While the team is a week away from taking to the Florida Blue practice fields for the first full day of training camp, the Jaguars are still without having signed their first-round draft choice, Justin Blackmon.
As the Florida Times-Union's Tania Ganguli pointed out, despite the recent signings of the No. 1 and No. 2 picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in recent days, Blackmon's contract could be much more complicated.
Luck, Griffin III, and Panthers linebacker and 9th overall pick Luke Kuechly, all signed deals that did not include what's known as an "offset clause". Essentially, an offset clause allows the team to release a player and be off the hook for any remaining guaranteed money, should that player sign on with another team following his release.
Obviously, given Blackmon's recent arrest for DUI that marked the second time in three years he had been cited or arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the Jaguars want to have every avenue they can within the league's collective bargaining agreement to detach themselves from Blackmon, should he have another incident like the previous two or any other types of run ins with police and/or substance abuse.
The problem the team is ultimately facing with this issue, is that no other first round pick is likely to sign with any sort of offset clause in their contract, especially following three of the Top 10 players signing without the provision. Any agent would be foolish to readily give in to a team insisting on the clause, having seen every player around his client sign for deals without them, regardless of any transgressions said client has had.
This circumstance leaves both team and player in a detrimental situation.
The Jaguars do not want to begin training camp dealing with two hold outs, as their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew appears set to sit out a good portion of camp. The bad PR on a local and national level that would come from the hold outs, at a time when the team is launching it's big Summer season ticket campaignand trying to spread the feeling of a "new era", would potentially dampen what should be a positive and exciting time among the fan base and potential new season ticket holders.
There's no doubt Shad Khan wouldn't be too thrilled about kicking off his inaugural season as owner, with perhaps his two biggest offensive stars absent due to contract disputes. At the same time, however, it's understandable to any logical follower of the team why the Jags absolutely must protect themselves from ending up in a similar situation as to how they were with R.J. Soward a decade ago. Perhaps most importantly though, the team needs Blackmon to begin building a rapport with Blaine Gabbert, if the offense and especially the quarterback are to have any sort of drastic improvement from their much maligned 2011 season. Anyone who viewed either of the two mini-camp practices in June saw that Gabbert frequently targeted Blackmon, and the team would undoubtedly like to see that relationship progress this Summer, rather than try to begin putting things together on September 9th if not later.
On Blackmon's end, he already has made his new employers weary of his character, within only a few weeks of being drafted by the team. To stage an extended hold out, would only go to further sever any goodwill that remains between himself, his coaches, and the front office. On top of that, the team is counting on him to be an instant contributor in a brand new offense. Earlier in the off-season, Coach Mike Mularkey somewhat called out Blackmon for looking completely lost at times in drills, and not asking enough pertinent questions. If Blackmon is to be a pivotal piece to the puzzle that is the new offense, skipping practices while the team is installing new plays and missing quality reps with quarterback Blaine Gabbert isn't the way for Blackmon to do it. Especially, if he has had difficulties grasping the offense in May and June. In the age of NFL players building their brand, particularly in the booming fantasy football industry, on strong regular season statistics, any struggles that could have been remedied with more practice time in camp, could cost Blackmon monetarilly in the long run, at least in his rookie campaign.
The two sides at some point this Summer will more than likely come to an agreement that meets both interests halfway. When that compromise happens, however, could end up determining how far along the new look offense, and in turn the team, progress from the catastrophe that was 2011.