Among the things Cimini notes are the following:
- Adam Caplan tweeted that Austin Howard could get $7m per year on the open market as the Jets try to finalize his deal
- The Jets would like Leger Douzable and Ellis Lankster back
- Willie Colon and Ed Reed are respectively classified as looking like "a fallback" and a potential "emergency pickup down the road"
- There's "a chance" Josh Mauga and/or Lex Hilliard could be back and Aaron Berry "could be a post-draft option"
- He suggests five other free agents (Josh Cribbs, Darius Reynaud, David Garrard, Vladimir Ducasse and Kellen Winslow) are unlikely to be back
- He reiterates previous reports that there is interest in bringing back Calvin Pace and Jeff Cumberland
In a video blog the other day Cimini predicted that Cumberland, Folk and Howard would all be re-signed before March 11th. However, in this article, he correctly notes that Folk (and Pace) cannot sign with the team until the free agency signing period begins because each qualified for the vested veterans exception last year. That exception means that the cap hit for a player earning the minimum with more than four credited season will be limited to the equivalent of a minimum salary for a player with just two credited seasons. Essentially, this reduced the cap hit for each of them to $620K last year, even though their actual salary was higher than that. Sometimes teams will forego this cap reduction in order to retain the option to negotiate before the following league year by paying $1 over the minimum. Folk was of course franchised instead, although that could in theory just be a placeholder for a longer term deal.
Following the combine, the Jets are in negotiations with a few players and have will obviously met with representatives for some of the others at the combine where they would have discussed where talks will pick up down the road. At some point, they may make offers, which the player concerned will either sign or reconsider once they have had a chance to test the market.
Many of these free agents won't receive deals much bigger than the minimum, so it won't cost much in terms of cap space to keep some of these guys on the team.
Clearly Folk and Howard are the top priorities for the Jets, but in terms of free agents I'd like to see return, Reed, Colon and Douzable are high on my list. Douzable already suggested he is going to test the market, whereas Reed and Colon expressed a desire to return at the end of last season. I'd also stress the importance of bringing back Lankster (and restricted free agent Nick Bellore) for a special teams unit that struggled last year and can't afford to lose their tremendous under-the-radar contributions.