The New York Jets are aware that with their salary cap situations, keeping their dominating defense together for another year might be impossible. The Jets' defense emerged as an elite unit under first-year head coach Todd Bowles, but getting that back in 2016 could be tough with expiring contracts and big cap hits. With the official offseason set to begin soon, the Jets will try and get creative when it comes to bringing everyone back.
Both Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson have expiring contracts. Wilkerson ended his season with a broken leg that is expected to keep him off the field for six months according to general manager Mike Maccagnan via ESPN.com, This comes at a bad time for his contract future, but according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets do not plan on letting Wilkerson leave and could franchise tag the veteran as a result.
"The simple answer is yes, we'd very much like to have Muhammad back in the organization," Maccagnan said, via ESPN.com.
If Wilkerson returns, Harrison might not. However, could the Jets get creative by keeping both players around and potentially moving Sheldon Richardson? Cimini entertains the idea of trading Richardson, but his value is unknown right now. His off-the-field issues hurt his worth. Getting rid of Richardson means investing fully in Leonard Williams who was hot and cold his rookie year. The better move might be to retain Richardson and Wilkerson while letting Harrison walk. It will not be an easy decision as Richardson told the media something will end up having to give.
"Just can't keep everybody on this defensive line," Richardson said, via NJ.com. "It's just not realistic. Guys out-played their contracts. I'm going to miss them. We grew up together, pretty much, in the league. They helped me through a hard time in my life. So it's just going to be tough."
The secondary is also going to see some cuts. According to NJ.com, Antonio Cromartie is certainly not guaranteed anything. The veteran has no guaranteed money due to him in 2016 while being an $8 million cap charge. The Jets might not want to bring that on for next year with so many other areas to address in free agency. The cornerback did not have a large impact this past year and with Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine improving together, Cromartie could be the odd man out.
It will not be an easy call for the Jets to make. Their defense improved greatly in 2015, but with contracts and money needed for things like a quarterback, running back and offensive line help, something will have to give and it could be on defense.