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Jets have no 2017 Pro Bowlers, 3rd worst salary cap situation moving forward

The Patriots week 16 opponent is in terrible shape.

The New England Patriots had four players named to the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl and they’re slated to have the 2nd or 3rd most salary cap space next season behind the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots are better prepared than any other franchise to dominate for the next few years.

Then there are the New York Jets, the Patriots division rival and week 16 opponent. The Jets were one of six franchises not to have a player named to the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl. Even the Browns had a Pro Bowler. The Jets don’t have a quarterback and are also currently projected to be $2.5 million over the salary cap in 2017, which means they’ll have to cut players before they turn focus to next year.

The Jets free agent situation after this year isn’t great, either. While the Jets don’t have a good quarterback, their best two in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and QB Geno Smith will be free agents. Starting LT Benjamin Ijalana and RG Brian Winters are both free agents, too. The Jets offense is primed to go through another tough stretch if they can’t retain their talent and offer some consistency.

But if the Jets want to clear up some cap space, they’ll have to cut ties with some of their expensive veterans. LT Ryan Clady has a $10.5 million cap hit in 2017, but he’s currently on the injured reserve, will be 31 years old, and has only played 27 of a possible 64 regular season games in the past four years. He would free up $10 million in cap space. Releasing RT Breno Giacomini, who will be 32 years old and coming off a season-ending back injury, would save an extra $4.5 million in cap space.

C Nick Mangold will be 33 years old with a cap hit of $9.075 million, and potential savings of $6.675 million. Mangold has been a long-term starter for the Jets and would represent a major loss of institutional value and leadership.

WR Eric Decker ($8.75 million, 30 years old, hip and shoulder injury), WR Brandon Marshall ($7.5 million, 33 years old), and RB Matt Forte ($5.0 million, 31 years old, MCL injury) represent an aging trio that eats up a lot of cap space that likely won’t hold it together for much longer.

Moving on from any other these players would free up a lot of cap space, but would also make it much more difficult to land a top quarterback in free agency- but they might have to in order to free up room.

Alternatively, the Jets could neuter their defense.

CB Darrelle Revis ($15.333 million in cap space), CB Buster Skrine ($8.5 million), and FS Marcus Gilchrist ($6.625 million) have formed the worst secondary in the NFL and aren’t worth a fraction of their current salaries. Their releases would free up $9.333 million, $3.5 million, and $5.375 million, respectively.

Malcontent defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson ($18.0 million) and Sheldon Richardson ($8.069 million) could also be cut loose via trade. Wilkerson would generate $26.75 million in dead cap, so it’s unlikely that he is moved, but Richardson was floated as a possible trade candidate prior to the trade deadline.

The only way for the Jets to move forward is to release some of their marquee players and they’ll have to cut ties with a few if they want to land a free agent quarterback better than Buccaneers back-up Mike Glennon.

No matter how you feel about the Patriots free agency approach, they’re undeniably in a better position than the Jets.