The Jets are already beginning to clear salary cap space, but they know they still have a lot of work to do if they're going to be players in this year's free-agent market. They could easily help heir situation and clear more than $13 million in space by cutting their two veteran receivers who'll turn 30 and 33 in March.
With a stable of young, promising receivers on the roster, and with a team that is most definitely not ready to win now, the idea of parting ways with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall makes a lot of sense. Of course, it was only two seasons ago where they were as good as any 1-2 punch in football.
And that could be a good thing for a new, young quarterback to have.
That's why it's not as easy a decision as it seems as the Jets ponder what to do with their receivers. Marshall is probably in the most precarious position due to his age (soon to be 33) and the fact he's coming off one of his worst NFL seasons (59 catches for 799 yards). It didn't help his case that he was in the middle of some of the Jets' locker room issues -- a vocal and controversial leader who rubbed some of his defensive teammates the wrong way.
Add in the fact that the Jets could clear his entire $7.5 million salary and cap number off their books by releasing him, and it seems like an easy call. He's entering the final year of his contract and almost certainly wouldn't be re-signed after that anyway. They could let him go and use a portion of the money to replace him with someone else.
Of course, the wisdom of that depends on what they're replacing. If the Jets believe he's a receiver in decline, that his miserable 2016 was a sign of things to come, they won't have trouble finding someone to duplicate those numbers. But it's hard to forget that just two seasons ago he caught 109 passes for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. A 6-4 receiver who can put up numbers like that will be almost impossible to find on the free agent market or in the draft.
Figuring out the value of Decker is more difficult because his 2016 season was cut short by injuries, and he's recovering from both shoulder and hip surgeries. He's almost certain to be sidelined through the spring and the Jets won't get their first real good look at him until the summer. By then he'll be 30 and who knows how close he'll be to the receiver he was in 2015, when he caught 80 passes for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Then again, the injuries make him a perfect candidate for a restructure or a pay cut. He's due a salary of $7.25 million and a cap number of $8.75 million. Cutting him would clear $5.75 million in cap space, and the Jets could easily do that by getting him to agree to a reduced salary -- he'd surely make more from them than he'd get as an injured, 30-year-old on the open market -- or converting some of his salary into bonuses.
So unless the Jets get a bad medical report on Decker, it's a good bet that's what they'll try to do.
Whatever they do with Marshall and Decker, though, the Jets clearly believe their future is elsewhere. They are thrilled with the development of Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick in 2014 who had 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns last season. They believe the 6-2, 225 pounder can be a good No. 2 receiver, though they aren't quite sold on him as a No. 1.
They also have a trio of young receivers that they really like in Robby Anderson (42-587-2), Charone Peake (19-186-0) and Jalin Marshall (14-162-2). They also have Devin Smith, their second-rounder from 2015, who barely played last season while recovering from ACL surgery. It's been easy to forget about him while pondering the Jets' future, but he's still only 24.
So there is talent on the roster at receiver -- at least that's what the Jets believe -- and they'll have time for it to grow with presumably a new, young quarterback at the helm of the offense. That doesn't bode well for the future of Marshall or Decker with the Jets -- definitely in the long-term, and maybe not even in the short-term -- even if it would be good for a new, young quarterback to have at least one proven, talented receiver at his side.