By: Hays Carlyon
When Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith announced his shocking decision to sit out this season Thursday there was an obvious question: would Smith really forsake his $9.75 million salary this season and not play?
As the days have progressed, my interest has moved to another question: how will the Jaguars handle Smith if he chooses to return?
How do you think Jaguars personnel chief Tom Coughlin and coach Doug Marrone will react to a player who has ignored them for months yet posted multiple videos on social media?
A bizarre situation seems headed towards an obvious conclusion: Smith will never play for the Jaguars again — whether he decides to resume his career in the coming months or in 2020.
We still don’t have any specific reason as to why Smith has reached his conclusion.
Is he struggling with mental-health issues? Is he getting ahead of some damaging news about him that he believes will eventually become public?
Smith’s decision to stiff arm the Jaguars throughout the last four months could speak to his lack of interest in playing for Marrone. The fact that he’s publicly embarrassed Marrone by not returning his calls tells you he has no respect for him.
Marrone didn’t just get hired. He’s been Smith’s head coach for two years and been with the Jaguars since 2015.
Smith is certainly monitoring the feedback his decision has created because he has responded to criticism on social media. He knows what Marrone is saying to the media in voicing his support. He knows the position he’s put Marrone in to have to constantly field questions about him without any information.
Smith’s issue with the franchise could extend beyond Marrone. He’s obviously instructed his agent not to provide much, if any, details to the front office. Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell offered some unusual comments when asked about Smith during the draft that indicated a conversation needed to take place to provide clarity.
Smith’s decision to take time away from football is fine. However, blocking off all communication with the Jaguars will doom his ability to return.
Smith hasn’t missed anything that isn’t voluntary yet. He doesn’t have to be in Jacksonville for a three-day mandatory minicamp for four weeks. Training camp won’t start until late July.
The Jaguars would likely have been patient with Smith if given the chance to be part of the process.
Smith holds all the cards. There’s nothing the Jaguars can do.
The Jaguars can’t cut Smith for financial and (for now) public-relations reasons. If he does sit out the season, his salary would become rollover money in 2020. He has no trade value. Why would any team trade for an expensive player who said he’s sitting out the season, even if that player elects to return? This is a “Does he love football?” league.
That’s why I keep coming back to the question: What if Smith returns?
Could Marrone really be expected to coach him?
Would the Jaguars want Smith back in the locker room?
Coughlin and Marrone would have to be convinced Smith had a legitimate mental issue, sought treatment, was helped by it and is ready for the demands of the season — all without having a clue as to how the process unfolded and what caused it.
Smith’s actions clearly show he views the Jaguars as a deterrent in whatever recovery (if any) he needs.
He doesn’t trust them or respect them.
How can they trust him when he returns?
That’s why the Jaguars are probably hoping Smith simply turns his year-long absence into retirement.
That’s why this Pro-Bowl talent in the prime of his career will never suit up for the Jaguars again even if he returns to football.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)