We've heard for a few weeks now that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be major players in the NFL free agent market in 2015. Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has hinted at it and owner Shad Khan has all but explicitly said so. There are even a few players expected to actually hit the market who would fill needs for the Jaguars with only a few teams likely being able to afford them.
Soon after the excitement of realizing the Jaguars will have projected salary cap room of near $60 million, is the dread that sets in of the ghost of failed free agents past. While you always run the risk of signing a Jerry Porter or Hugh Douglas in free agency, the Jaguars are in a situation where it's not necessarily going to hamstring them financially going forward, like some of the other past deals have.
That's because of a combination of two things:
1. The rookie wage scale, which Dave Caldwell has shrewdly used early on to help build the roster at key positions, and...
2. ...Gene Smith never really drafted anyone worthy of handing a big second contract to. It was probably what he was best at, to be honest.
They'd have to try real real hard to mess it up
I've mentioned if before when people make the comment that they don't want the Jaguars to pin their future hopes on a single free agent, but that is quite literally impossible for the team to do.
For instance, let's say the Jaguars are able to sign Julius Thomas to a 5-year, $50M deal with $20M guaranteed, making him the highest paid tight end in the NFL. That seems like a ballpark for what a team would have to pay. Depending on how the deal is structured, the Jaguars are very likely in the clear of the guaranteed money by the end of his second year on the contract. Then, just depending on how much the signing bonus is and what roster or other bonuses exist, the dead money is likely minimal. You'd also be looking at a cap hit in the range of about $9-13M, depending on how everything is structured year to year.
Lets say they front end the deal with the highest cap hit in 2015 of $13 million, which would dump their cap down to about oh... $45 million in room still. There is still plenty of room to sign multiple other big time or mid-tier free agents if necessary. There's also plenty of room for the team to re-sign anyone they'd like to... but in reality there really isn't anyone the team CAN pay that is already on the roster.
The big time guys you have scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in 2016 include names like Marcedes Lewis (who could be cut this year), Paul Posluszny, Josh Scobee, Bryan Anger, Will Blackmon, Clay Harbor, Chad Henne, Tandon Doss, Sam Young, and Andre Branch. Outside of maybe Josh Scobee on a short deal there really isn't anyone who screams big contract re-signing or even re-signing at all. Maybe it finally completely clicks for a guy like Branch, but I doubt that.
You then have to factor in the fact that you cannot re-sign any of Dave Caldwell's draft picks until at least the 2017 offseason because of the rookie contract rule, which means you have a left tackle, safety, three corners, three wide receivers and a quarterback cost-locked. A lot of those are also cost-locked until at least the 2018 offseason, which includes the big money position: Quarterback.
So, the point I'm trying to make is: Don't worry about how much the Jacksonville Jaguars spend in free agency this year. Don't worry about how big the contracts are.
It's lined up perfectly to where the big money deals they potentially could hand out will be able to come off the books by the time they (hopefully) need to re-sign draft picks or those cap hits will trend downward.