Welcome to the offseason.
With Super Bowl LI in the books, the NFL spotlight turns to next season. Officially, the league year doesn't begin until March 9 (the start of free agency), but there will be a lot of activity over the next four weeks, especially for the New York Jets.
Prepare for bloodshed.
The Jets are $7 million over the projected $168 million salary cap, according to overthecap.com. They could get a small break, as commissioner Roger Goodell indicated last week the cap could exceed $170 million.
Either way, the Jets are in bad shape and will have to dump salary.
To me, the most intriguing decision involves Darrelle Revis, one of the best players in franchise history.
The Jets figured they'd get at least three good years out of Revis when they signed him to a five-year, $70 million contract in 2015, but they saw a dramatic decline last season, putting his status in doubt. His return hinges on renegotiating his contract because the current cap charge ($15.3 million) is prohibitive.
The clock is ticking because a $2 million roster bonus is due March 11. If Revis, 31, doesn't agree to a pay cut by then, he'll be released. The Jets don't want to pay the bonus because it would essentially put them on the hook for his $13 million salary.
While some may feel it's time to cut bait, the Jets may see things differently. If they can get Revis to slash his total compensation to, say, $6 million, it might make economic sense to keep him as a No. 2 corner or a safety. Remember: He has a $6 million guarantee coming to him no matter what. If you're going to write the check anyway, you might as well have the player -- or so they may believe.
A $6 million salary isn't outrageous for a starting cornerback. It would rank 27th at the position for 2017, according to ESPN salary data. The Jets almost certainly will add another major piece at cornerback, either a draft pick or a free agent, but they'd need two pieces if they dump Revis.
Coach Todd Bowles will have significant input. If he believes Revis has slipped below a starting-caliber player, it'll probably mean the end of Revis 2.0. They'd clear $9.3 million from the cap by releasing him.
They face a similar decision with center Nick Mangold, another player destined for the Ring of Honor. It's tough because these bubble players -- throw David Harris into the mix -- have been foundation players for so long. But, as Bill Belichick proves every year in New England, there's no room for sentimentality in the NFL. Belichick is cold and ruthless when it comes to roster building, and general manager Mike Maccagnan needs to be the same way. You'd rather jettison a player a year too early than a year too late.
Everybody loves Mangold, 33, but he's coming off a serious foot injury and due to make $9.1 million in the final year of his contract -- all of which comes off the books if he's released. He's one of the smartest players they've ever had, and he'd be an asset during the transition to a new offense, but the cap number is simply too high. They can negotiate a pay cut or hand the position to Wesley Johnson, who got great experience last season. Johnson is undersized, but that could be mitigated in the new West Coast offense, which probably will feature a zone running scheme.
Unlike Revis, Mangold doesn't have a looming bonus deadline, reducing the sense of urgency. It's the same for Brandon Marshall, who is due to make $7.5 million. Like Mangold, his cap charge disappears if he's cut. His status likely hinges on Eric Decker's recovery from two surgeries and the organization's belief in the young receivers, namely Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson. Marshall, who turns 33 next month, is a win-now player, but the Jets aren't a win-now team. It wouldn't be a surprise if they give him permission to shop for a trade.
At 33, Harris falls into the same age group as the others. From a financial standpoint, he'd be an easy cut because he's in the final year of his contract and they'd save his full salary ($6.5 million) by cutting him. But he still has value because he runs the defense and he remains a serviceable starter, although a reduced role seems possible. The sense is that Harris will stick.
If they parted ways with all their fading stars, the Jets would clear close to $50 million in cap space. But they'd have a lot of holes to fill.
Welcome to the offseason.