A look at what's going on around the New York Jets:
1. Capped out: Remember the start of free agency, when the Jets had more than $50 million in salary-cap space? It was John Idzik's going-away present to the franchise. Those days are long gone. In recent days, they were down to the last couple of nickels and dimes in the piggy bank. They were so desperate for cap room they restructured Nick Folk's contract and waived rookie defensive lineman Davon Wells from injured reserve with an injury settlement.
Before the Folk move, which saves $1.2 million, they were only $985,000 under the cap, according to Overthecap.com. Now they have wiggle room, but not much. It will hamper their flexibility if they have to make roster moves during the season. Also, if they decide to cut Folk after the season, they'll now have to deal with a cap hit.
They lost a few million in recent days because it's no longer the top 51 against the cap; that accounting method is used in the offseason and preseason. For the regular season, everybody under contract counts against the cap -- the 53-man roster, plus players on the practice squad, injured reserve and suspension lists. Right now, the Jets have 71 players on the payroll. It puts them in a precarious position. If they get hit with a rash of injuries, they're in big trouble.
You're probably thinking, did this affect the Muhammad Wilkerson negotiations? The answer is no. Actually, a long-term extension might have helped create breathing room. They could have structured a deal that would have lowered his current cap charge.
Watching them spend big bucks in the offseason was fun, right? Well, the credit card bill just arrived in the mail.
2. Wait 'til next year: Of the 30 players drafted ahead of Wilkerson in 2011, 16 have received new contracts from their original teams, including a flurry in recent days -- Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Nate Solder, et al. Wilkerson apparently will have to wait until 2016, if then.
The sides were unable to work out an agreement before Wilkerson's self-imposed deadline -- today. You can see where this is headed -- a franchise tag next offseason. It's not the ideal scenario for either side (he'll eat up a projected $16 million in cap space), but there is such a gap in negotiations that it's hard to see them getting a long-term deal done. He will play out the final season of his contract for $6.97 million, hoping he doesn't get hurt. Imagine how high the price will go if he has a big season.
3. Money on the backburner: Wilkerson's contract situation has garnered the attention, but two other important defensive starters -- Demario Davis and Damon Harrison -- also are entering the final year of their contracts. From what I understand, the front office made no push to sign either before the start of the season, opting for a wait-and-see approach. With a new defensive scheme, the Jets want to see how they fit before committing to long-term contracts. The downside is that Davis and Harrison, both 26, will be in demand if they have big seasons. Facing a tight cap situaion in 2016, the Jets run the risk of losing both.
4. HeadsetGate: It was amusing to hear the Pittsburgh Steelers whine about their malfunctioning headsets on Thursday night. Did they forget the 2010 AFC Championship Game against the Jets? The Jets were ticked off -- I mean, really ticked off -- because their headsets were on the fritz throughout the game at Heinz Field. Afterward, Mark Sanchez said the communication crashed "multiple times."
The NFL cleared the New England Patriots of any wrongdoing in the aftermath of Thursday night's game. You can almost visualize eyes rolling across the league. Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he has experienced headset issues throughout his coaching career, but never in Foxborough. Veteran offensive lineman Willie Colon acted as if he was surprised to hear what happened Thursday night.
"Things have been known to happen there," I told him.
"A lot of things happen a lot of times there," he said, smiling.
5. Head(set) games: Bose is the official headset and headphone sponsor for the NFL. On the eve of the Patriots-Steelers game, Darrelle Revis -- ex-Patriot -- gave Bose headphones as a gift to his teammates. There's no connection, I just thought it was interesting.
6. Arms race: It's opening day, so you want some positive news about your team, right? Okay, embrace this: The Jets, who last season were obliterated by a Murderer's Row of top quarterbacks, face only three of the top 12 quarterbacks from 2014 (based on Total QBR) -- Tony Romo, Tom Brady and Eli Manning. A year ago, they played four likely Hall of Famers in the first seven games -- Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Brady. By the time they were finished with that gauntlet, the Jets were done. This season, they don't have that alibi.
7. The Mike & Todd Show: Bowles sounded like he was about to say, "He completes me." He was talking about his working relationship with general manager Mike Maccagnan.
"We understand the business part and the football side the same way, trying to make them merge together," Bowles said. "If I say something, it's like it was going to come out of his mouth. If he says something, it almost comes out of my mouth. Mike's been great, Mike's been outstanding. Working with him has been totally nothing but joy."
Rex Ryan used to say the same thing about Idzik, and look how that turned out. In this case, the strength of the Bowles-Maccagnan relationship is more believable because they were hired together.
8. Freeze out: ESPN's bombshell report about SpyGate, and its impact on DeflateGate, had me thinking about a 2014 conversation with former Jets coach Eric Mangini. He and Bill Belichick were as close as two coaches could be, almost a father-son relationship, but that changed when the Jets blew the whistle on the cheating Patriots in 2007. I asked Mangini if he and Belichick have talked since SpyGate. He smiled and shook his head. No, not a word, he said.
9. Sleeping on the sleepers: It's interesting to note the Jets have only one undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster, and he's an import -- safety Ronald Martin, whom they acquired on waivers last Sunday from the Seattle Seahawks. The low number could be a good thing (no room for UDFAs on a deep roster) or a bad thing (poor job of identifying under-the-radar talent).
10. Coples wasn't built in a day: Calvin Pace doesn't like to talk to the media, but I'll give him this: He's refreshingly candid when he decides to speak. This week, he admitted it's "a little bit" frustrating to see a player with Quinton Coples' physical skills not produce bigger numbers. Pace acknowledged that "Rome wasn't built overnight," pointing out Coples had to switch positions. Mostly, Pace echoed the sentiment of many fans: Coples needs to do more. Pace expects it to happen, saying, "I think he'll be a guy with double digits (in sacks) or close to it."
11. Quote of the week: This comes from Pace, the oldest player on the team at 34: "It's crazy. I'm old in this business, but in everyday life, I'm not even middle-aged yet. I don't feel 34 yet, I really don't. I'm amongst a bunch of guys born in the 90s, so I have to act younger than I am."