The NFL released the new salary cap figure for the 2014 season, and at $130 million teams will have about $4 million more to work with than previously expected. The New York Jets were a team that was going to have plenty of cap space to work with anyway, but this news gives them even more flexibility this season as John Idzik and Rex Ryan seek to strengthen the roster and become a playoff team.
The Jets are still expected to cut Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez and Antonio Cromartie, and once those moves are complete the Jets will have over $40 million in cap space. The Jets will first look to use that money to re-sign right tackle Austin Howard and kicker Nick Folk to long term deals, as the Jets would prefer not to use the franchise tag. Tight end Jeff Cumberland is a candidate to be re-signed as well, though he shouldn’t be due a particularly large contract.
Once that business is done, the Jets will be looking for help at wide receiver, tight end, right guard, cornerback, free safety and outside linebacker. Obviously the draft will be used to address several of those key areas, but the Jets will likely be one of the biggest players in free agency this offseason. With the new cap space, the Jets now have the flexibility to target multiple big ticket free agents.
One of the names who will frequently be linked to the Jets is wide receiver Eric Decker, who is considered by most to be the top receiver available. The Jets could make Decker an offer in the range $8 million per season to be their No. 1 receiver. If free safety Jairus Byrd somehow hits the free agent market, the Jets should and likely will make him a very big offer. The Jets’ free safety situation is a mess, and Byrd is an absolutely perfect fit. Finally, the Jets could choose to use this extra money to go after a top free agent corner, where options include Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes, Sam Shields and Walter Thurmond. Any of those players would be a huge upgrade over Cromartie.
Despite this cap space, don’t expect the Jets to just throw money at people. Idzik is a cap conscious general manager who believes in building through the draft, so he will only sign big name free agents if the price is right. Still, with over $40 million in cap space and 8 draft picks, the Jets have more flexibility than almost every other team in the NFL, and that is an incredibly valuable asset.