Joe Douglas has equipped the New York Jets with excellent financial flexibility
It’s not often that a general manager will oversee a 13-36 record over three years and enjoy the kind of popularity that Joe Douglas enjoys with the New York Jets fanbase. That speaks volumes about the mess he inherited from years of inept management.
Here we are in 2022 with Douglas about to enter his fourth season as the Jets general manager – and, arguably, he’s never been more popular.
There are a lot of reasons to like Douglas, from his waiver wire additions of Braxton Berrios and John Franklin-Myers to his highway robbery trades of Jamal Adams, Sam Darnold, Chris Herndon, and Blake Cashman.
But one undervalued aspect of Douglas is the contracts that he tends to give players, which allow the Jets to maintain long-term flexibility.
If you look into the contracts handed out by Joe Douglas, one thing becomes quite clear: he likes to frontload the guaranteed money, which allows the Jets to move on from players after the first or second year of a deal.
June is the perfect time to look forward, not only to the season ahead but also to the long-term future of the franchise. Players have scattered across the country and fans are left twiddling their thumbs waiting for some actual news to break, so I thought I’d take a quick look at the Jets’ cap situation heading into 2023.
The Jets have cap flexibility in 2023 and beyond thanks to Joe Douglas
According to Over The Cap, the Jets have 50 players contracted for the 2023 season with $212,560,698 of cap liabilities, which leaves the Jets with around $12.4 million worth of estimated cap space (although we don’t know yet what the cap will be exactly, so take that with a pinch of salt).
I then started to take a look at some of the contracts on the Jets’ books for 2023 that could result in some tactical cuts or restructures to open up more space. Keep in mind that this article is not about the pros and cons of cutting or keeping players, it’s a spotlight on the flexibility that Joe Douglas has afforded the Jets.
The first contract I will pinpoint is actually a deal signed by Joe’s predecessor Mike Maccagnan, and that’s the contract of CJ Mosley.
On the face of it, Mosley is set to make $18 million next season, the highest cap hit of any Jets player. But he has $0 of guaranteed money left on his deal after the 2022 season. So if the Jets decided to move on from him in 2023, they could save $15.5 million with a dead money line of just $3 million.
Douglas didn’t sign that deal, but obviously, he is aware of the financial implications of it and has worked accordingly over the last three years with that in mind.
Let’s take a quick look at some players that Douglas did sign.
The second-highest cap hit for the Jets next year belongs to Carl Lawson, but he has $0 guaranteed money remaining after 2022 as well. If the Jets were to move on they could save $15 million with a dead money line of $333K. The $29 million worth of guaranteed money on the deal was front-loaded to the first two years – short-term investment, long-term flexibility.
Moving on we have Corey Davis, another player signed by Joe Douglas. Again, it’s exactly the same thing: Davis has $0 in guarantees left in 2023 and the Jets could save $10.5 million by releasing him with a dead money line of $666K. All $25 million of the guarantees on that contract came in the first two years, which is a bit of a Joe Douglas staple.
John Franklin-Myers, who signed a contract extension just last year, is in exactly the same boat. His deal may run through 2025, but his guarantees end after the 2022 season. He has $0 guaranteed from 2023 through to 2025. The Jets theoretically could save $11.2 million in 2023 by cutting JFM.
Again, I’m not saying the Jets should cut any of these guys, or that they will, I’m merely saying that the contract structure gives them the flexibility to do so if it’s deemed the right thing for the franchise.
Did Douglas stay true to these trends with the free-agent class signed in the 2022 off-season? To a point, yes.
DJ Reed has the vast majority of his guaranteed money in the first two years with the Jets being able to cut ties in 2024 and save $11 million.
The same thing applies to Laken Tomlinson. As soon as we get to 2024, the Jets could cut ties and save $13 million. Jordan Whitehead only has a two-year deal but even if the Jets decided to cut that one short next off-season, they’d save $7.2 million. Tyler Conklin is basically a two-year deal with the third year giving the Jets flexibility. You get the picture.
In his first year on the job, Douglas didn’t hand out a contract in free agency over three years. He did exactly the same in 2021 and 2022.
The three-year option is Douglas’s preferred method and it’s understandable. There will come a time when the Jets will need to hand out bigger and longer contracts to keep their homegrown players around. The flipside to having so much draft capital in one year is that if they all work out, you’re going to need to pay them around the same time.
But Douglas’s ability to front-load deals and rid the Jets of dead money means they’re in the perfect spot to be able to do that.