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Saturday, March 10, 2012
Breaking down Mark's new contract

By Rich Cimini

Mark Sanchez's contract extension has been dissected by experts and non-experts, praised and criticized, but the part most fans want to know is this: How does it affect the 2012 team?

Here's how: Sanchez's cap charge in '12 drops from $14.25 million to $7.85 million, a savings of $6.4 million, according to a source.

Obviously, that gives the Jets greater flexibility in free agency. Unofficially, it means they have more than $14 million in cap dollars to spend.

The next thing you want to know is this: Will they be players for DE/OLB Mario Williams, the best free agent not named Peyton Manning? The answer is no, the Jets haven't changed their position on Williams. But now they have the money to fill their other holes, namely safety, outside linebacker, wide receiver and backup quarterback. They also have the means to sign TE Dustin Keller to a long-term extension.

Other details, as reported by ProFootballTalk.com, on Sanchez's three-year, $40.5 million extension:

• His 2012 compensation will remain the same as the previous contract ($11.75 million), except now it's fully guaranteed and will be divided as follows: $8 million signing bonus; $3.25 million base; $500,000 workout bonus.

• His 2013 compensation went from a non-guaranteed $6 million to a guaranteed $8.25 million, bringing the total guarantee in the new contract to $20.5 million.

• The money in 2014-2016 is not guaranteed. We're talking about $11.5 million in '14 ($2 million roster bonus, $9 million base, $500,000 workout), $14 million in '15 ($1 million roster bonus, $12.5 million base, $500,000 workout) and $12.25 million in '16 ($1 million roster bonus, $10.75 million base, $500,000 workout). There's also $10 million in potential escalators.

Final analysis: Both sides are accepting risk. This isn't an outrageous, mortgaging-the-future contract, but if Sanchez flatlines or regresses in 2012, the Jets are basically stuck with him in 2013 -- and that may not bode well for Rex Ryan's job security. That is the risk the Jets are taking on.

If Sanchez develops into an elite quarterback, the Jets will have him locked up for four more years at a reasonable number. That is Sanchez's risk. Sanchez, perhaps sensing some uneasiness from the organization about his future, was willing to give them extra years (2014-16) for the security of that 2013 guarantee of $8.25 million. Clearly, he wasn't in the greatest bargaining position.

In my Friday night blog post, or rather the wee hours of Saturday, I questioned the extension because of the message it sends. Former Jet Damien Woody, an ESPN analyst, agreed with me, saying Saturday on 1050 ESPN New York that it's "rewarding mediocrity." The Jets themselves have said Sanchez didn't live up to expectations in 2011.

It also seems like the Jets are trying to rebuild Sanchez's image in his own locker room by throwing money at him, as if to show everyone he's not a lame duck. It was troubling to hear Sanchez say Friday night that the contract "gives the team just a reminder that I'm the leader of this team." Money doesn't buy leadership. Sanchez will have to prove it in the locker room and on the field.