Before the Jets' new head of football operations tries to rebuild this 6-10 team, he must first dig it out of a roughly $25 million salary-cap hole. That helps explain why the Jets' top football job remains unfilled more than two weeks after the firing of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
But a closer examination of the Jets' 2013 obligations reveals that an act of Congress won't be needed to rescue this team. At least that much cap room can be found by simply cutting some disappointing, highly paid veterans.
According to NYJetsCap.com, the Jets will be about $21 million over the estimated 2013 salary cap when the new league season begins in March. Additionally, the team needs to clear about $4 million more to sign its 2013 draft class.
The biggest savings, $12 million, can be had by cutting tackle Jason Smith, a backup whom ProFootballFocus.com ranked just 35th at his position based on his performance on every snap. Linebacker Calvin Pace ranked 69th of 72 linebackers and saves the Jets another $8.6 million if cut.
Fellow starting linebacker Bart Scott graded much better (23rd of 112), but returns the Jets another $7.2 million if released. Defensive tackle Sione Pouha, safety Eric Smith and quarterback Tim Tebow all graded poorly, too, and can be let go for a combined salary cap windfall of about $7.4 million. That adds up to $35.2 million—$10.2 million more than needed even before renegotiating other contracts for additional savings.
Due to arcane NFL salary-cap accounting, other players actually result in a cap charge if cut. For example, jettisoning quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2013 would force the team to first find another $4.3 million cap room.