C.J. Uzomah is the first domino to fall in the New York Jets’ salary cap restructures
After a day of courting Aaron Rodgers, Joe Douglas and the New York Jets‘ decision-makers are back in Florham Park. The first order of business: starting the cap gymnastics necessary to carry Rodgers’s contract.
Douglas began that process by restructuring C.J. Uzomah‘s deal, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The #Jets converted $4.5 million of TE C.J. Uzomah's salary into a bonus, clearing $3.6M in cap space.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 8, 2023
If you go back to the article in which I broke down possible contract restructures, those numbers are a little different than the ones I had projected for Uzomah. ESPN’s Rich Cimini clarified why that is the case.
#Jets restructured C.J. Uzomah's contract, lowering this year's cap charge from $10.3M to $6.7M. Converted $4.5M of his $8M base into signing bonus + added 3 void yrs, spreading bonus over 5 yrs, per @Jason_OTC. Downside: $5.9M hit if cut after '23 season. (@TomPelissero 1st)
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 8, 2023
The added void years changed the situation. Instead of spreading the $4.5 million over just 2023 and 2024, now that money is spread out from 2023-27, which adds only $900K extra of dead money to each year. It might be annoying to have so many years of dead cap, but a team can generally handle $900K without too much difficulty.
The downside of this is that Uzomah’s dead cap hit next offseason would be $5.92 million, which is a lot of dead money to eat. This makes it more likely that Uzomah will finish out his contract with the Jets in the 2024 season.
It is somewhat surprising that the Jets chose to restructure Uzomah’s contract rather than Tyler Conklin‘s. Although it does save them more cap space because the initial base salary is higher ($8 million vs. $6.1 million), Conklin is also a better two-way tight end than Uzomah. It’s more likely that the Jets will want to keep Conklin next year than Uzomah, but this restructure makes it highly likely that Uzomah will stick around.
Jeremy Ruckert‘s presence also makes the Uzomah restructure surprising. Ruckert profiles as much more of a natural Uzomah replacement than Conklin. It had seemed like a possibility that Ruckert would already take over more of Uzomah’s playing time in 2023 before usurping his role in 2024. Now, it’s fair to wonder what Ruckert’s role will be if the Jets are committed to Uzomah for 2023-24.
In general, the Jets are stuck in this situation to begin with because they signed two tight ends to starting-caliber contracts last offseason. While Conklin’s contract matches his talent and the season he was coming off in Minnesota, Uzomah’s was puzzling considering that he is a blocking-first tight end.
Expect more moves in the coming days as the Jets continue to aggressively pursue Rodgers.