The Cleveland Browns have been dethroned.
Following a flurry of trades over a 48-hour span, Cleveland’s stranglehold atop the salary cap space leaderboard is no more. Three days before the beginning of free agency, and one sleep before the start of legal tampering, the New York Jets own the most cap space in the league with roughly $89.9 million available for use, per Over the Cap.
In trading for Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Damarious Randall and shipping out DeShone Kizer and Danny Shelton, the Browns used up over $30 million in cap space in less than two days. Upon arriving in Cleveland when their trades become official, Taylor and Landry will boast Cleveland’s two highest cap numbers, both at around $16 million.
The Browns still have plenty with which to play around come free agency, but Gang Green now holds the temporary honor and/or burden of having the greatest financial flexibility in football.
It is expected that the Jets will use their league-leading cap room to make a serious run at free-agent darling Kirk Cousins, who is said to be interested in the Jets, but also in the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. Early whispers suggested that the Jets could offer Cousins a fully guaranteed contract, but Minnesota and Denver are more enticing contenders.
Even if Gang Green loses out on signing this season’s big kahuna, the Jets have insisted they will be plenty active all over the board in the early goings of free agency.
“Obviously, we’ll be very active on the first day in terms of the higher profile guys,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told stringers at the NFL Scouting Combine roughly two weeks ago. “I think the one thing I’ve noticed in the NFL this year or in the past years I should say is free agency moves very quickly. If you have guys targeted and you have your range how you value them, we’ll be very active. We may sign a big-ticket guy. We may sign a small-ticket guy. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out. I think we’re going to be very active in free agency.”
The Jets don’t just have a hole at quarterback. New York has needs, well, everywhere. The organization will also want to keep certain positions in tact; returning veteran free agents cornerback Morris Claiborne, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and linebacker Demario Davis will be chief among the Jets‘ re-signing priorities.
With more cap space than any team in the sport and a high draft pick, the Jets have an opportunity to do it all this offseason: Keep their vets, add a transcendent QB and build for the future. Anything less than an “active” offseason in Florham Park won’t be tolerated.