Branden Albert’s sudden decision to report to the Jacksonville Jaguars after retiring last week puts the team in a tough position. Based on some of the reporting on the situation, Albert and the Jaguars have been in discussion since this past weekend, though obviously Albert did not make the trip to New England with the rest of the team.
When Albert retired, his rights/contract remained with the Jaguars, but he also owed the team $3.4 million in bonus money paid prior to the season. With his decision to report to the team, it forces the Jaguars hand. The team either has to accept him back, which could become a credibility issue for a new coaching staff trying to preach “accountability” and potentially disrupt some of the locker room, or simply release him. Remember, Albert skipped voluntary workouts and then retired, so he’d be skipping out on things and then returning for a second time.
If the team decides to not accept Albert back however, they have to cut him, which would relinquish him from that owed $3.4 million. Not only that, but it would instantly make Albert a street free agent and if he wanted to continue to actually play, he could sign for any team looking for depth on the offensive line. If he’s on the Jaguars opening day roster he can make his entire salary for the year guaranteed, even if he’s cut after Week 1, because he’s a vested veteran and he can claim termination pay. If he’s on the active roster through Week 3, the Jaguars give up that draft pick they originally traded for him because it completes the conditions for the trade.
Albert right now, is forcing the Jaguars to make a decision.
The problem is, the Jaguars might have to accept him back because of the state of their offensive line. Even with Albert’s struggles in the first padded practice last week, he still might be one of their best five offensive lineman and at worst is an upgrade to their depth. If second-round pick Cam Robinson gets hurt for any amount of time or struggles to get his feet under him as a rookie, the depth at the left tackle position is essentially non-existent. Josh Wells would need to start at left tackle, and I’m not sure that’s what you want for more than a drive or two.
If the Jaguars don’t let Albert come back and cut him and he starts and plays adequately for another team, the Jaguars end up looking silly, especially if their line continues to play like it reportedly has so far in training camp. This also points back to the lack of attention the team has given to upgrading the offensive line the last two offseasons in both free agency and the NFL Draft.
The two parties are in a standoff, but in reality the Jaguars very likely end up losers in the situation, either way.