris Jenkins is an interesting case.  When healthy, he is a dominating force on the inside and maybe the only defensive lineman on the Jets roster that legitimately commands double teams.  The problem though is health.  If this were any other guy, I could see him easily being cut.  Based on early indications, Jenkins wants to make another go at it this year instead of hanging up the cleats.  If the Jets approach this as “expect nothing, be happy with anything” with regard to his health and not rely on him as a key cog in the 2011 lineup, then they can possibly work out an incentive based deal where Jenkins takes a significant pay cut unless he stays healthy.

Total Players Let Go:  14
Total 2011Cap Space Freed: $32,728,250

In-house Free Agent Signings with 2011 Cap Figures:

WR  Santonio Holmes - $7MM
ILB  David Harris - $6MM
WR  Braylon Edwards - $6MM
OT  Wayne Hunter - $3.1MM
S  Brodney Pool - $1.8MM
C/G  Rob Turner - $750,000
CB  Drew Coleman - $1MM
S  James Ihedigbo - $1MM
P  Steve Weatherford - $750,000
K  Nick Folk - $750,000

$28,150,000 to retain players (10)

By all indications, Santonio Holmes appears to be priority number one, even if it comes at the cost of Braylon Edwards.  I think they keep both in order to surround the young QB with all of the weapons he needs.  Expect Holmes’s contract to have provisions in place in case he does get into trouble again so that the team’s investment is protected. 

David Harris was recently franchised by the team, setting him up to earn roughly $10MM this season.  The tag was used more as a precaution in order to guarantee his rights for another season in hopes of signing an extension.  A member of the team’s “Core Four,” look for the front office to ink Harris for years to come like his fellow teammates D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Darrelle Revis.  Not only will it ensure his place in a Jets uniform for a while, but it will also significantly reduce his cap hit in 2011.  Look for a smaller 2011 cap hit with a big bonus in 2012, however, forcing the front office to restructure with Bart Scott.  Few teams can or should pay to inside linebackers a nearly combined $16MM annually.

According to some sources close to the Jets, the team attempted to extend Wayne Hunter at a lower cost before the season and he and his agent balked at the offer.  Instead, they opted to gamble the 2010 season in an attempt to increase his value.  A swing tackle for the past few years, Hunter earned his chance to start with Damien Woody’s two separate injuries late in the year.  While he was far from All-Pro, he certainly showed his worth as a short-term starter at RT.  According to the same source, the Jets approached Hunter’s agent this past weekend but have yet to break ground on negotiations.  Though four other teams have expressed interest if he hits the open market, he has a stated a desire to remain with the team that groomed him.  Look for a 2-3 year deal with a significant bump from his 2010 pay ($1.233MM).

Brodney Pool showed strides of improvement down the stretch and including the playoffs, exhibiting great technique in run support along with a bit of playmaking ability.  This is one of those miserly positions for the front office, and I don’t see them paying a premium on just an average starter.  If he demands too much, look for a cheaper alternative…  Rob Turner is a fiery guy who will be needed as insurance in case of an injury to Mangold, Matt Slauson, or Brandon Moore…  At times, Drew Coleman can be head-scratchingly bad in coverage; other times, he comes up with a big sack, forced fumble, or interception.  For CB depth, you can really do worse.  He stays if he doesn’t want a significant raise from 2010…  Ihedigbo, or “Dig” as his teammates call him, can fill in under the Eric Smith role for the team as a hybrid safety/linebacker in passing situations as well as on special teams.  Both are big hitters with limited coverage skills, but Dig will be cheaper and is a better blitzer.

Despite a head-scratching decision to fake punt in a low scoring game against the eventual Super Bowl Champs, Steve Weatherford was a pretty effective regular season punter, nearly setting an NFL record for most punts inside the 20; unfortunately, he lost his charm in the playoffs and was nothing short of horrendous.  For a punter, 15 solid games outweighs 4 poor ones so I think he’ll be brought back…  Nick Folk was far from a good kicker last year, but at the same time he didn’t cost the team any games.  His kickoffs did get noticeably worse throughout the season though.  For now, he’ll be back.

Other Free Agent Pickups:

OLB Antwan Barnes - $1.2MM

Barnes was acquired mid-season by the Chargers from the Eagles.  As a part-time player, he notched four sacks in eleven games with San Diego.  He’d likely compete with Jamaal Westerman and a rookie for the starting OLB opposite Calvin Pace.

$29,350,000 total spent
$32,728,250 total saved

$3, 378,250 available to spend on rookies

With at least three more roster spots available, here is the time for rookies.  Approximately $5MM will be needed to sign all rookies.  Since this offseason mock will not include specific rookies, it should be noted that the Jets primary concern in the draft is help in the front seven, most glaringly at DE and OLB. 

There we go.  As the offseason progresses, I will periodically update this.  For now, keep your fingers crossed that this lockout ends ASAP.

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