FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There's no doubt about it: New York Jets owner Woody Johnson has bought into the rebuilding plan -- or bought out, if you will.
From the first cut in late February to Tuesday's twin shocker (David Harris and Eric Decker), the Jets have dumped $67.9 million in actual payroll for the 2017 season. They've gone from one of the highest payrolls in the NFL to one of the lowest, thanks to an offseason purge that has claimed 11 veteran players. That includes three future members of their Ring of Honor -- Harris, center Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis.
There's been more bloodshed than an episode of "Game of Thrones," which happens to be one of Mike Maccagnan's favorite TV shows. Maybe George R.R. Martin has rubbed off on the Jets' general manager, who hosted the "Thrones" creator for a day at training camp in each of the past two summers. Martin happens to be a Jets fan, but you wonder how he feels about his favorite team now that winter most certainly is coming.
Early Tuesday evening, after the firing was done, a somber Maccagnan addressed the beat reporters in a second-floor boardroom at One Jets Drive. Initially, there was no plan to make him available to the media, but the Jets recognized it would've been a bad look if their top football man had stayed in hiding on such an eventful day.
"I think our focus has been from day one to build this thing through the draft," Maccagnan said of the massive rebuild. "We’ve obviously talked about building a young team going forward and position ourselves for success. It’s going to be a competitive roster. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for a lot of players on this roster and that will play itself out over time. But again, we’re doing things we feel are going to help this organization both short and long term."
Maccagnan was asked several pointed questions.
Is the team tanking for a better draft pick in 2018?
"That’s not something we’re focused on," he said. "We’re focused on making decisions about this team going forward."
Is this the worst roster in the NFL?
"I’m not going to speculate on our roster compared to anybody else's roster," he said.
Were the Harris and Decker moves financially motivated?
"No, I think there’s a lot of things that go into these decisions," he said. "I think we’ve been focused on trying to create opportunities for a lot of players on this roster. We have some very competitive positions, and we’ll see how it unfolds going forward."
The financial silver lining, other than saving Johnson a ton of money, is the cap situation. The departed 11 account for only $11.3 million in "dead" money on this year's cap, including a $6 million guarantee for Revis. They were able to avoid massive cap hits because most of the players were entering the final year of their contract. There's only a $2.9 million dead charge in 2018.
This will create tremendous flexibility next offseason. They will have about $66 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com -- and that doesn't include the carryover from 2017. They could end up with $80 million in room, a very Cleveland Browns-ish number.
In the meantime, there will be suffering, plenty of suffering. The Jets have a bad roster and they might have a hard time winning more than three or four games.
"I think we’ll measure [success] in terms of different things," Maccagnan said. "Obviously, wins and losses. We’ll measure it on how players develop. There’s a lot of aspects that go into that, and we’ll evaluate it going forward."