At this point in the offseason, many teams find themselves stuck between a cap and hard place. Big spending for top level players usually occurs in the first week of free agency, when teams with the cap room make big flashy transactions to improve their teams. After the first couple weeks of free agency, most teams find themselves with limited cap space as teams know they have to use 89% of their cap space according to the CBA. The New York Jets currently are in a similar situation after burning through the 22 million dollars of the cap space they had going into this offseason.
Currently, the Jets are close to having zero dollars that they can spend this offseason, but then again, the Jets have been under 8 million since the start of free agency and have still found ways to sign some big time players like RBs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell along with NT Steve McLendon. But with cap space so small, fans are constantly asking where that money is coming from as all three of those players are making an average of about 4 million dollars a year.
The Jets brass has taken a fascinating approach to the lack of cap room, and this method shows that Bowles and Maccagnan know what team they want to enter the 2016 season and will try as hard they can to keep everyone together. Unlike most teams, who make large cuts before free agency to begins, the Jets have taken a more “cut as you go” approach. Maccagnan and Bowles have only cut players if they desperately needed the money so that they can retain as many players as they can throughout the course of free agency.
NT Damon Harrison, who left the team for the Giants in the first few days of free agency, was a perfect example. The Jets put in a fair offer but refused to match the Giants offer, as it would break the bank. Maccagnan tried to keep him on the phone as long as he could before the two went their separate ways.
Lions WR Jeremy Kerley and TE Jeff Cumberland were other examples of Maccagnan trying not to cut players unless they had to. At the point where Matt Forte and the Jets agreed to terms for his contract, there was minimal room under the cap, and unfortunately for Kerley and Cumberland, they were the first ones on the chopping block, but were not cut until the Jets officially inked Forte.
Yesterday, the Jets agreed to terms with LB Erin Henderson for a two year 5 million dollar deal, but the Jets, once again, had no money to pay him. This time, instead of looking to cut more players, the Jets approached LG James Carpenter and asked him to renegotiate his contract to free space of for Henderson, and Carpenter did, but the Jets are back down to no cap room.
There are still holes in the Jets roster, especially at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick in a standoff with the Jets, and he would cost the Jets 7-14 million dollars if they want to retain him. Bowles has made it clear that the next source of cap room would come from cutting or renegotiating veteran OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Mannish Mehta of the NY Daily News has criticized the Jets for not informing Ferguson of his future, but that is easier said than done because the Jets do not know what is going to happen yet. Bowles and Maccagnan want to keep him on board as long as possible and they will if they decide not to spend any more money, and for that, he should be thankful.