The New York Jets have an important off-season ahead of them. As an already talented football team with playoff expectations heading into the 2023 season, Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh need to add a final few pieces the get this team there.
The Jets’ biggest needs currently, a month before the start of free agency, are quarterback, offensive line, and safety. At the moment, though, with those positions of need, the Jets do have a lack of resources from a salary cap standpoint.
Per Over The Cap, the Jets are currently over the budget by $914K. Using their salary cap calculator, we will review where the Jets can create the cap space they need to address as many of their needs as possible in free agency.
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Players the New York Jets can release to create cap space:
Carl Lawson currently has the Jets’ third-highest cap number of $15.7 million. Of that, the Jets would create $15.4 million in cap space by releasing Lawson.
Lawson is coming off a solid 2022 in which he started all 17 games, recorded seven sacks, the second-best he has had in a single season, and 49 pressures (2.9 per game). Certainly, some quality production that, by moving on from the Jets’ fourth-ranked defense, would have to replace.
The good thing is that the Jets have John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, Jermaine Johnson, and Micheal Clemons all at the defensive end position. There has been some speculation that the Jets could keep Lawson by either restructuring his deal (pushing money into 2024) or just extending him to lower his 2023 cap hit.
Regardless of the route they take, the Jets will add cap space in some way with Lawson’s contract.
Duane Brown has the Jets’ sixth-highest cap number at $11.2 million. With a pre-June 1st release, the Jets would add $4.9 million ($6.3 million in dead money). Should the Jets go with a post-June 1st release, they would create $9.7 million of his $11.2 million dollar 2023 cap hit. On the other hand, though, with a post-June 1st release, Brown would account for $4.7 million against the Jets’ 2024 budget.
Brown did battle through a shoulder injury all throughout 2022. Knowing he needs surgery this off-season and turns 38 in late August, there certainly is a chance that Brown retires.
Corey Davis has the seventh-highest cap number against the Jets’ 2023 budget at the moment. His cap hit is $11.1 million. Of that, with a release, the Jets would create $10.5 million in cap space.
Davis had a better second year with the Jets. He was clutch in big moments, had a good presence on the intermediate level of the Jets’ passing game, and is a fantastic run blocker.
The main factor that could lead to Davis’ release is his lack of consistent availability. In two years with the Jets, Davis played in just 22 games. If the Jets do opt to release Davis, they would need to get a third wide receiver after Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore.
Jordan Whitehead has the Jets’ ninth-highest cap number of $10.2 million. With a release, the Jets would create $7.25 million.
Whitehead had an up-and-down first year with the Jets. He proved his physicality but had his moments with missed tackles.
Whitehead is still very young at 25 years old, turning 26 next month. As mentioned in the introduction, the Jets’ safety position is a concern. Do they potentially make it even more of a need with a release of Whitehead? It seems uncertain at the moment and will be interesting to see.
Braxton Berrios has the Jets 13th-greatest cap hit, with an $8.2 million cap number. Of that, with a release, the Jets would add $5 million to their cap space.
As a waiver claim in 2019, Berrios had a great four-year run with the Jets, but it looks to have gone its course. His impact on special teams in 2022 dropped significantly. He was not always sure-handed offensively, either. It seems likely that the Jets will move on.
Maximum cap space the Jets can create through releases: $47.9 million
Should the Jets look to free up the maximum cap space possible, they would add $47.9 million.
- Carl Lawson, $15.4M
- Duane Brown, $9.7M (post-June 1st)
- Corey Davis, $10.5M
- Jordan Whitehead, $7.25M
- Braxton Berrios, $5M
Should the Jets choose not to push any of Brown’s money back into 2024 and go with a pre-June 1st release, $4.9 million would still be added in cap space. That, combined with the other four players listed above, would still give the Jets $43 million created in cap space.
Contracts the New York Jets can restructure to create cap space:
With the Jets currently having $112.3 million in cap space for 2024, which is the 12th-most in the NFL, it affords them the luxury to explore restructuring contracts. It would lower players’ cap hits in 2023 where the Jets need help. On the flip side, it raises cap hits and dead money in 2024. As mentioned, though, the Jets have tons of flexibility with their 2024 cap space.
In terms of restructuring contracts, C.J. Mosley has been a popular player discussed, as he has the Jets’ highest cap number for 2023 of $21.4 million. Of that cap hit, Mosley is owed $17 million in his base salary. The other $4.4 comes from his prorated (signing) bonus which rose from $1.5 million prior to the start of the 2022 regular season when the Jets restructured his contract to create cap space then.
The tricky thing with restructuring Mosley’s contract again is that his dead money amount in 2024 will only increase. Mosley’s 2024 cap number at the moment is the same as 2023, $21.4 million. Of that, his dead money in 2024 is $10.4 million. With a restructure this off-season, that 2024 dead money would only increase in what will be Mosley’s age-32 season.
While re-negotiating Mosley’s contract for 2023 to bring down his massive $21.4 million cap hit may be a plus, it only raises his already high amount of dead money in 2024. It will be fascinating to see how the Jets approach things with Mosley this off-season.
The player that makes much more sense to restructure for the Jets is John Franklin-Myers. He has a very low prorated bonus of $400K and is under contract for the next three years through 2025, two huge added bonuses for a restructure.
The maximum amount of cap space that the Jets can create through a reworked deal with Franklin-Myers is $7.28 million. With that maximum amount created up front, though, Franklin-Myers’ prorated bonus increases to $4 million, significantly raising his dead money amount in 2024 and 2025.
That being said, he is still the first and most logical player in terms of a re-negotiated deal that the Jets should work with. Franklin-Myers is still only 26 years old.
The New York Jets extending Quinnen Williams’ contract could create cap space:
The final way that the Jets can create cap space up front for 2023 free agency is by getting a long-term contract extension done with star defensive tackle, Quinnen Williams. He currently has a cap hit of $9.5 million, all of which comes from his base salary which is guaranteed.
The Jets can lower Williams’ 2023 cap hit through an extension by maximizing his signing bonus (prorated amount) which in turn would allow for a minimum 2023 base salary, keeping his cap hit low. If this is the route that the Jets and Williams take, it is more than likely that his cap hit would drop from $9.5 million.
New York Jets cap situation final thoughts:
All in all, while it may look concerning that the Jets are currently over the budget by nearly a million dollars, the good thing is that they have flexibility. It is more than manageable for the Jets to create $30-40 million in cap space while keeping their flexibility for 2024.
From easy-outs in contracts to restructures, a contract extension with Williams, and tons of cap space in 2024, the Jets can create resources for themselves up front for this upcoming free agency. There are lots of options, and it will be intriguing to see what routes Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh ultimately look to take.