‘Shutdown Corner’ offseason TPS report: New York Jets

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue our tour in the AFC East and the New York Jets.

2012 record: 6-10

What went wrong: Pretty much everything went wrong for the 2012 New York Jets. Trading two mid-round draft picks and agreeing to repay $2.53 million in cash to the Denver Broncos for Tim Tebow, who played 73 snaps on offense and 59 snaps on special teams in 2012 after failing to seriously challenge Mark Sanchez for the starting job. In fact, when Mark Sanchez was benched in December, Tebow was passed over in favor of 2011 seventh-round pick Greg McElroy and will have to be moved off the roster this offseason. The Jets guaranteed even more money to Sanchez, who is now due $8.25 million in fully guaranteed money next season and has a contract that no sane GM would trade for.

[Michael Silver: Young stars found spotlight during NFL season]

The Jets best player, All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, tore his ACL in Week 3 and his contract will have to be dealt with soon. There were blowout losses at home to the San Francisco 49ers (34-0) and Miami Dolphins (30-9), plus a 49-19 home loss to the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night, which introduced the phrase "Buttfumble" to the NFL lexicon.

Even "Fireman Ed" threw in the towel.

What went right: Even without Revis, the Jets' defense ranked ninth in Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric. It's hard to not be excited about recent first-round defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, who combined for 99 tackles, 10.5 sacks (Coples and Wilkerson were 1-2 on the team with 5.5 and 5, respectively) and tied for the team lead with 12 hits on opposing quarterbacks apiece.

Coaching/front office changes: After missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, GM Mike Tannenbaum was dismissed by owner Woody Johnson. To replace Tannenbaum, the Jets hired John Idzik, the son of former Jets offensive coordinator John Idzik (1976-79), who since 1993 has worked in personnel departments with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, where he was vice president of football administration since 2007. Head coach Rex Ryan remains and will be flanked by new lieutenants as offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine asked to not have his contract renewed (and is now working in that same role with the Buffalo Bills) and colorful special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff retired. In-house candidates Dennis Thurman (defense) and Ben Kotwika (special teams) were promoted to coordinators and the Jets scooped up Marty Mornhinweg to replace Sparano as offensive coordinator.

Estimated 2013 cap space: $24.45 million over their estimated adjusted cap number.

Possible cap casualties: With over $24 million to shave off the cap just to be in compliance on March 12, Idzik has some work to do. However, as former GM Mike Tannenbaum said during Super Bowl week, there's a detailed plan in place to rectify the muddy cap situation. (Which is why the team's cap situation should not have been an issue in their search for a new GM, as was suggested in multiple reports.)

First up is reserve offensive tackle Jason Smith, who was acquired from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for offensive tackle Wayne Hunter. Well before the trade, Smith had renegotiated his contract with the Rams, essentially making the 2009 first-round pick out of Baylor an unrestricted free agent this offseason. All Smith needed to do was participate in 31 percent of the offensive snaps in 2012 and his contract would void five days before the start of the 2013 league year. Smith fell short of that benchmark, which means the Jets will have to release him before an $11.25 million roster bonus comes due on March 12. Doing so will clear $12 million off the Jets' salary cap.

Other Jets who could be jettisoned include outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who is scheduled to earn $8.56 million in cash, including a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 14, in 2013, the final year of his current contract. Pace played in over 94 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps last season, but had just three sacks and will turn 33 later this year. Releasing Pace would save $8.56 million in cap space. Linebacker Bart Scott played in just over half the Jets' snaps last season and is due $7.15 million in cash next season with a cap number of $8.65 million. Releasing Scott would clear $7.15 million in space.

[Also: Giants release Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty]

Inside linebacker David Harris, who is due $11 million in cash and is carrying a $13 million cap number this season, is a restructure candidate as a source with knowledge of his deal confirmed that $9.5 million of Harris' $10.9 million base salary is fully guaranteed with no offsets. Turning the guaranteed amount into a signing bonus and extending the contract by three seasons would lower Harris' cap number to $5.4 million, a 2013 cap savings of $7.6 million, moving some of the salary cap pain to future years.

Veteran nose tackle Sione Po'uha is a prime candidate for release. Signed to a three-year, $15 million contract last March, the 34-year-old Po'uha battled a back injury for much of the season, logging just 28.49 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps. Po'uha is due $5 million in cash this season, an amount that is currently guaranteed for injury only. If Po'uha is on the Jets' roster on March 14, however, his $4.9 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed. Look for the Jets to make a move before that takes place, which would save the team $3.833 million in cap space. Safety Eric Smith, who played in 30 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps last season, is due $3 million in 2013, including a $450,000 roster bonus on March 15, and his release would clear $3 million in cap space.

Unrestricted free agents

Yeremiah Bell, S
Mike Devito, DT
Braylon Edwards, WR
Nick Folk, K
Shonn Greene, RB
Jason Hill, WR
Lex Hilliard, FB
Dustin Keller, TE
LaRon Landry, S (Franchise or Transition tag prohibited)
Brandon Moore, G
Chaz Schilens, WR
Matt Slauson, G
Bryan Thomas, LB

Restricted free agents

Jeff Cumberland, TE
Austin Howard, OT
Josh Mauga, LB
Tanner Purdum, LS

RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:

• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection

Franchise Tag candidates: If the Jets use a franchise tag this offseason, the most logical candidate is tight end Dustin Keller. A 2008 first-round pick who caught 65 passes for 815 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, Keller struggled through an injury-plagued 2012 season catching just 28 passes in eight games. Based on a projected league-wide number of $121 million, the tight end franchise tag is expected to be worth $5.56 million in 2013. Naturally, Keller hopes the avoid the tag so he can test the free agent market.

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