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Jets could be interested in Asomugha, but ...

5/14/2011

The question comes up every week in our ESPNNewYork.com chat sessions, which means it's probably on the minds of Jets fans everywhere:

Once the labor mess is settled, will the Jets pursue free-agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha? He will be the biggest fish in the free-agent pond, and we all know how the Jets like the big fish.

I believe that, somewhere in the computer files of Mike Tannenbaum and his right-hand man, Ari Nissim, there is a post-lockout game plan that includes Asomugha. I'm not saying he's included in Plan A or Plan B, but it's hard to imagine Tannenbaum -- Mr. Due Diligence -- turning his back on a player of Asomugha's caliber without exploring it.

But here's the problem: Even if they want him, the Jets probably will be handcuffed by whatever free-agency rules are in place.

If there is a salary cap in 2011, it would be an enormous financial strain to give Asomugha a Revis-like contract -- $11.5 million per year. If they paid $23 million a year to two cornerbacks, they'd have to cut back significantly at other positions.

If there is no salary cap, a la 2010, it could mean the same rules as last year. (That's what most people are speculating, but lately you don't know what to believe.) And if the rules are the same, the Jets will be handcuffed by the "Final Eight" restrictions -- again.

As a Final Four team, the Jets wouldn't be allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose one. In addition, the first-year salary of the player they sign can't be more than the first-year salary of the player they lost. (See last year's Jason Taylor-for-Jay Feely swap.) The old CBA defines salary as base pay, roster and reporting bonuses, pro-rated signing bonus and likely-to-be-earned incentives. By rule, the salary can't increase by more than 30 percent from year to year, so you can't stash a bundle of money in year 2 of the contract.

Under the 2010 rules, the Jets' most coveted UFA will be WR Braylon Edwards; he's their only UFA that will land a deal approaching the Asomugha neighborhood. (Actually, he'll probably be a few traffic lights away from that neighborhood, but you get the point.) So if the Jets re-sign Edwards (he says he wants to return), they can forget about Asomugha.

But even if Edwards bolts, it will be difficult to match up the first-year salaries because Asomugha will command more than Edwards on the open market. It would be hard for the Jets to compete against the likes of the Cowboys and Eagles, non-Four Four teams that reportedly might make a run at him.

Maybe the Jets get lucky; maybe the Final Eight rules are dropped and there's no cap. Who really knows how it's going to turn out? So, yeah, the Jets can wish upon the Nnamdi star, but to get into position to make a serious run, the stars of the NFL universe would have to align perfectly.