Keep an eye on Mike Tannenbaum

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It was exactly this time three years ago, the eve of the preseason opener, that the New York Jets made the biggest trade in franchise history -- acquiring Brett Favre.

The stunning move solidified GM Mike Tannenbaum's reputation as a deal maker. He proved that, even with the regular season approaching, he isn't afraid to tear up the blueprint and start over.

Which brings us to the present. With more than $7 million in salary-cap space, Tann-ologists believe he's plotting something big before the start of the season. When that sentiment was mentioned to him, he laughed.

"That's funny," Tannenbaum said. "I'm not."

But it's easy to see why some would get that impression. After all, the Jets induced LaDainian Tomlinson, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and Mark Brunell into taking pay cuts, they released Jerricho Cotchery and they low-balled their longest-tenured player, Shaun Ellis, losing him to the New England Patriots.

Obviously, they needed cap space to re-sign Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, deals that average a combined $18 million per year. The Jets also wanted additional room to pursue free-agent star Nnamdi Asomugha, who wound up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now, on paper, it appears they have a surplus in cap room, creating questions among fans, even players: Why? What's next?

"We're always looking for opportunities to improve the team, but I'd say the lion's share [of spending] for 2011 is done," Tannenbaum said. "Right now, we're looking to add players that would provide depth and competition."

As examples, he mentioned wide receivers Patrick Turner and Logan Payne, late arrivals from 2010 whom the organization is trying to develop. They're decent pickups, but not the kind of names that fuel fan frenzy.

For competitive reasons, Tannenbaum didn't want to disclose his spending plans, but the GM appears to have an eye on the future. Unused cap room can be pushed into future years and, according to a source, the Jets are planning to use that mechanism to help them re-sign players in 2012 and beyond.

They have some big contracts coming up. Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller, both signed through 2012, could be approached after the season about extensions. Mark Sanchez is under contract through 2013, but that will be a mega contract and it makes sense to start planning.

Like Sanchez, Darrelle Revis has three years left on his deal, but there already are rumblings that he may want to renegotiate after the season.
The Jets also have to sign a practice squad, which will eat up about $1 million in cap space. Tannenbaum also wants what he calls "fudge money," the flexibility to acquire replacement players in the event of a significant injury.

Fans might be wondering about the lost workout bonuses that were converted to roster bonuses, and how that money will impact the cap. In short, it doesn't.

Because of the lockout, the players couldn't work out at team facilities. Those with workout bonuses in their contract -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson had a league-high $750,000 bonus -- will recoup that money if they make the roster, according to the league transition rules.

The Jets have at least $2.3 million in that category, but that money already is counting toward the cap.

With Tannenbaum, you can never discount the possibility of a significant move. Two years ago, he traded for Braylon Edwards in early October. But for now, the GM insisted that he likes his team.

"You'd like to see the team out there as a whole," he said, alluding to some minor injuries. "But so far, so good."