A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. The Mo market: On Friday night, the Buffalo Bills executed a masterful salary dump by trading underachieving defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Which raises a question: Could the Jets do the same with Muhammad Wilkerson before Tuesday's trading deadline?
The short answer: Highly unlikely.
Allow me to explain.
The beauty of the Dareus deal is that it allowed the Bills to unload an onerous contract without blowing up their cap. Because of the way the deal is structured (a $7.35 million guarantee in 2018), it would've been financially prohibitive to cut him next March. The cap hit would've been more than $20 million. The Jaguars gave the Bills a way out and they took it.
It's a different situation with Wilkerson and the Jets. In short, there would be no cap benefit in 2018 by trading him now. The reason is because they can cut him in March before his 2018 salary ($16.75 million) becomes fully guaranteed. In that case, they'd clear $11 million of his $20 million cap charge from the books. A $9 million "dead" charge isn't ideal, but it's workable.
If they were to trade him now, the cap implications would be the same as a March cut. The only financial benefit would be saving the remainder of his 2017 salary -- a guaranteed $7.8 million. That's a lot of money for a rebuilding team -- and, of course, they wouldn't mind getting a draft pick in return -- but consider the flip side: What team would pay $7.8 million for a half-season rental? I say half-season because there's little chance anyone will exercise the mega-guarantee in 2018.
Let's not forget the obvious: Wilkerson's production is down and he's battling a variety of nagging injuries. I believe the Jets would listen if a team calls -- they might even make a few calls on their own -- but a trade isn't realistic.
2. Sign of a turnaround? On a positive note, Wilkerson played well last week, making a "clinic type of play," according to defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. He helped make a tackle nearly 20 yards downfield, preventing a first down on a third-and-18. It was quite a hustle play, considering he's playing on a bad wheel. Rodgers said Wilkerson showed "a lot of energy. We just have to keep him on that path."
3. Desert oasis: Despite two straight crushing losses, coach Todd Bowles still has the Jets trending in the right direction. If it goes the other way over the next nine games and he winds up getting fired, he'd be an attractive free agent to one team that could be looking for a head coach -- the Arizona Cardinals.
There has been a lot of speculation about Bruce Arians, 65, retiring after the season. He refuted a local TV report that said he's planning to call it quits, but that's how you'd expect him to respond. If he does walk away, he'd love to see Bowles succeed him, according to a source.
Bowles and Arians are extremely close, and Bowles was a successful defensive coordinator for the Cards in 2013 and 2014. If things go south with the Jets, he'd have a suitor in the southwest.
4. Fourth-quarter solution: If the Jets want to improve their late-game performance, it has to start with quarterback Josh McCown, whose fourth-quarter passer rating (63.7) ranks 29th in the NFL. Consider his rating by quarter:
Detect a trend?
5. Double trouble: The Jets have lost two straight after leading by 14 points in each of those games. You have to go back to 1993 to find the last time they blew a 14-point lead or more in back-to-back losses, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Heck, it was the only other time it happened.
Let's take a trip down memory lane. In '93, they squandered a 21-0 advantage and fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 35-30. (Anybody remember the Eric Allen interception? Boomer Esiason does.) The next week, they went on the road and choked away a 17-0 lead to the Los Angeles Raiders. They lost, 24-20. The coach was Bruce Coslet, who finished 8-8 and got fired.
6. Using the "F" word: Following up on the blown leads, the word of the week at One Jets Drive was "finish." Players told me it was the central theme in every aspect of their game preparation -- from the practice field to the weight room to the meeting rooms. When they neared the end of a meeting or a lifting session, the point was made to have a strong finish. It was the same on the practice field for specific periods.
"We have to establish that finishing mentality," tackle Kelvin Beachum said.
Beachum started to focus on it during the flight home from Miami. He sat next to guard James Carpenter on the plane and they rehashed the disastrous fourth quarter, looking for specific ways in which they could've played better. He said center Wesley Johnson and guard Brian Winters were doing the same thing in the row behind them.
Now it's time to walk the walk.
7. Can you spare a nickel? The Jets will play Sunday without a nickel back/slot corner on the roster. How is that possible? Without Buster Skrine (concussion), they will be forced to play a perimeter corner out of position or cook up a miracle scheme against the slumping, but still dangerous Atlanta Falcons.
Marcus Williams had some experience in the slot, but he got cut a couple of weeks ago. Xavier Coleman, an undrafted rookie, was called up from the practice squad to be the backup, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Now they're reduced to piecing it together with glue and Scotch tape. I imagine the coaching staff isn't too thrilled.
8. A fine mess: Linebacker Darron Lee has accumulated $72,925 in league fines this season. To put that in perspective, his weekly game check is $53,801. Translation: He has cost himself a lot of money.
The good news about Lee is that he has elevated his play the last few weeks. The 2016 first-round pick has forced a fumble and led the team in tackles in each of the last two games, the first Jets player to do that since safety Kerry Rhodes in 2006.
10. A really close-to-home homecoming: Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a Jets assistant in 2007 and 2008, grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, a few miles from the Jets' facility. The facility opened in 2008, so it was perfect for Quinn.
"When I worked there at the Jets, my wife liked to joke it was like 'Everybody Loves Raymond,'" he said. "My brother, the police officer, he lived down the street. Another brother (was) across the street, and so it was a lot of fun to be there during that time."