Boomer Esiason stated that Mekhi Becton might get cut. Here is the simple reason that he is wrong.
Boomer Esiason is a beloved figure in the New York media. His morning show with Gregg Giannotti, Boomer and Gio, is a fixture on the morning commute.
So when Boomer said last week that the Jets may cut Mekhi Becton, people took notice.
“I’m thinking in training camp he could get cut,” Esiason said of Becton. This came after he expressed concern about the shape Becton was in at the Jets’ mandatory minicamp, stating that he “was waiting to see what [Becton] looks like and this ain’t good.”
Boomer was not wrong with most of his take. Though I’m not sure how he would know for a fact that Becton is above 395 pounds (as he said this morning), the fact is that Becton’s weight is clearly a concern. Robert Saleh’s lack of praise for Becton’s physique (as opposed to his glowing praise for the conditioning of Denzel Mims and Zach Wilson) shows that he’s concerned about it.
But to say that Becton might get cut indicates a lack of knowledge about the way the NFL works. It’s a lazy take coming from an emotional fan angle rather than a place of logical analysis.
Many fans and analysts believe, as Boomer does, that when it comes to the salary cap, teams can do whatever they want.
Tell me this, then, Boomer: why hasn’t Baker Mayfield been cut?
Contrary to popular belief, teams cannot do whatever they want when it comes to the salary cap. They can utilize loopholes, but ultimately there are rules that need to be followed. Teams like the New Orleans Saints have been playing a dangerous game for a long time: they simply defer the problem to a future season until it will eventually catch up to them.
The classic salary cap maneuver utilized by all teams is restructuring contracts. Teams will initially negotiate a contract with a high base salary and low bonus numbers.
This is explained by The 33rd Team:
“Signing bonuses count against the team’s cap. However, while the player gets the lump sum of the signing bonus upfront, the team, from a salary cap perspective, can spread out the signing bonus equally throughout the life of the player’s contract—up to five years.”
While all the details of how this works are beyond the scope of this article, the tactic that teams use is converting base salary into a signing bonus. This allows them to spread the cap hit over multiple seasons. When this happens, a team recoups some cap space for the current season but defers a bigger hit to future years.
This is how teams seemingly manufacture cap room from nowhere, and why many believe that the salary cap is just a construct of the mind.
However, when a team cuts a player, that’s when the contract really hits the road. All of the money still owed to the player contractually (regardless of when it is actually paid) is accelerated to the current year’s cap. That money is called “dead money.” That’s why you’ll see overpriced veterans still with their teams; the team just cannot afford to have that money eat up their cap this season. They need it to be spread out over multiple years.
If you look at the New Orleans Saints’ page on OvertheCap.com, you’ll see that they have over $33 million in dead cap this season. That’s $33 million of the cap allocated to players who are no longer on their team. This is what happens to teams who keep kicking the can down the road. It is also why the New York Giants ($32.5 million in dead cap) have a depleted roster and no cap room.
To answer my question above, Baker Mayfield has not been cut for 18.8 million reasons. That’s the price of picking up a quarterback’s fifth-year option with uncertainty about their future. No team wants to trade for Baker for the same reason.
Joe Douglas is too smart to let the Jets end up in the Giants’ situation. At least the Saints made some playoff runs with Drew Brees. A team that is not in win-now mode cannot hamstring its ability to win in the future. That is exactly what cutting Mekhi Becton would do: not only would it leave Zach Wilson unprotected, but it would also prevent Douglas from filling out the rest of the roster both this season and next.
If the Jets cut Becton today, they would owe nearly $11 million against the salary cap in total. That includes $8.2 million this year – over $3 million more than if he remains on the roster. That’s $3 million that Douglas cannot use to sign another depth player, such as a swing tackle or a run stopper for the defense.
It’s also $8.2 million locked up in a player that is not on the roster. This means that Douglas would need to find more cap space to sign a replacement for Becton. That may involve restructuring some contracts, something that, as mentioned above, Douglas does not want to do.
Furthermore, cutting Becton would cost another $2.7 million against next year’s cap. It’s possible that Douglas would decide to eat that money at the end of this season. However, he’s not going to give up on Becton now for the price of almost $11 million this year.
Even if Boomer’s take about Becton’s health is 100% correct – and Becton is as unhealthy as he looks – it is highly unlikely that Douglas pulls the plug.
And it would not be because owner Woody Johnson ordered him to keep Becton. This is not a PR issue. Douglas has shown his willingness to give up on former high draft picks with the trade of Sam Darnold. He may well cut Denzel Mims before the season begins. But while Mims would cost less than $1 million in dead cap over the next two seasons, Becton is too costly for Douglas to cut.
Anything is possible in the NFL. We do not know exactly how Robert Saleh and Douglas internally feel about Becton’s current situation. They’ve been very careful not to let it show. Perhaps Becton reaches a point of no return.
But as angry as a Jets fan might be about Becton’s weight and mindset, the facts do not support the likelihood of the Jets moving on from him. Boomer should know this.
The Mekhi Becton saga will not come near a resolution until training camp. It’s up to Becton to prove the doubters wrong. Wearing a t-shirt is not going to be enough to make Boomer and others eat their words. It’s time to walk the walk.