- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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Before reaching a six-year extension with left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets were starting to take some criticism for being tight with their money, a charge that was totally unfair.
If anything, the Jets have been one of the most aggressive teams in football as far as trying to build a playoff-caliber roster. That aggressiveness has them knocking on the door of challenging the New England Patriots for supremacy in the AFC East.
Thanks to their acquisitions, the Jets have a dozen position players who have been to the Pro Bowl, the same number as the Patriots. Sure, the Patriots hold the edge because they have Tom Brady, but trading up and getting Mark Sanchez last year gave the Jets a quarterback to build around. The year before, the Jets didn't blink when Brett Favre became available, and gave up a second-round choice to get him.
Of those dozen Pro Bowlers, seven came from outside the organization; some came at a high cost. Kris Jenkins was a $7 million-a-year nose tackle. Right tackle Damien Woody costs $5.1 million a season. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards makes $6.105 million this season. They paid Alan Faneca $8 million a year before cutting him after two seasons. Linebacker Bart Scott costs $8 million a year.
Before doing the Ferguson deal, the Jets had the 13th-highest payroll. If you count their signing bonuses, roster bonuses and salaries for their top 51 players, the Jets have a payroll of $112.7 million, a number that will go up as they try to lock up key players.
They are a victim of their success. It's going to cost more than $200 million in contracts to extend Ferguson, center Nick Mangold, linebacker David Harris and cornerback Darrelle Revis. Ferguson cost $60 million over six years as an extension. Mangold, perhaps the best center in the game, will cost more than $7 million a year. Revis wants top cornerback money, and the top cornerback makes $15 million a year.
The trickiest deal could be Harris, who finished right behind Scott as a Pro Bowl alternate last season. Can the Jets afford two $8 million linebackers? They'll have to try.
As they prepare to begin playing in a new stadium, the Jets are being anything but cheap.
From the inbox
Q: John, if you look at most teams (owners) around the league you notice not a lot of them are spending due to the labor situation. In my opinion, I feel owners all together aren't spending to show the players' association that the owners have the power. What's the feel of the owners around the league about the trigger-happy Jets? Their spending hasn't stopped or nearly slowed down in fear of the lockout? Could their spending weaken the chances of a CBA deal getting done?
Nekrud in San Marcos, Calif.
A: No one around the league is questioning what the Jets are doing as far as spending. As I stated above, they have been generous with their money. A lot of their trades and signings came at cheap prices. Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes were in the last years of their rookie contracts. LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor signed two-year deals for a combined $9.182 million. With a new stadium, though, the Jets can't turn off their fans by being cheap. They are investing money in the young core group of the team. D'Brickashaw Ferguson was the first. Now they have to do something with Darrelle Revis, David Harris and Nick Mangold. What the Jets are doing has no impact on the CBA talks.
Q: Why is it presumed that Ben Roethlisberger will serve only four games of a six-game suspension? When has commissioner Roger Goodell ever lowered a suspension?
Josh in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A: He lowered a three-game suspension with Brandon Marshall from three to one games. Goodell shortened a Tank Johnson suspension. He makes some suspensions like incentive programs. He'll give a stern six-game suspension and then give the player the chance to behave and earn his way back. Everyone in the business who covers this sport sees that the six-game suspension was right, but it was harsh. Remember, Roethlisberger wasn't in any criminal trouble because there weren't charges against him. Goodell set up this suspension for Roethlisberger to behave, which is what he has done so far. The suspension is for six games, but it will end up four.
Q: I just read your article on the state of backup quarterbacks and I am confused by your urgent call for a developmental league. You're an astute historian of the game, so I am sure you can tell me the common link between these four QBs: Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia. That's right, they all spent time in the CFL, honing their craft before establishing themselves in the NFL. With the NFL Network starting to broadcast CFL games, wouldn't it make sense for the league to develop a workable roster-sharing agreement between the leagues?
James in Kingston, Ontario
A: Times change. I'm a fan of the CFL, but the CFL hasn't developed many NFL-caliber quarterbacks in the past decade. Remember how Henry Burris couldn't make it in the NFL? NFL Europe did a nice job of developing quarterbacks in the late 1990s, but didn't do much by the mid-2000s. The CFL has a good relationship with the NFL, but you can see from the new collective bargaining agreement that the CFL wants to carve out its own independence. It is eliminating the option year in contracts that can allow a CFL player to get into the NFL if he is good enough. I contend that the games are too different for NFL teams to be able to use the CFL as a development league.
Q: Daunte Culpepper is teaming up with Denny Green in the UFL (Sacramento), so what is the future of JaMarcus Russell? I heard a rumor that he may have to play with the Tulsa franchise. How the mighty have fallen, or could this be a bridge to a return to the NFL for them?
Scott in Denver
A: Sources I talked to this week said Russell still has an open invitation to sign with Omaha, which has his rights. He should consider it. With his problems on and off the field, Russell won't be on the radar of any NFL team. His arrest for possession of a controlled substance (codeine syrup) could hurt his chances to go to the CFL. Russell hasn't shown any desire to play in the UFL or CFL, but if he wants his football career to continue, he needs to look at the Omaha opportunity.
Q: You and Pat Yasinskas have consistently stated that Jimmy Clausen will win the Panthers' starting QB job. Where's the love for Matt Moore? All he did is go 6-2 overall as a starter last season, including 4-1 during the final five games.
Russ in Reno, Nev.
A: Moore is a great story in the sense he was undrafted and has a chance to start. But Clausen has more talent. That's why he went in the second round and Moore was undrafted. Talent usually prevails, although other undrafted quarterbacks, such as Tony Romo and Kurt Warner, have succeeded. Like Moore, Shaun Hill had a similar winning record heading into last season. As the season went on, though, he proved he was just a good backup and the 49ers made a switch. Teams study film and find the holes in a quarterback's game. If Moore starts the season, watch how teams will load up on the right side, because Moore doesn't throw as accurately to the left as he does to the right. I think Moore will start the season and Clausen will end up starting.
Q: Do you think that moving the umpire behind the QB in 2010 will actually help teams that play a 3-4 defense? I expect to see many more holding penalties called against the offensive tackles as a result of the OLBs rushing the QB. The umpires will now be in a much better position to see the holding that seems to take place on almost every passing down.
Brennen in Pittsburgh
A: The league wants to minimize holding calls. Although the umpire will be in better position to see holding being behind the quarterback, if he doesn't blow the whistle, there won't be much holding called. This is an important question you are asking, though. If there are more holding calls, scoring and offensive production will go down. Great thought by you.
Q: John, I've become really thrilled with all the buzz surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals with the additions of TE Jermaine Gresham, and WRs Antonio Bryant, Dez Briscoe, and Jordan Shipley. Am I setting myself up for disappointment? How about the defense? Is Adam Jones really worth all the excitement he generated during OTAs and minicamp?
Eric in Cypress, Calif.
A: Be proud and be hopeful. This is a deeper and more talented team than last season. I love Shipley coming out of the slot. Bryant is a better option at wide receiver than Laveranues Coles. Gresham should be really good in this offense. Jones looks like he will help them as a third corner and a returner. What you have to worry about is the schedule, which is much tougher than last year's. I think it's going to be hard for the Bengals to repeat going 6-0 in the AFC North. That means they'll have to go 7-3 or 6-4 in nondivisional games to get to 10 wins.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
A willingness to spend has given the Jets a surplus of talent. The challenge now will be finding enough money to keep their nucleus in place, John Clayton writes in his latest mailbag.