By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
Coming as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the New York Jets’ salary cap situation, the mass exodus from Florham Park has begun. With the NFL’s free agency signing period beginning officially today, the Jets’ list of unrestricted free agents is getting smaller by the minute.
We already know that Chris Ivory is leaving for Jacksonville on a hefty 5-year deal worth $32.5 million, with $10 million guaranteed.
In addition, Damon Harrison is headed to the Giants on a five-year, $46.25M deal, with $24 million guaranteed.
In order to make some salary cap room, it has also been reported that TE Jeff Cumberland has been let go, freeing up $1.9 million to spend in 2016.
It looks like Jeremy Kerley will be on his way out soon too, saving the team another $1.3 million.
It was obvious that the team was not going to be able to retain Ivory and Harrison, especially after you see what they were given by their new teams. There were just too rich for the Jets’ blood given their current cap room. Losing these two means that the team will need to replace their starting HB and NT.
The good news is that the Jets found an immediate replacement for Ivory, upgrading the position with veteran Matt Forte.
Although he is at the age of 30, Forte still appears to have a lot left in the tank. He is an incredibly versatile back with a diverse skillset that will fit nicely in Chan Gailey’s offense. As a matter of fact, even though he is a couple of years older, Forte is a much better fit in the system than Ivory.
Missing a few games in the middle of season due to a sprained MCL he suffered in Week 8 against the Vikings, Forte, who appeared in 13 games for the Bears, still came away with 898 yards on 218 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and adding on four touchdowns. He also had 44 catches for 389 yards and another three TD’s.
Over the course of his outstanding career, Forte has accumulated 2,035 carries for 8,602 yards and 45 TD’s on the ground as well as 487 receptions for 4,116 yards and 19 TD’s. He also has the most yards from scrimmage since 2008, with 12,718 total yards.
Here are the details of Forte’s contract, which is about $2 million less per year than Ivory received from the Jaguars.
It still remains to be seen what will happen with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Erin Henderson and Demario Davis, each of which the Jets are reportedly in ongoing talks with. With the signing of Forte and the likely drafting of a running back in April, it is not clear what the Jets are planning to do with Bilal Powell, although it was also reported earlier today that they were still talking.
Due to the precarious salary cap situation that General Manager Mike Maccagnan and the Jets find themselves in, the shaping of the 2016 roster is going to take a little time. It is going to require patience and creativity, which the team has already shown with the addition of Matt Forte.
Stay tuned Jets’ fans as the reconstruction of the team’s roster has just begun. It will be a while before the smoke clears and that is when we will get a more accurate picture of what the Jets will look like going forward.