New York Jets: The Purge

David Aitken on how the New York Jets can go about purging their current roster…

Presently, the New York Jets are maybe the most unwatchable team in football. A failed push for short-term success has come crashing down and it has highlighted how desolate the roster is past last year’s band-aid signings. Changes are coming – let’s look at some that are likely on the way.

*All cap information sourced here courtesy of www.overthecap.com

The Jets will enter the 2017 offseason with a ton of overpaid and underperforming veterans on the roster, while slightly over the cap to boot. It’s memories of 2012 on the surface – a hugely disappointing season followed by an offseason with tight cap restraints. Luckily if there is one silver lining with Maccagnan’s now ill-fated spending spree, the risk/reward balance was measured well enough. There is mostly the opportunity to start from scratch in terms of cuttable salary here, though we’ll see how wisely that is reinvested with an owner that is always desperate to turn things around. Let’s take a look at possible moves to come.

Days Are Numbered

OT Ryan Clady 

Clady’s trade came with a reworked contract that essentially became a one-year deal with a 2017 option for $10 million. Clady was once one of the best tackles in the league, the Jets took a chance he could stay healthy and regain that form. He’s done neither of those things, though it’s unfair to say his on-field play was bad in absolute terms. The value is just poor. Perhaps the Jets explore bringing him back on a cheaper deal, but Ryan Clady the $10 million tackle is not happening here or anywhere else.

DE Sheldon Richardson 

The writing is on the wall with Richardson. The defensive end situation has been more a logjam than an embarrassment of riches, and one of the three need to be moved on. Several indications point to Richardson. Todd Bowles is struggling greatly to effectively utilize all three ends at once, and it is Richardson who has been getting the square-peg treatment. Wilkerson and Williams have mostly been tried at different positions along the line, while Richardson has at times played outside linebacker or even inside linebacker to no one’s benefit. Richardson has a cap-friendly contract for a trade, while Wilkerson’s contract extension complicates a trade scenario. Richardson is also the most troubled off-the-field. While Wilkerson has also had discipline issues, Richardson has twice been suspended by the league in his four-year career. It may not end up being a big deal long-term, but it matters for making this decision.  Lastly and most obviously, the Jets literally tried to trade him a few weeks ago. It’s only going to pick up again in the spring.

Slight Chance of Return

C Nick Mangold

2017 is set to be the final year of Mangold’s seven-year deal he signed back when Mike Tannenbaum famously locked up all of the “core four” to long-term deals in 2010. While at the age of 32, Mangold can still start in the NFL – he just can no longer do it at an elite level. Thus it makes no sense for the Jets to hold onto him for one last year with a $9,075,000 cap hit. With no dead money incurred for cutting him, the Jets would clear a significant chunk of cap space with his release. The door could still be open for a cut and re-sign situation, but giving the younger and much cheaper Wesley Johnson a shot to start in 2017 should be given thought depending on how well he performs the rest of the way.

FS Marcus Gilchrist 

Gilchrist was one of the more surprising contracts of the 2015 offseason. He played some good football at times with San Diego but his final year was underwhelming. He’s been ok in two years here but his contract is backloaded with cap hits of top-ten safety money his last two seasons. It is yet another example of overpaying to plug holes in free agency. His release will clear $4,625,000 for 2017 and safety is a position where the Jets are better served giving extended playing time to young players who could do a similar job for a fraction of the cost.

LB David Harris

Harris is yet another attractive cap hit, with all of his $6,500,000 2017 salary cuttable without penalty. He’s been one of the most tough and reliable Jet defenders the past decade, but he’s no longer an above-average player and will be 33-years-old in January. His re-signing last offseason on an average of $7 million was not a great use of resources to begin with, but the argument at least was the Jets had money and could use Harris as a veteran rock for the “competitive rebuild.” The best thing the Jets could do is dump all veteran salary and push for a rebuild in earnest and that means cutting David Harris, but there’s a small chance he plays out his contract if the Jets brass take the short-term band-aid approach again instead.

CB Darrelle Revis

The decline of Darrelle Revis, like the team in it’s entirety, has been sharp and painful to watch. It doesn’t feel like there is any coming back from this. His effort and attitude has been as off as his physical abilities. Revis at his peak was a model professional – an absolute nightmare to deal with in terms of negotiating a deal, but no one took their role more seriously as one of the faces of the franchise. Now he sounds like a player that has all but given up. I would not be surprised if he just outright retired, but if not the Jets will have a decision to make. His release would incur $7.3 million in cap relief but also an $8 million hit in dead money. The best thing for both parties is to move on, but there’s a chance of Bowles trying to salvage the team’s best ever player.

50/50

WR Brandon Marshall

Releasing or trading Marshall frees $7,500,000 in cap space and he’s in the final year of his contract. Keeping him on board could make a big difference in drawing a veteran quarterback if that’s the direction the Jets go this offseason, but if a reset is coming then he’s a logical player to move. Wide receiver is one spot where the Jets have a promising group of young players and with Quincy Enunwa in particular the team has a player that looks readymade to replace Marshall. It’s been Enunwa, not Marshall, who has been the team’s most dangerous weapon this year.

Safe

DE Muhammad Wilkerson 

This is what the Jets signed up for when the Wilkerson extension came in. They’ve got him past 2016, and as far as next year goes, there’s no changing that unless the team wants to eat an extreme amount of dead money. Moving him in 2017 will cost the Jets a net $8,750,000 against the cap. Of the three prized ends it would be Wilkerson you’d want to trade all things being equal, but they’re not. Richardson’s the one with the tradable contract, Williams is the untouchable, Wilkerson is the one on the fresh front-loaded deal.

RB Matt Forte

A report surfaced last week that the Jets rushed to sign Forte when he let it be known he would visit with New England if he was to leave New Jersey without a deal. That deal featured a contract amenable to keeping Forte for at least two seasons – the Jets eat more dead money then would be saved by cutting him any earlier than 2018, the final year of his three-year contract. The contracts signed under Maccagnan’s regime have generally had a pretty good risk/reward balance in terms of an out without much penalty if the move fails, but this is an exception. The Jets are stuck with Forte. He’s not really that much of an anchor at a contract averaging $4 million a season, and it’s more his role that is frustrating than the player himself. But he’ll be back in 2017.

PhotoCredit: NewYorkJets.com