With Thursday's announcement of Daryl Smith being placed on injured reserve, the defensive captain will miss at least 14 of the 16 games in 2012 with the possibility of sitting out for the remainder of the season. While the injury snapped a streak of 48 consecutive starts for the linebacker, it also came at the worst possible time as it is a contract year for Smith.
A second round pick of the Jaguars in the 2004 NFL Draft, Smith signed a six-year, $25 million contract extension that will end following the 2012 season, making the 30-year old a free agent.
While the Jaguars will presumably want to keep the veteran team captain of the defense around, especially considering the impact his loss has had on the defense in 2012, it is still very clear that his value as a player coming off of injury will be less than that of a player that could have finished a fourth consecutive injury-free season.
Still, the value of a linebacker like Smith will not disappear entirely, as the NFL's rookie wage scale has shifted the money away from first round draft picks and toward veteran players receiving their second, third or even fourth contracts.
During the 2012 season, 37-year old London Fletcher received a two-year contract from the Redskins worth $10.75 million. While Smith will likely want more years than that, he will be turning 31 in March, and will likely not receive something like the five-year, $25.5 million contract that Stephen Tulloch received from the Lions, despite the fact that Smith is probably the better player of the two.
Instead, I would guess that Smith's price tag will be in the three-year, $15 million range; a price that the Jaguars should and probably will be willing to pay. However, Smith can only wonder what his price tag would be had he managed to continue his streak of health.