In this series, we are going to hit on each team and give you a brief rundown of how they look going into free agency, what moves are at their disposal, and what you might expect from the team. NFL free agency begins during the legal tampering period on Monday, March 14, 2022, and then players can officially sign on March 16th. All salary numbers within the article are courtesy of OverTheCap.com.
With this article, we are going to explore all potential options - some of which will obviously be more realistic than others.
Projected Cap Space: $48,120,471
Sentiments are often pessimistic surrounding the Jets, but they are realistically on the upswing portion of the rebuild. They have the fifth-most cap space as well as the 4th and 10th overall picks in 2022. As with most young quarterbacks, the jury is still out on Zach Wilson but you need to operate as if you are making a run starting now while he’s in the rookie contract window. There’s a lot to like about how they’ve targeted pieces from the inside out in the draft leading up to this like Mehki Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Quinnen Williams so the next step is to grab some of the luxury pieces you need and hope Wilson makes a leap in year two. We can likely expect a lot of turnover this year as Robert Saleh only inherited the roster last year and started converting the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base.
CAP MANEUVER OPTIONS
The most common way to generate money via restructuring is to convert base salary to signing bonus which can then be spread out over the remaining years of the contract. You can also potentially incorporate an extension to spread that money out further. How favorable that is for both the team and player comes down to the long-term outlook for the player. In certain circumstances, you may even have the leverage to ask a player to take less money.
The Jets don’t necessarily NEED to generate cap space but it never hurts and could allow them to make some BIG splashes in free agency. The longer the contract, the easier it is to spread the money out and the Jets could create almost $10 million in cap space converting C.J. Mosley's base into a bonus.
It’s always dicey territory to negotiate with a player coming off an injury (especially one as serious as an Achilles) but Carl Lawson also has room to free up cap with a conversion that wouldn’t actually cost him out of pocket. We have to keep in mind obviously that moves like this not only mortgage the future a bit by moving the cap into later years but you are also committing to that player longer term so it's not always a wise move with someone coming off injury unless they are agreeing to take less money.
This is a tricky one. As we mentioned, with almost all of these restructures, you are typically locking the player in for the long haul. With Corey Davis, they have a way out of his contract after next season so they might not want to give that up. But they could generate another $5 million in cap by doing so. Davis has a solid floor because of his run blocking ability and he's flashed his pass-catching ability at times.
George Fant’s wouldn’t be a “restructure” per se but rather an extension since he’s in the last year of his deal. There have been rumors that Fant might actually beat Becton out for the starting left tackle spot and, if they think that highly of him, an extension would not only lock him up long term but would also spread out his cap hit and potentially open up upwards of $7 million in cap this season. Sounds like a win-win.
Corey Davis - It’s a bit of a pipe dream but if someone was willing to do it, they could escape $13,000,000 in cap this year with only $1,333,333 in dead cap by trading Davis. And if it’s designated after June 1 they could spread that over two years. It's never easy to convince someone to take a guy you are “giving up on” plus we don't even know if the regime even wants to do that.
There were rumors about a possible Connor McGovern trade last off-season that never came to fruition. That along with the fact that they could save $9,000,000 with only $1.3 million of dead cap on the books this year is enough smoke to think about. You only do that if you know exactly what you are doing at center though, whether that’s bringing someone else in or moving AVT over and going after a guard.
Since the Jets made a trade and moved Greg Van Roten to backup last year, this one seems pretty obvious. They would save $3.5 million with zero dead cap.
Ryan Griffin isn’t the long-term answer at tight end. They could save $3 million with less than $200K in dead cap with this move.
IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS
This one is incredibly tricky. They were unable to figure out an extension last off-season and then things became far more complicated when he tore his Achilles' tendon in Week 9. It’s no secret that the Jets' safeties had a difficult time without Marcus Maye so if they don’t bring Maye back, safety becomes an immediate position of need. The Maye saga has been a strange one between the franchise tag, the disagreement on extension, his DUI, and the injury, so I would not be surprised to see him look for a fresh start elsewhere.
A lot of folks were surprised to see them retain Jamison Crowder last season with his near $10 million price as they could have parted ways but his veteran presence was likely valued. Given that he’ll be 29 at the start of this year, he might not factor into the Jets' long-term plans so he might not be a guy they need to bring back. They'd need someone else as slot as he led the team in slot snaps despite the injury.
It's worth mentioning Braxton Berrios here next as Jamison Crowder ran 330 routes from the slot, Berrios ran 207, and no one else ran over 100. They have committed to Corey Davis at split end and Elijah Moore looked promising before getting hurt so they’ll either need to find someone to play slot or find a flanker while moving Moore to slot. Berrios is also an All-Pro kick returner so they may retain him for those services alone.
Per Rich Cimini over at ESPN, there have been some rumblings that the Jets have been actively talking to the agents of both Braxton Berrios and Foley Fatukasi. Those rumblings suggest that Fatukasi’s camp is looking in the $8 million range which would be pretty reasonable for the run-stopping lineman. Given Robert Saleh is the defensive mastermind and it's his new system, I imagine he'll have a lot of say in this one.
I mentioned earlier how the Jets traded for a player to start over Van Roten - well, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the guy. He famously has his medical degree and opted out of the 2020 season to help treat patients in Canada so there were some rumors swirling about him possibly hanging the cleats up to return to that profession but it seems he’s looking to continue playing.
Morgan Moses falls into the same camp as LDT above as an older lineman who did a serviceable job. The Jets need to decide if they want to bring back this older line or potentially move towards younger upside as part of the future plan. Or some combination of the two.
POSITIONS OF NEED (FREE AGENCY / DRAFT)
Tight End - I don’t think there is a team in the league that is more clearly in need of a quality tight end. They traded their young(ish) project in Chris Herndon. Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin are not the answer. Trevin Wesco is more of a fullback hybrid. Kenny Yeboah is an undrafted free agent and not ready to start. This team has plenty of draft capital and money so they could draft one or go after the top free-agent dogs if they want like Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki, Evan Engram, OJ Howard, David Njoku. Given where the team is in the process, I doubt they go for older guys like Rob Gronkowski or Zach Ertz but who knows.
Secondary - Depending on what happens with Marcus Maye, safety could become a glaring need. But they could also stand to bolster the cornerback position. They seemed to have nailed the Bryce Hall pick as an outside corner and Brandon Echols/Michael Carter II is solid but grabbing another top outside corner allows everyone to slide down and it just makes life that much easier. Teams run so much nickel and dime these days that it’s no longer about having two or even three good corners but really four.
Wide Receiver- With a team at this stage of the rebuild process, you could improve everywhere really. In reality, every single team could use offensive line depth at any given moment and most teams need starters. But, if I were Joe Douglas, I’d take one of these draft picks or some of this cash and grab a stud wideout to pair with Zach Wilson. Wilson is a first-round pick so you get an extra year from him with the 5th round option. If you draft a high-end WR this year, even in the 2nd or 3rd, that wide receiver’s cheap contract will overlap perfectly with your young quarterback. You have Corey Davis at split end facing the jam and then you mix and max the new guy and Elijah Moore at slot/flanker. The other quarterback in New York, Daniel Jones, has had the “no one to throw to” excuse thrown around and this move takes that off the table early while you evaluate Wilson. Plus, just look at how well things have worked out by setting Joe Burrow up with Tee Higgins and his college teammate Ja'Marr Chase?
Fantasy Football 2022
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