I've been in the "pretty critical of AJ Jenkins" camp. Of course I want him to do well. I don't know him personally and it helps the team. As I've looked into AJ, however, I haven't seen a guy with the work ethic and smarts that are needed at the NFL level. As many players have said, 80% of pro level football is between the ears. I'm just not sure AJ has it, but I would love him to prove me and other naysayers wrong.
I've noticed that the discussions around AJ have moved away from "he just needs time" to "what do we do with him?" I think this is healthy. Our roster is stacked, and we want to return to and win the SB. Can we afford to keep waiting around for AJ?
The purpose of this fanpost is to lay out our options objectively, so that we, as a Nation, can accurately tell the FO what to do :)
First, how many WRs do we carry on the roster? Last year we carried 6. I've seen Poldarn post an early projection with 7. It really depends on how many special team players end up coming from our receiver group. How it breaks down:
|Starters:||(1) Anquan Boldin||(2) Kyle Williams||If someone actually beats out Kyle he will still be a backup|
|Backups:||(3)||(4) ? for now, Mario Manningham when active||3rd and 4th receiver|
|Inactives:||(5) Quinton Patton||Similar to AJ last year, not active but part of 53|
|Special Teams:||(6)||Last Year Ted Ginn|
AJ is not going to win a starting job. To win a backup job, he has to earn it. Right now those jobs look to be going to Marlon Moore and Austin Collie, with Chad Hall still fighting for a spot. It's still too early to anoint winners here, but AJ currently a large uphill battle ahead of him to catch these guys.
For the 6th spot, Kassim Osgood is a special teams expert. If Marlon Moore losses out on one of the backup jobs, he has a special teams background also. Finally, Ricardo Lockette is practicing at special teams, and looked good in our first preseason game. AJ doesn't play special teams anyway.
If we stick with 6 receivers, barring a huge turnaround, there is no room for AJ. If we go with 7, the question is, do we go with 2 inactives or 2 special teams players? If Marlon Moore wins out on a backup job, and I think he will, then you can go with one player dedicated to special teams (Osgood or Lockette) and still have two WRs active on special teams. Kyle Williams is also a backup punt returner if needed.
So, the 7th spot could be available for AJ, most likely as another inactive player on game day. The niners have so much talent on special teams from the active roster that they can afford to have two inactive receivers on the 53. Things may change once Crabtree comes back, but that is still months away. Lot's of football between now and then.
Carrying two inactive receivers forces us to cut one other player, exposing them to the waiver wire process. Who do we need to protect at other positions? Lemonier for sure, and an 8th O-Lineman, maybe a 3rd QB, but that still leaves room. Our late round draft picks (Moody, Daniels, Bykowski, and Cooper) should all clear waivers. As long as Lattimore, Carradine, and Dial stay on the NFI list we don't have a problem here.
Finally, is it really worth it to keep AJ on the roster for another year? This is where the economics come into play. A large part of AJ's cap number is signing bonus. It makes the total cap hit for AJ look bad, but it is a sunk cost. It is bad, but it is money already spent. There are various cap manipulations around what years the money shows up in, but as long as we have cap space that we are carrying forward then it doesn't really matter.
What matters is the incremental cap increase of carrying AJ on the roster. AJ's incremental cap numbers:
2013 = 706k
2014 = 1.022M
2015 = 1.337M
Avg = 1.022M
This year, keeping AJ on the roster is incredibly cheap, and even through the next 3 years he will only cost us 1M per season. What can we get for 1M per season? In terms of receivers, here is a sample:
I don't even know who all these guys are.
So, nation, what do we recommend? If AJ blows it up in the next 3 pre-season games then it is a non-issue. Even if he continues to stink up the joint, I suggest the following:
- His cost is so low that even if he only tops out at backup status, or 3rd receiver production, it's better than what we will find on the open market
- If we carry him this year and he doesn't pan out, the incremental cap hit for the season is only 700k. His replacement on the roster, if a seasoned vet, might actually cost more
- As long as new draft picks stay on the NFI list then we have room on our 53 man roster
- We have enough backup and special teams coverage to carry 2 inactive WRs (assumes Patton is our other inactive WR)
I guess I am changing my tune. Give the man another year, and some hardcore NFL tutoring, and let's see what the guy can do. And FO, seriously, hire the man a tutor. He shouldn't have any questions about the playbook by now.
OK, nation, what do you think?