Michael Thomas, NY Jets, Cut, Trade, Saints, Contract
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, Getty Images

Quality players could become available for the New York Jets

As a result of the decreased amount of cap space NFL teams had available for the 2021 season, many win-now teams opted to restructure the contracts of their higher-paid players.

The decision to restructure only helps upfront. It essentially backloads deals as the signing bonus restructures lead to greater prorated bonus amounts throughout the duration of the contract.

One year later, many teams have terrible cap situations and will have to move on from some of their core players.

Per Over The Cap, the three teams with the worst cap situations are all over the cap by a significant amount. Those teams are the New Orleans Saints (projected $-73.6 million), the Green Bay Packers (projected $-40.1 million), and the Dallas Cowboys (projected $-20.8 million).

All three of these teams accomplished winning seasons but combined for zero playoff wins. Now, they will be forced to move on from some good football players.

Trading or releasing a player with a post-June 1 designation may be the route some of these teams look to take. The designation is used for players with either hefty guarantees left on their deal or prorated bonus amounts. It essentially frees up more cap space for the team this year.

Ultimately, these difficult cap situations could make plenty of quality players available for the New York Jets.

Here are some notable players from each of the aforementioned three teams who are either set to become unrestricted free agents or could be available through a release or trade.

New Orleans Saints

Projected Unrestricted Free Agents:

  • Marcus Williams, S

Restricted Free Agents:

  • Shy Tuttle, DT

Potential Releases:

  • Bradley Roby, CB

Potential Trades:

  • Marcus Davenport, DE

Potential Releases or Trades with a post-June 1 Designation:

  • Michael Thomas, WR
  • David Onyemata, DT

Out of these 2021 Saints players, the top three options for the Jets would be Marcus Williams, Marcus Davenport, and Bradley Roby.

With the Jets having a clear need at safety, Williams has often been linked to the team as a possible target. Davenport is a talented edge rusher likely entering his prime years. If the Jets look to acquire a good veteran cornerback on a one-year deal, Roby would be ideal.

Trading for Michael Thomas, who will play next season at 29 years old, does not seem like the type of move Jets general manager Joe Douglas would make considering he is coming off a major ankle injury and owns a sizable contract ($24.7 million cap hit in 2022).

Green Bay Packers

Projected Unrestricted Free Agents:

  • Davante Adams, WR
  • De’Vondre Campbell, LB
  • Rasul Douglas, CB
  • Robert Tonyan, TE

Restricted Free Agents:

  • Allen Lazard, WR

Potential Releases:

  • Za’Darius Smith, EDGE
  • Preston Smith, EDGE

Potential Releases or Trades with a post-June 1 Designation:

  • Billy Turner, OT

For the Jets, Davante Adams, Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith are the highlights of this group.

Adding pass rushers is a must for New York. Preston and Za’Darius have each proven to be quality players. The Jets missed out on Za’Darius in free agency of 2019, which was a tough loss.

Adams is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL and would be tremendous for Zach Wilson. He may end up being franchise-tagged and then available through trade.

Dallas Cowboys

Projected Unrestricted Free Agents:

  • Dalton Schultz, TE
  • Randy Gregory, DE
  • Jayron Kearse, S
  • Connor Williams, G

Potential Releases:

  • Anthony Brown, CB

Potential Trades:

  • Amari Cooper, WR

Potential Releases or Trades with a post-June 1 Designation:

  • DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
  • Blake Jarwin, TE

For the Jets, the top options from Dallas could potentially be Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz, Jayron Kearse, and Connor Williams.

Cooper and Schultz would be great additions to aid Wilson in year two. Kearse would help fill the Jets’ huge need at safety. He just completed a productive season in coverage (two interceptions and 10 pass deflections).

As broken down by Jets X-Factor’s David Wyatt-Hupton, Williams is an excellent option for the Jets to upgrade the interior of their offensive line.

Other cap-strapped teams

The rest of the teams currently projected to be over the cap are the Minnesota Vikings ($-12.8 million), New York Giants ($-7 million), Tennessee Titans ($-6 million), Los Angeles Rams ($-5.6 million), and Atlanta Falcons ($-5.6 million).

These are a few noteworthy cut or trade candidates to keep an eye on from those teams:

  • Danielle Hunter, DE (Minnesota)
  • James Bradberry, CB (New York)
  • Blake Martinez, LB (New York)
  • Robert Woods, WR (Los Angeles)
  • Calvin Ridley, WR (Atlanta)
  • Younghoe Koo, K (Atlanta)

Hunter, Woods, and Ridley would likely be added through trade as they are all difficult to release with their contracts. Bradberry and Martinez have a stronger chance of being released with a new regime coming in for the Giants. Koo is a restricted free agent.

Outlook for the Jets

It’s simple: Some good football players (many from winning teams) will become available.

Acquiring a star wide receiver (Adams, Cooper, Ridley, Woods) or a tight end (Schultz) for Wilson would be crucial. Defensively, acquiring any talent is needed.

In the end, the difficult cap situations faced by teams around the NFL should give the Jets even more options to build their team.

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Ryan Moran is a writer for Jets X-Factor providing in-depth analysis on all things related to the team. Email: ryan.moran310[at]gmail.com
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1 year ago

I’m interested in Davenport or Zadarius Smith from this list.

1 year ago

Would love to get several of these players (any of them)!

How does this free agency list match with the commonly held belief by Saints fans (mostly) that the cap is just myth and they can just manipulate it as much as they want? At least, that is the impression from that fanbase. They never seem worried because they have belief their GM can just do cap magic and it all works out. Why is that never the case with the Jets?

1 year ago
Reply to  MasterWu77

The only reason they could do it was because Brees could cover up a lot of holes in the roster. You see the grim reaper coming for them now. They will be a 4 win team next year. If Zach turns out as good as Brees, or any of the other young talented QB’s the Jets will have the same cap flexibility because in theory he should be able to cover some holes. Let’s hope!!!

PS. Not sure I’m on board with “any” of these guys haha.

1 year ago

Good list here Ryan. I don’t like Williams, Cooper or Schultz from the Cowboys. I think either Smith from GB would be interesting if they wanted to spend some big bucks. Williams at safety makes a lot of sense, and both Roby and Douglas would bring some much needed experience to the CB group. The big question is how much “splash” do they want to make? When you look at he two big moves from last year, Davis and Lawson you have to say to this point they didn’t work out. I don’t know if that will make Joe think twice about any big money moves. That said, I think they need to spend on one difference maker, CB or DE take your pick, and fill the roster with some quality vets. They can start by bringing back the entire starting OL. This could be a draft of quantity. If possible I can see them trading back for picks. The more I look at this draft the more I think it’s not a great draft. Yes, there are good players, but the number of true “superstars” seems limited. What do you think? If there was one FA they could spend for who would you like?

Barney Miller
Barney Miller
1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

But Lawson was just bad luck, right? He’s not “injury prone” is he? By all accounts he would have had an amazing year if he stayed healthy. Davis underperformed but I wouldn’t say Corey was a total failure. Some rough patches early on, but the whole team was rough. Again, if he was healthy I bet his numbers towards the end of the year would have gotten better as Zach improved.

1 year ago
Reply to  Barney Miller

I agree on Lawson: bad luck, although I would say, he is injury prone. He’s been in the NFL 5 seasons and only played a full season twice. He also played 3 years at Auburn and missed time in one of those three. Davis came up small is too many big spots even when he did play. When a guy get’s paid that kind of money, first down passes can’t be deflected off his hands to JC Jackson. I’m not saying they were bad signings overall, I like them both, in time they may be awesome. My point is spending money doesn’t guarantee success. Drafting players is also a craps shoot but, at least you don’t lose the cap space.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

I agree with your theory of minimizing FA as a way to build this team. I do think Schultz is a viable target if he wishes to come here. I’m all for getting quality Edges however you can. If Davenport’s available I would inquire. Not sure about the Smiths from GB at this stage.