The New York Jets did not pass go and did not collect $200 salary on their way to salary cap jail.
Fortunately, a few rolls of the dice prior to landing there, they happened to pick up a few "get out of jail free" cards along the way.
We know the Jets are cap-strapped for 2013, set to be around $19.4 million over the approximate $120 million limit.
How do they fix it, though? And where do the primary problems lie?
Thanks to a pretty awesome interactive salary breakdown for every NFL team from The Guardian (hat tip to ProFootballFocus' via Twitter), we know the Jets' biggest problems from a salary cap standpoint are on the defensive side of the ball.
According to the chart, the Jets had $51.7 million invested on offense and $68.1 million on defense for the 2012-13 season.
The imbalance is a fair representation not only of how the Jets have done business lately, but why they have struggled as they have.
It's an interesting juxtaposition; the Jets didn't invest on the offensive side, and it showed up on the field in a lack of depth at the skill positions. On defense, the Jets invested heavily, yet underperformed their salary grade as the third-highest paid defense in the NFL.
Some teams see a lack of return on investment on one side of the ball; some teams pay the price for failing to invest on a particular unit. Very few teams suffer the consequences of both.
The Jets had $16.4 million more invested on defense than on offense.
Just some notes on those teams:
- The Seahawks had a cost disparity of $17.5 million; they had $20.7 million tied up in three players: wide receiver Sidney Rice, running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Zach Miller, and aside from the defensive line, where they have over $20 million invested in five players, their defense is built of low-salary players.
- The Colts had a cost disparity of $24.8 million; they had over $19 million tied up in Dwight Freeney, and the dramatic changes on offense made their salary the lowest on offense in the NFL.
- The Titans had a cost disparity of $31.1 million; they invested $23.75 million in two offensive tackles and running back Chris Johnson, while their seven highest defensive salaries added up to just a hair under $22.2 million.
- The Buccaneers had a disparity of $33.9 million; they had $28.2 million invested in three guards, and another $15.4 million in wide receiver Vincent Jackson
That is to say, none of them had the widespread problems the Jets have.
In the position-by-position review of the Jets defense, the problem is clear: four defensive players—David Harris, Bart Scott, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis—accounted for $37.7 million in salary last year.
All four players were over the $5 million threshold.
Offensively, only two players on the offensive side for the Jets exceeded that total: wide receiver Santonio Holmes (out for the year after Week 4) and quarterback Mark Sanchez.
They're stuck with both Sanchez and Holmes' contracts for next year, but the problems on defense can be fixed. Specifically, as I outlined last week, there are three defensive contracts the Jets can unload. By releasing Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and Eric Smith, the Jets can save $18.71 million off the salary cap for 2013, which would put them less than $1 million over the cap.
So, while the outlook may be grim for now, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. All the Jets have to do is throw away some of the product that's gone sour. The hard part will be replacing it with fresh product that has a longer shelf life.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.