BY: Hays Carlyon
The NFL’s salary cap can be difficult to understand. Let’s try to clear up some confusion when it comes to the Jaguars.
This is the current situation. According to spotrac.com, the Jaguars have $14.7 million in salary-cap space. That ranks 18th in the NFL.
The Jaguars must sign their seven-man draft class, which will account for $8.6 million of that space. So, in reality the Jaguars have about $6 million.
We know the Jaguars need to work out contract extensions with two stars. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is the priority as he enters the final year of his rookie contract after being selected in the third round of the 2016 draft. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is under contract for two more years since he was a first-round pick in 2016.
Teams have extra protection with their first-round selections. The collective bargaining agreement states all contracts for drafted players are four years long. However, a first-round pick comes with a fifth-year option that the team can choose to pick up. The Jaguars picked that option up on Ramsey.
The Jaguars don’t have the space needed to extend Ngakoue.
They can create that space in a variety of ways, but there are two options that make the most sense.
The first would be to restructure the contract of cornerback A.J. Bouye. The 27-year-old Bouye signed a five-year, $67.5-million contract with $26-million guaranteed in March of 2017. Bouye has a cap hit of $15.4 million this season. The Jaguars could try to work out a restructure with Bouye’s agent that would lower his cap number significantly this fall (by around $8 million), but give him an instant signing bonus and offer future roster security.
On his current deal, the Jaguars could cut Bouye after this season and save $11.5 million taking on $4 million in dead money. A restructure would basically guarantee Bouye’s contract would remain in place for the 2020 season and probably 2021 as well. He is young enough and productive enough to warrant a restructure.
Restructure Bouye. Extend Ngakoue this summer. Simple.
The Jaguars would also have the space to extend Ngakoue if they trade linebacker Telvin Smith, who is set to make $9.75 million this season.
Ramsey won’t like having to wait until after this season to get his next contract. However, it will be easy for the Jaguars to find that space in 2020.
The team will have roughly $23.5 million in dead money disappear after this season. Dead money is a cap penalty for releasing a player before his guaranteed money has been accounted for on the cap. The Jaguars took a steep hit for releasing quarterback Blake Bortles ($16.5 million), as well as decent one on defensive tackle Malik Jackson ($4 million).
There are also several veterans who could be playing their final season with the Jaguars.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus leads the pack. The Jaguars can save $20 million taking on a reasonable $2.5 million in dead money by cutting Dareus in 2020. That’s a no-brainer.
Bouye will be a prime target if he doesn’t restructure now.
Beloved (but aging) defensive end Calais Campbell could be released which would save $15 million with a $2.5-million dead-money penalty.
Center Brandon Linder can be cut to save $8 million with no dead money. This is a big year for him.
Other veterans that would have a shaky contract situation with a forgettable season are: Smith (if he’s still here), cornerback D.J. Hayden ($6 million in savings), left guard Andrew Norwell ($5.5 million in savings) and receiver Marqise Lee ($5 million in savings).
What would a total rebuild look like in 2020 if the Jaguars disappoint again?
If the Jaguars cut every veteran mentioned above (not including Ngakoue and Ramsey), they would save $78 million with $28.5 million in dead money. That savings combined with the expiring 2019 dead money would give the front office $101 million to maneuver. That figure doesn’t include a new deal for Ngakoue. Assuming he has a new deal, the following notable players would also still under contract: Ramsey, quarterback Nick Foles, running back Leonard Fournette and any remaining player from the 2017-19 draft classes.
The Jaguars won’t be burned by the salary cap again, at least not in this current CBA. They have the flexibility to get out of any jam and re-sign any player they want. They can reshape the roster after this season in any way they see fit. If you worry about the salary cap, stop.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)