The Jets are in position to be the kings of free agency, with potentially more salary cap room to spend than any team except for the Cleveland Browns. They are already projected to have about $75 million in salary cap space, and that's if they don't make another move.
With a few key cuts they could clear the $100 million mark with room to spare.
And if that happens, the sky is really the limit for what GM Mike Maccagnan can do as he attempts to quickly rebuild his roster. Even if the Jets use $30 million of that on, say, a quarterback like Kirk Cousins, they'd still have $70 million or so to spend - more than all but a handful of NFL teams.
To get to that $100 million mark, though, they do have a little work to do - not nearly as much as they did in their bit purge last year, but some work nonetheless. So here's a look at some of the veteran Jets who are most in danger of being a salary-cap cut:
- DL Muhammad Wilkerson (2018 salary: $16.75 million; 2018 cap hit: $20 million) - The only question is whether they designate him a pre-June 1 cut (clearing $11 million cap space) or a post-June 1 cut ($17 million in savings). His lack of production and bad attitude makes this an easier call than when they benched him for the final two games of the season for, among other things, his chronic lateness. They have to do it before the third day of the league year (March 16), otherwise his 2018 salary becomes guaranteed. But don't worry. They will.
- CB Buster Skrine (2018 salary: $6 million; 2018 cap hit: $8.5 million) - He certainly had a few games last season that made people think he was worth the money. At 28, though, he's not likely to become more consistent with age. The Jets don't have cornerback depth, so keeping him is certainly an option. He'd probably have to take a pay cut. If he's just cut, it'll clear $6 million in salary cap space.
- RB Matt Forte (2018 salary: $3 million; 2018 cap hit: $4 million) - The $3 million in cap savings they'd get by cutting him isn't the concern. The concern is he's 32, missed four games last season, dealt with injuries all year, and combined for 674 yards. While he's a valuable backup, the Jets need to let Bilal Powell rule their running game, and young Elijah McGuire has shown enough to be a backup. A guy like Forte is a luxury. The Jets could try to trade him, but if not they may ask him to return at a lower rate.
- G James Carpenter (2018 salary: $4.45 million; 2018 cap hit: $6.8 million) - He's a solid and durable guard who is only 28. His play slipped last season as the Jets' line struggled. But with a weak free-agent class, bringing him back makes sense. If not, the Jets could clear $4.7 million by cutting him.
- OL Ben Ijalana (2018 salary: $4.5 million; 2018 cap hit: $5.9 million) - Couldn't win a starting job, or a job at all considering he only played in 11 games. The Jets will save $4.6 million by cutting him.
- DT Steve McLendon (2018 salary: $3.125 million; 2018 cap hit: $4.25 million) - Even though the Jets would save $3.375 million by cutting him, they might not. He's 32, but the Jets already got rid of Sheldon Richardson and Wilkerson is next. Leaving McLendon to work inside while Leonard Williams and someone else play outside gives the Jets one less hole to fill, and the cost isn't high.
- WR/KR Devin Smith (2018 salary: $1,235,784; 2018 cap hit: $1.8 million) They save the amount of his salary by letting him go. They probably won't. They don't need that money, so it makes more sense to bring the second-round pick to camp and see if he's healthy. At the moment, he's rehabbing his second torn ACL in two years. He may never play again, but why not be sure before letting him go?
- WR Jermaine Kearse (2018 salary: $5 million; 2018 cap hit: $5.55 million) Cutting him would clear his money completely off the books. But right now, he's their best receiver - especially with Quincy Enunwa rehabbing his way back from a neck injury, and Robby Anderson dealing with more legal issues. He's a reliable veteran who is about to turn 29 and could be a big help for a team with many young receivers.