The midway point is a good time to revisit how the Jets’ most expensive players are performing
Who would have thought that the word “playoffs” would be in the same sentence as the New York Jets right now?
Even those who predicted that the Jets would make it, such as Jet X analysts Oliver Cochrane and Vitor Paiva, likely did not think the team would be this good. The Jets are outperforming all expectations. No fan wants to discuss 2023 while the Jets are in the 2022 driver’s seat.
That being said, 2023 was considered the year that the Jets would go all-in. Despite the impressive victory against the Bills, there remain roster holes and injuries that could prevent the Jets from going all the way this season. Next year is still the year of expectations from Day 1.
As we have the slow week of the bye, let’s take a look ahead at the Jets’ most expensive contracts in 2023 and what we think will happen to each player.
With Carl Lawson, the numbers are very stark: He has a $15.3 million cap hit in 2023 while the Jets are only charged $333,000 in dead money if he is cut. It seems pretty clear-cut, no? Lawson is gone.
What makes that even more of a seeming no-brainer is the fact that the Jets drafted Jermaine Johnson in the first round this season. JJ has seen his playing time limited by the abundance of Jets edge rushers. However, he’s a run-stopping force, and sooner or later the Jets are going to want him to take over full-time (or as full-time as they ever go with their defensive linemen) duties. Though Johnson plays on the left side of the line and Lawson on the right, the overall crunch at edge could make Lawson the odd man out.
Furthermore, while Lawson has been better recently compared to the beginning of the season, he’s not exactly lighting up the stat sheet in his primary area of previous excellence—pressure rate. Lawson was never a sack artist due to his short arms, but he was in the Top 5 in the NFL in pressure rate from 2017-20. Lawson’s current 9.40% pressure rate is in the 36th percentile among 67 qualified edge rushers (min. 150 pass rush snaps).
I suspect that the Jets will ask Lawson to take a pay cut. He’s not going to get anywhere close to $15 million per year on the open market considering his injury history and level of production this season. It may be worth his while to take the cut and stay with a contending team. The price would need to be right for both sides, though.
This one is going to be controversial no matter what Corey Davis‘s final stat line is. He engendered much hatred from fans after his disappointing 2021 season, and many have never gotten over it. However, despite missing the last two games with a knee injury, Davis has enjoyed a stellar season and is the Jets’ most reliable target in crunch time.
Out of 66 receivers with a minimum of 30 receptions, Davis is averaging the second-most yards per reception at 18.5. He’s still in the 55th percentile with 1.7 yards per route run, which isn’t necessarily lighting up the charts but holds steady considering Zach Wilson‘s struggles. His current stat line projected over 17 games would yield 46 receptions for 851 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Although the reception number may be a bit low, that’s due in part to the fact that Wilson was averaging 29 dropbacks, 25 pass attempts, and 14.5 completed passes in the four games that Davis played with him. Overall, Davis has made many important catches this season while providing rock-solid blocking and sure hands. He’s back to his career norm of a 5% drop rate, having recorded just one drop in the opening game of the season.
Davis’s cap number in 2023 isn’t as high as Lawson’s, but it’s still quite high at $11.2 million. He also has a minuscule dead cap number at $666,668. It would be tempting to save $10.5 million by cutting him. However, I would not do that, and I don’t believe Joe Douglas will, either.
The situation at receiver has changed slightly at this point. Unless Elijah Moore magically becomes re-involved in the offense in a big way, it’s hard to imagine that the Jets would want to keep him on for another season. Garrett Wilson has essentially usurped his role as the X receiver, doing what Moore did last year plus showing additional versatility and skill. Moore has been moved into the slot, so we’ll see how that goes before categorically stating that the Jets will move on from Moore. With Elijah’s status up in the air, though, Corey Davis is all the more likely to stay.
Denzel Mims has earned himself a continued role in the Jets’ offense, and some would say that he’s a cheaper Davis replacement. However, we also saw Mims’s flaws on display in the last few games: his penalties, blocking inconsistency compared to the strength of Davis, and not-great hands make you want to have Davis around.
I believe that there’s no way the Jets move on from Corey Davis. He has too much chemistry with Zach Wilson, is too valuable as a blocker, and is too much the consummate professional that the Jets want on the team for them to release him. Perhaps they’ll extend him to move around some money, but I highly doubt they’ll get rid of him, even in a trade.
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Many fans have asked whether the Jets can move on from C.J. Mosley after this season. Mosley is the most visible Jets defender whenever a pass is caught over the middle, and his man-to-man and pattern-match zone coverage skills are on the major decline. He’s still a veteran presence and the captain of the defense, but the Jets can’t afford to have him drain their cap in 2023.
As of now, Mosley’s cap hit for 2023 is $21.5 million, while his dead cap would be $14.9 million if they cut him. That’s cost prohibitive both ways. However, if the Jets cut Mosley with a post-June 1 designation, they could push $10 million of that to 2024 and deal with a more manageable cap hit of $4.5 million in 2023.
I believe that is what the Jets will do. Despite the difficulty of a $10 million cap hit, it’s better than a $14 million one. The Jets need a younger, more dynamic middle linebacker at this point.
It’s important to note that Mosley is still on the books for around $3 million in 2025-26, as well. But that’s just the price to pay for the albatross of a contract that Mike Maccagnan saddled this team with.
There is always the possibility that the Jets try to re-sign Mosley at a lower number and keep him around since they appear to love him.
The Jets got unlucky when Mekhi Becton‘s season-ending injury cut into their contract talks with Duane Brown. Instead of commanding backup tackle money, the 37-year-old Brown got a two-year contract that gave him decent starting tackle money. Since it came during training camp, Joe Douglas was forced to push most of the guaranteed money into 2023 and beyond.
As of now, Brown has an $11.6 million cap hit next year with $6.3 million in dead money. The Jets could choose to eat that dead cap and cut him, but I don’t believe they will do so. It’s not advisable to eat more dead cap than the team saves. Obviously, this is contingent on how Brown plays down the stretch, since he’s been up-and-down so far.
The team could possibly restructure Brown’s contract to save around $2.25 million next year. If they convert his $9 million base salary into a signing bonus, it would spread over 2023 plus the three void years from 2024-26. That would lower his cap hit to $9.4 million 2023, but it would raise his dead cap to over $10 million in 2024, when he will no longer be under contract with the team.
My best guess is that the Jets keep him around as a very expensive backup or allow him to compete for a starting job on the line.
There’s also the significant possibility that Brown will retire considering his torn rotator cuff. He’s playing through it for now, and the Jets are quite thankful to have him there. However, at his age, it could be that he’ll just hang up his spikes following 2022.
After an excellent 2021 season, George Fant has suffered through an injury-riddled 2022 campaign. His knee, never fully healed after offseason surgery, led him to a horrific start in 2022. An IR stint followed a few weeks later. Fant was vocal about his desire for good left tackle money in the offseason, but he didn’t show anything towards deserving it. It’s highly unlikely that the Jets re-sign him unless it’s on a one-year prove-it deal. Fant can probably find someone to bet on his 2021 season more than the Jets.
I don’t believe much will change on this score regardless of how Fant plays down the stretch in 2022.
This is not a cut discussion, as Connor McGovern is a free agent after the season. The much-maligned Jets center has played as a solidly average lineman for most of his tenure with the team. His previous contract was bloated, but if the Jets can get him at a middle-of-the-league number, they should keep him.
The 15th-highest paid center in average annual value is the Patriots’ David Andrews at $4.75 million per year. McGovern’s current contract pays him nearly double that at $9 million annually. Entering his age-30 season, McGovern is probably worth somewhere in the $7 million-per-year range. I’d try for a three-year contract with $12 million or so guaranteed.
This has been the Jets’ most disappointing free agent signing in the Joe Douglas era. Laken Tomlinson has struggled mightily in both blocking phases. The Jets thought they were getting slightly below Pro Bowl level production, and instead they got bottom-of-the-league numbers.
Unfortunately, Tomlinson’s $8.5 million dead cap next year makes it almost impossible for the Jets to cut him. His $17 million cap hit may be somewhat cost prohibitive for the team, though.
As of now, the Jets can get out of Tomlinson’s contract after 2024 with $4.2 million in dead cap. Based on the structure of the contract, Tomlinson never expected to be around in Year 3 with the $13 million saved by cutting him. However, there is the possibility that the Jets try to move some of his cap hit into 2024 and lessen the $17 million hit. Like C.J. Mosley’s contract restructure, that would add to Tomlinson’s cap hit in 2024 and make it more costly to cut him.
My best guess is that the Jets find another player or players to restructure and leave Tomlinson’s contract as is.
The Jets can cut John Franklin-Myers with just $1.2 million in dead cap after this season. Considering his $12 million cap hit, there’s a chance they do just that. It depends on how Jermaine Johnson plays and whether they want to move Franklin-Myers inside.
JFM has been a valuable Jet, but his production at edge does not justify his contract number. The Jets can try to restructure him, and they may do that. He’s still just 26 and brings a lot of value to the team. However, the Jets’ defensive line is very expensive, and they drafted Johnson to eventually be a starter.
This may depend largely on what the Jets decide to do with Lawson. I’m going to say that the Jets keep JFM for 2023 at least but restructure his contract. He’d still be reasonably cuttable after 2023 considering that only $800,000 of his deal is currently guaranteed for 2024, and he’s more versatile than Lawson.
The Jets will not pick up Mekhi Becton’s fifth-year option after this season. It would be foolish for a guy who’s sustained back-to-back season-ending knee injuries and has questions about his mindset and weight.
However, given that his fourth year is fully guaranteed at $5.9 million, the Jets will keep him around. They will want to know if the talent he showed in 2020 is still there. It’s likely that he comes into camp as a swing tackle competing for a starting spot with Duane Brown, Max Mitchell, and possibly Alijah Vera-Tucker or someone else the team brings in, maybe a draft pick.
After a highly disappointing 2021 season, Sheldon Rankins is finally providing the value the Jets thought they would get when they signed him. Still, he’s a free agent after this season, and with the cap dollars the Jets will need to allocate to Quinnen Williams, my guess is that Rankins does not return. It’s possible that if the team struggles in Rankins’s absence with his elbow injury that they will be more likely to re-sign him.
It was somewhat befuddling that the Jets signed two tight ends to starting-caliber deals in the offseason. They may have overcompensated somewhat for the futility at the position in 2021. At this point, though, it’s apparent that Tyler Conklin is the starter and C.J. Uzomah is primarily a blocking tight end. A blocking tight end is definitely not worth Uzomah’s $9.7 million cap hit in 2023; however, he has $10.3 million in dead cap, making him difficult to cut.
What the Jets do with Uzomah will depend on what they think about Jeremy Ruckert‘s development. The third-round draft pick has played sparingly in 2022 and not done much. He still looks like a work in progress as a blocker, and tight end is known as a position with a steep NFL learning curve.
If the Jets think Ruckert is ready – or ready enough to be a No. 2 tight end – they’ll cut Uzomah with a post-June 1 designation to push his cap hit to 2024. They may also restructure his contract to spread his cap hit over two years, making his cap hit around a more manageable $5 million in 2023 and 2024.
My guess is that Uzomah is here for another year, but he may be restructured to ease his cap hit in 2023.
Quinnen Williams is on the fifth-year option in 2023, but he’s not going to play on that, high as it may be when he becomes a Pro Bowler or even an All-Pro.
Jeffery Simmons is in the same boat as Williams, so their contracts will probably go hand-in-hand. Simmons has been more consistently dominant than Quinnen over the course of their careers, but Quinnen has had his breakout season this year thus far.
Aaron Donald is in a league of his own when it comes to defensive line contracts with $31.6 million per year, $95 million total value, and $65 million guaranteed. Next up is DeForest Buckner at $21 million per year, $84 million total value, and $56 million guaranteed. Quinnen will probably want something in that neighborhood.
My guess is that the Jets lock him up for around $20 million per year over five years with $55 million guaranteed – more years, similar average annual value, guaranteed money more spread out.
After an All-Pro selection in 2021, Braxton Berrios has been quiet in 2022. Garrett Wilson’s emergence limits his offensive snaps, and he doesn’t get too many return opportunities. An $8.2 million cap hit is steep for a guy like that, but he brings $3.2 million dead cap. Saving $5 million may be tempting for the Jets, but to me, they do that only if they find someone cheaper to be a returner, gadget player, and fourth receiver. It’s anyone’s guess if that can happen.
Bryce Huff has proven his value to the Jets in limited snaps this season. The team’s trade of Jacob Martin further demonstrates how much they like Huff. However, he’s a restricted free agent after the season and may not be satisfied in taking backup money to play as a pass rush specialist. If the Jets don’t plan to increase his workload and pay him accordingly, he may be gone next year.
If it were up to me, I’d pay Huff significantly to keep him around. He has a tremendous impact on the pass rush as a whole. But Joe Douglas generally has a number that he won’t stray much from, and that might price the Jets out of Huff.
Justin Hardee has returned to his dominant special teams form from the Saints after a disappointing 2021. However, he’s making $2.35 million next year with no dead cap. That’s a lot of money to pay a special teams player who brings no defensive value. Still, if the Jets didn’t cut him in 2022 with almost an identical cap split, it’s hard for me to imagine they’ll cut him in 2023.
When the Jets signed Jordan Whitehead to a two-year, $14 million deal, many fans thought it was a steal. As Joe Blewett has repeatedly stated, though, there’s a reason Whitehead got relatively little on the open market. He’s not a good coverage safety, misses many tackles, and is not good enough in the box to make up for it.
The Jets already need a free safety for next season, so they may decide to keep Whitehead around on a $10 million cap hit. However, if they want to move on, Whitehead has nearly $3 million in dead cap for next season. Cutting him would still save $7 million, so it’s something the Jets might consider.
Good article, Rivka.
I’d cut Lawson. Just not worth it.
I’d try to renegotiate Mosely and Davis to save some space. Interested to see Jamien Sherwood’s development. He played well when Mosely missed a few snaps against Buffalo.
I don’t think I’ve seen Huff play on the right side this season, but he could replace Lawson on the right and Johnson on the left with Quinnen and JFM/Rankins (not both) inside is solid.
I didn’t see anything on Soloman Thomas. What’s his status?
I’d cut Whitehead and move Parks to starter, plus hit the draft.
I’d think about cutting Tomlinson. We could obviously move AVT back to the left side and keep Herbig on the right. Need to hit the draft here also.
So, if we do all those things, what sort of cap space are we looking at?
I agree about Lawson, to be honest, but I’m not 100% sure what the Jets will do.
I don’t think Mosley is worth renegotiating. $21.5 million can’t be negotiated down enough to save cap space. I think Sherwood has similar limitations as Mosley does, but I’m curious how he can play in coverage. I had thought that Sherwood would play more at linebacker this year for that exact reason. However, it’s possible that the Jets value Mosley more than I do since they’ve been raving about him recently.
Huff has played almost exclusively on the left side this year (only six snaps on the right) due to Lawson’s presence. However, he played around 100 snaps on the right side last year (vs. over 200 on the left), and in his rookie season, he played more on the right than the left. The biggest issue with Huff is that he is a liability in the run game, which may be the primary reason that he plays so little. I don’t know if Huff is a viable full-time replacement for Lawson, and I’m not sure the Jets have a right defensive end on their roster. JFM has played almost exclusively on the left side when he’s at defensive end in his career (not just this year), as has Jermaine Johnson.
I didn’t write about Solomon Thomas because he was signed for one year and $2.25 million. I don’t see much of a chance he’ll be back next year.
I don’t know if the Jets have seen enough from Parks to make him a starter. He’s barely played on defense this year, and his snaps have actually come at slot corner, per Pro Football Focus. I would say to go to the draft except that they already need to replace Joyner, and they also have other needs. That’s the only reason that I’m not saying it’s a slam-dunk that Whitehead gets released.
It’s highly unlikely that the Jets will eat $8.5 million in dead cap, even for $8.5 million in cap savings. Personally, I’d rather see them cut him and re-sign Herbig to start at right guard while moving Vera-Tucker back to the left side, but I don’t think they’re going to do it. It’s unbelievable how bad Tomlinson has been on film, even in games when he’s not actively allowing pressure and sacks. He messes up his assignment so often, costing the Jets in the run and screen game as well as in pass protection.
The Jets will almost certainly draft a tackle next year (I think in the first round, actually), but I don’t know if they’re going to want to hit guard in the early rounds. My best guess is that they take a developmental prospect in the fourth or fifth round.
It’s very hard to know what the exact cap situation will be due to all the variables. I’m assuming that, after re-signing their own free agents, the Jets will find themselves in need of at least one offensive tackle, perhaps one defensive tackle, 1 or 2 linebackers, and 1 or 2 safeties. Douglas is likely to try to hit the draft on those positions more than free agency.
I started thinking about next years cap after the euphoria of last Sundays win over Buffalo subsided a bit…still enjoying it though.
I was wrong about Mosely’s deal. I though he had a very low dead cap number similiar to Lawson.
McCag really Fd this one up and whenever we get frustrated remember how lucky we are to have JD.
Mosely has to stay with a hopefully friendly restructuring and be used less with some of his saved money being used for his replacement.
I think Rivka nailed how to structure his new deal. Maybe he plays 25% of tge snaps and acts like a player/coach.
I agree Lawson will be gone. That $15m can be used elsewhere. Huff deserves a deal and maybe he should be used more this year to see how he responds. Quinnen will and deserves to get paid. JDF on a restructured deal makes all the sense in the world
Regarding Uzomah, I wonder if a trade could be made for a TE needy team to basically just clear space.
I only know so much about trades/cuts and restructures but if Uzomah leaves with alot of dead money it makes sense to keep him but a trade would be best.
Despite his age if he decides to come back, Brown is insurance, albeit very expensive insurance for (drumroll please) Mechai Bechton.
If we can get a season from Bechton at $5m with his talent and AVT back and McGovern at say $7m gives us 3-4 good to very good linemen. I also have to beleive Lankenson will find his groove and improve.
Finally at safety, Whitehead has been a big disappointment but there is still time for it to click.
If we have tge cap space to get a mlb replacement for Mosely with him moving to backup/mentor that’s where I’d spend it followed by safety and line.
The draft, hopefully picking very late (FOR A CHANGE) I hope Joe does what he did this year, obviously on a smaller scale with less cap space and less and lower picks and signs FA on need and value while prepping the draft to combine both to fill the remaining holes.
Forgot about WR I like Davis because he makes Wilson dramatically better, hopefully on a re-worked deal and depending in how the year falls out I see Moore as a trade chip if an early 3rd rounder is on the table
Wonder if it would be fun or disaster to bring in OBJ. lol
Maccagnan did a terrible job, but the Jets also got really unlucky with Mosley opting out of the Covid year. It pushed the whole cap situation back. If that hadn’t happened, Mosley would be more easily cut next season without this kind of cap conundrum.
I do think the Jets will cut Lawson and restructure JFM. Lawson is just not bringing the same level of production that he used to. JFM isn’t necessarily either, but he is more easily restructured and his positional versatility is valuable.
I don’t think the Jets will trade Uzomah, to be honest. I think his contract was meant to be a two-year deal. It seems to me that the Jets didn’t expect Ruckert to be ready for that amount of time. After seeing Ruckert faceplant in the hole against the Dolphins on Breece’s five-yard touchdown run, I’m inclined to agree.
Regarding Becton, it would be highly unwise to rely on him in any meaningful way for next season. Sure, you have him around and hope he can pull it together, but there needs to be a better plan in place than there was coming into this season. The Jets likely need at minimum one starter at tackle, and realistically, if Fant isn’t back, they probably need two.
I’m not so sure about Tomlinson, to be honest. His play has been putrid, even worse than it looks on TV. He’s a liability in every phase of the game.
I sincerely hope Douglas does not play games with trading up next season unless it’s for a game-changing tackle.
I honestly don’t think the Jets will even re-work Davis. They might extend him to spread out his cap hit and give him another year. He’s a really good receiver and a completely underrated blocker. $11 million for a No. 2 receiver is below market value, to be honest.
I think the Jets will trade Moore, too, but I’m curious to see how they deploy him over the next few games. It’s possible that they will reincorporate him into the offense. I still think he could make this offense a lot better, and I’m not overly enamored of coming into a season with Berrios/Mims at the No. 3 and 4 receiver spots.