New York Jets prepare for March madness
March, 2, 2014
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com
A belated welcome to March, a month of madness in the NFL. It will be eventful for the New York Jets, whose roster will undergo major changes over the next four weeks. A sneak preview:
1. The purge: Even though they have plenty of salary-cap space, the Jets will unload some dead weight. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes will be released any day, an $8.25 million savings.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie ($14.98 million cap charge) will be released unless he takes a pay cut for the final year of his contract, which includes a prohibitive $5 million roster bonus. When healthy, Cromartie still is a quality corner. My gut tells me Cromartie will end up playing for the Jets in 2014.
2. The Sanchez saga: General manager John Idzik has yet to reveal his hand with regard to his plans for quarterback Mark Sanchez. At this point, why would he? He has until March 25, when a $2 million roster bonus is due. Starting March 11, I expect the Jets to chase the top free-agent quarterbacks, namely Michael Vick and Josh McCown. If they get shut out, the possibility of retaining Sanchez becomes realistic. It would be contingent on a pay cut (his base salary is $9 million) and a positive medical report on his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. He spent last week at the team's facility, rehabbing under the watchful eyes of the trainers. While I still think Sanchez's ouster is likely, I wouldn't call it a foregone conclusion. Why cut the man unless you have a replacement?
3. Idzik's first big deal: In 13 months as the GM, Idzik has yet to dole out a big contract for a veteran player. By big, I mean at least $5 million per year. Who will be his first major investment? Chances are, it will be right tackle Austin Howard, who will be an unrestricted free agent. The Jets are trying to get him locked up before March 11. Other players they'd like to keep are tight end Jeff Cumberland and outside linebacker Calvin Pace.
4. Gentlemen, start your checkbooks: With a $133 million salary cap, the Jets are $21.2 million under the cap, according to ESPN's figures. They have the flexibility to be big spenders. Look for them to attack the wide-receiver market, with Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks), Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants) among the most likely targets. Eric Decker (Denver Broncos) will be a hot commodity, but probably too pricey for the Jets. They could be looking for a tight end, perhaps Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions), if they fail to re-sign Cumberland. The goal for the offseason is to upgrade the offense. By the end of the month, the skill positions could have a different look.