And so it begins.
Earlier today, the Jets announced that they have agreed in principal to a three-year deal with 33-year old free agent nose tackle Sione Pouha.
Contract details have not been made available, but it’s safe to assume the impact from his deal on the 2012 salary cap is less than $7.9 million, considering that is this year’s franchise number for nose tackles (the Jets opted not to use the tag on Pouha).
Pouha and the Jets agreed to a 3-year deal
Though largely underrated, Pouha is one of the league’s best defensive tackles. Pro Football Focus had the NT ranked second among run-stuffer’s in their end of season evaluations.
The three-year deal seems perfectly ideal, as they can keep Pouha while he is still his prime (he started playing in the league “late”), without being on the financial hook long-term.
So now that Pouha is locked up, the next question is: Where does the team now stand against the salary cap?
With Sanchez’s contract extension, the Jets cleared an additional $6.4 million in cap space, which brought the total to $14.3 million.
The League also threw 28 NFL teams a bone today when they awarded them an additional $1.6 million in cap space due to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys vioaltions of cap-rules in the 2010 “uncapped” year (basically, they are alleged to have dumped salaries into the uncapped year so that hit did not count).
Estimates are currently at $15.1 for the Jets, which includes Aaron Maybin’s tender and Mark Sanchez’s extension, but that does not include Pouha’s deal. No one really knows at this moment how much we are specifically dealing with spending-wise, but it’s safe to say that the Sanchez deal massively helped the team out. Also note that some of the total cap money will have to be allocated towards rookie salaries, though thankfully first round picks no longer receive the heavy price tags they used to.
Either way, the Pouha deal is a big relief, and now the team can completely shift their focus on attending to other needs in free agency, which begins tomorrow afternoon.
Reports indicate that TE Dustin Keller has spent some time on the trading block, and we already know that Bart Scott has been granted permission to seek a trade (or whatever) and Wayne Hunter has been shopped to a mystery NFC team. Keller strikes me as someone who is more valuable to the Jets than he would be to any other team, due to the chemistry he shares with Sanchez. I don’t know that the Jets will receive any appealing offers for the TE, but they may be looking to pass him off before he is due a new contract next year.
We’ve all agreed that the team needs, at minimum, an OLB, 2 (yes 2) safeties, an upgrade at right tackle, a wide receiver and a back-up QB (at least one, though some debate McElroy could serve as the #2). Other considerations include running back, tight end and ILB (depending on Scott).
I have already offered a very in-depth look at free agent DE/OLB, safety and wide receiver markets, and offered up several names at each postion. But just as a primer for tomorrow, here are a few names that I would pay careful attention to during the free agency period:
RT Eric Winston: Winston was JUST released by the Texans today. His release was a pretty big shock and I feel somewhat unprepared to speak about on him, but the Jets HAVE to look at him. I am have no idea what he would command salary wise (estimates are upwards of $6 million), but it’s a weak crop at RT and he will be in demand. Tanny has to make a call to get this guy.
S LaRon Landry (WAS) - There has been a lot of talk about the Jets possibly targeting Landry, though he brings definite injury concerns and debates over what he can bring to the table as a cover guy.
S Reggie Nelson (CIN) – Nelson and the Bengals were negotiating until Monday but it was announced today that the safety will hit free agency. Nelson is coming off of an excellent year, but some worry he may have reached his peak.
S Dwight Lowery (JAX) – Fans have expressed interest in Lowery, primary because he is a former Jet. Lowery was ranked as the top safety on Peter King’s 50 Top free agents list, and there will be some interest in him from other teams.
LB Manny Lawson (CIN) – I’ve been talking up Lawson all off-season. I would love to see the Jets take interet int he young, versatile linebacker who has yet to reach his ceiling.
LB Jarrett Johnson (BAL) - Various reports have indicate that the Jets are interested.
WR Laurent Robinson (DAL) – I’ve made it known how much I like what this guy could bring, if the price is right. Additionally, with the recent news concerning Dallas and Washington’s cap penalties, the Cowboys would likely be unable to make him an offer.
TE Kevin Boss (OAK), TE Anthony Fasano (MIA) - Boss was released today; Fasano could potentially be on the market. The Sparano connection makes the case for Fasano.
QB Chad Henne (MIA) - We’ve been hearing reports about the Jets interest in Henne for weeks, though some fans aren’t thrilled about the idea and would much prefer the team consider former Raider Jason Campbell. This is really going to come down to cost. If Henne can be added for a reasonable price, I would bet that happens, but considering the Jets modest cap space, the team may need to aim lower.
BTW, If you feel like a lot of more talk has been centered around the salary cap this year, you are correct. The new CBA has really put the spotlight on spending totals and with the firm cap in place (and only a .3 mill increase over last year) it is a huge deal for teams that were used to a lot more.