Jaguars salary cap: Outlook heading into 2014 NFL free agency and beyond

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency officially starts on Tuesday and some pre-free agency deals already appear as if the market is ripe for players to cash in, so how much money can the Jaguars shell out?

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the few teams in the NFL who can free spend in 2014 free agency if they wish, because their salary cap situation going forward is one of the healthiest in the league. In a sick twisted way, Gene Smith being such a failure at general manager has left the Jaguars with loads of cap room going forward.

As it stands right now, the Jaguars have roughly $53 million in cap room. The team rolled over just over $19 million in room from the previous season. This makes their adjusted salary cap $152.6 million, which is what gives them all that nice cap room.

We don't know the breakdown of the Red Bryant deal just yet, but it's expected that it will have some roster bonuses in 2016 and 2017 on the deal, letting the Jaguars out of the deal if he doesn't work out. We also don't know his cap figure yet for the 2014 season, but it shouldn't change the outlook right now much, if at all.

There still seems to be a bit of reluctance for Jaguars fans to see the franchise hand out a contract to the tune of $50 million in free agency, but in reality the team's future cap is so healthy it's not really going to effect much going forward. That's because the Jaguars salary cap continues to clear itself as we go further on. If the team decides to sign a big free agent defensive end this week, they can off-set some of that cost on the 2014 cap by releasing veteran Jason Babin and saving $6.175 million.

If they team were to sign say, Michael Johnson to a big contract and release Babin, they'd still have more than enough cap room to also sign a starting offensive guard or two. They could make the move for all three and still not be in much cap trouble going forward, because it settles itself out in the future.

The salary cap from 2013 to 2014 increased $10 million and in the future is expected to continue to increase at least at that pace, likely more, with the rising profits from the NFL's TV broadcast contracts. This means that it will increasingly give teams more money to spend, and for a team like the Jaguars who really are not currently spending any money, more cap room to target free agents with.

As you can see, if the Jaguars signed no other players going forward they would have $33 million in cap room (derived from league salary cap vs. Jaguars total cap) to roll over to 2015, giving them over $100 million in cap space. That's not even figuring in the likely cuts of Paul Posluszny and Marcedes Lewis, which adds another $14 million to the pot. Or, they could keep them both and still have gobs of cap room, even if they sign guys to big deals in 2014.

I haven't even taken a look at the slated 2015 free agent class so I can't tell you who would be worth spending on, but I do know there's not really anyone on the Jaguars roster currently they can really hand a big contract to other than possibly Cecil Shorts III, and really how much is he going to command? I supposed Austin Pasztor can cash in as well if he has another good season at right tackle, but unless he plays out of his mind it will likely be a modest deal.

The Jaguars can't even give the 2012 rookie class new contracts, not that they'd want to, until the conclusion of the 2015 season either because of the new rules in the CBA requiring them to play at least 3 seasons under their rookie deal before negotiations can begin.

That rule actually, is what sets up 2016 and why their cap outlook is insanely healthy.

As it stands right now, the Jaguars will have only 11 players under contract for the 2016 season. Eleven. Of those 11, nine of them are rookies meaning the team cannot even begin to negotiate a new contract with the player until the conclusion of the 2016 season. The projected cap number for 2016 is admittedly insane and likely wildly inaccurate, because it's based entirely on the Jaguars not spending any more money than they already have in 2014 and 2015.

But, due to the fact that the Jaguars have loaded themselves up with rookies and short-term bandaids, as well as having 10 more picks for the 2014 NFL Draft.... they will have at least 18 cost-controlled contributors through the 2016 season. That's 34 percent of the Jaguars 53 man roster on controlled deals, if all the rookies and second year players make the team in 2015 and 2016. This is what makes them handing out a $50 million deal with $25 million guaranteed not insane or frivolous.

This is not to say they can go free spending on Tuesday without ramifications. Naturally it will have to be a calculated target and you certainly don't want to whiff, but the team can absorb some financial blows because of how they've set themselves up, thanks to Gene Smith's horrible roster and cap management.

So, for this free agency period worry more about if the player ends up good or not more than how much they're paying him. Most of these contracts will be front loaded as teams in need of cash spending (like the Jaguars) try to get themselves to that mark by 2016. This means that most of the deals will become easy to get out of by the 2016 season with cap savings coming if they release the player, rather than being weighed down with dead money.

It's okay that they spend. It's not really limiting them.

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