When many teams in professional sports have been searching for value in contracts, the New York Jets haven’t been able to find it. This has made the Jets the equivalent of Apple Maps to the Google Maps of teams like the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and even the New York Giants.
On occasion, the Jets have thrown money to free agents like they are the NFL version of the New York Yankees. The only problem is, when the Yankees overvalue contracts there isn’t a salary cap to stop them.
It’s no secret the Jets don’t have an optimal cap situation heading into the off-season. This isn’t to say they can’t get creative and move some of the money or contracts around. It would also be safe to say some of the players mentioned won’t be coming back for the 2013 season. This is more of a general look at a couple key decisions that put the Jets in this position of having too many overvalued contracts.
The most obvious place to start is actually not the quarterback position—we’ll get to that later.
The way the top three linebackers on the Jets are being paid, one would think they are an updated version of the 2000 Ravens linebacking corps. They are not. In terms of cap hits, the Jets will have the second (David Harris), fifth (Calvin Pace) and 12th (Bart Scott) highest paid linebackers in the league.
Harris is the closest of the bunch to matching his on-field production to his contract. Harris had 123 tackles last year, but his $13 million cap hit in 2013 is still almost $1 million more than the Dallas Cowboys are going to pay DeMarcus Ware. Harris is also the youngest—generously calling 29 “young”— of the group and still has the best chance to match his contract value.
The other two linebackers are a different story. Pace and Scott are both coming off their age 32 season with 55 and 60 tackles, respectively, and in the same pay range of Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. Pace played all 16 games and, according to Football Outsiders, was on the field for 94 percent of the defensive snaps in 2012. Scott was on the field for 54 percent of all defensive snaps, still the third most for a Jets linebacker.
The original signing of Pace was an overvalue of a player from the start. After the 2007 season, the Jets gave Pace a six-year/$42 million contract in large part for a career year of 98 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his fifth season. Pace’s previous career high in tackles during his first four seasons was 32.
The Jets did a similar thing in April of 2010, trading a fifth round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes had just completed a 79-reception/1,248-yard season with the Steelers. The Jets rewarded that with a five-year/$45 million contract that June. In 2013, Holmes will be the highest paid wide receiver in terms of base salary ($11 million) and the second highest in terms of cap hit behind only Andre Johnson (just for fun, other receivers ranks for 2013 cap hits: Calvin Johnson: 3, Brandon Marshall: 7, Larry Fitzgerald: 8—that’s also without mentioning the value of any still on rookie contracts).
Holmes’ first two years with New York combined are what the Jets were expecting (read: paying) him to do on a yearly basis—103 receptions and 1,400 yards. Holmes will be coming off a major foot injury with still three years and $32.5 million remaining on his deal.
Now we get to the quarterback. Even on the surface, the Mark Sanchez extension was erroneous. The Jets will be paying Sanchez the cap hit of the 12th best quarterback in the league next year. It could be worse when you consider what the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals will be paying their incumbent quarterbacks next season.
Sanchez ranked 39th out of 39 qualified quarterbacks in Football Outsiders’ DYAR (a stat measuring a player’s overall value in comparison to his position). On the bright side, he was only 31st out of 47 qualified passers, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
If the Jets are going to be smarter and more cost effective, they need to stop paying above market value for below average play. Two of the main decision makers, Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson are still there, so it falls on new GM John Idzik to stop the Jets from overpaying for the statistical outliers that won’t hold value.
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