The official start of the new NFL season is March 9, which is when free-agent deals can be certified. But for teams looking to shave cap space and relieve themselves of bloated contracts, the paring has already begun in earnest.
The New York Jets are no different, as they’ve begun the arduous task of cutting key players — some are even beloved household names for Gang Green fans, which make the departures somewhat uneasy.
Longtime center Nick Mangold was the most recent Jet to get the ax, as the 11-year veteran was released on Saturday. His departure was preceded by the releasing of kicker Nick Folk, linebacker Erin Henderson, and offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Ryan Clady — and there’s certainly more to come for a Jets squad that is still near the bottom of the league in available cap space heading into the new season. According to Spotrac, a website that tracks teams' salary cap space, the Jets currently have about $18 million in space. They’ll need to shave off more to truly start the rebuild.
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Metro takes a look at the likely cap casualties and what it means going forward.
Linebacker David Harris
While it may be unlikely the Jets move on from the veteran, it wouldn’t be a complete shock. Harris is due to make a nonguaranteed $6.5 million in the final year of his deal. He’s no longer a three-down linebacker, and the team has invested in a youth movement at the position by drafting Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin in recent seasons, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Harris to get sacked.
Wideouts Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker
Two more veterans who are respected and still provide value, but like Harris, they could be late-spring casualties. Jets wideouts dropped 19 passes last season (tied for third-most in NFL), including seven by Marshall, whose age, 33, and steep decline in production puts him at risk. Decker, who turns 30 on March 15, could be asked to restructure his deal. He has two years left with a cap charge of $8.75 million. The Jets’ wideout salary cap number is very top-heavy, thanks to the duo, with the overall commitment being $20.6 million — fifth-most in the NFL. There could definitely be a releasing of one and a restructuring of the other, especially if the Jets feel comfortable with a youth movement at the position with the likes of Quincy Enunwa, Charone Peake, Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis
Once a premiere shutdown corner in an era that tried its hardest to not allow one, Revis’ services may no longer be needed. Not just because of his recent arrest, but also because of that fact that his skill set suffered a precipitous drop. Revis has been active on social media lately and even admitted that he doesn’t deserve to be one of the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks. The 10th-highest cornerback salary for 2017 is $8.5 million — or $6.5 million less than what Revis is supposed to make. It’s unfathomable to think that the Jets would bring him back at that number, which means he’ll need to provide the team with a stark discount, or risk being released. A proud mercenary of sorts, and always looking at his financial bottom line, the latter may be the best move for both him and the team — even if the discount would be in the range of $6 million, which is the current amount of guarantees due next season.
Gang Green notes:
- Despite being a mainstay for over a decade, the NFL is a cold business — and Mangold found that out firsthand. Since the team’s only Super Bowl appearance (1968), the Jets have only had eight centers — including five bedrocks (John Schmitt, Joe Fields, Jim Sweeney, Kevin Mawae and Mangold). For a franchise that’s known for ineptness, that’s a great track record. Now, if only they picked quarterbacks with such aplomb.
- Mangold, 33, was a first-round pick in 2006 and started 164 out of 176 games for Gang Green. During most of his Jets tenure, he was regarded as the standard bearer for the position. He made seven Pro Bowls and earned two All-Pro selections. Last season was his most troublesome, as he missed eight games with a severe ankle injury. He came back after that hiatus, but reaggravated the injury and was placed on injured reserve for the final four games. The center was entering the final year of his contract and was due to make a nonguaranteed $6.1 million. His cap charge was a hefty $9.1 million, which will be cleared in its entirety from the 2017 cap.