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Should Jaguars DE Calais Campbell need to take a pay cut?

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Considering the Jaguars cap situation heading into 2020, decisions may have to be made on high-profile players.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

When the Jaguars finalize their salary cap situation in anticipation for the new NFL season, tough financial decisions may be necessary in order for the team to participate in free agency.

One major decision the team may have to make is regarding the status of Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell. Campbell, slated to participated in his third-straight Pro Bowl today at 3 PM ET., will be owed a base salary of $15M for the 2020 season, with an overall cap hit against the Jaguars’ salary cap of $17.5M. With the team’s salary cap projected to be over the designated limit, some financial decisions will occur as a result.

If the Jaguars were to move on from Campbell, the team would save his entire base salary for the 2020 season ($15M) due to there being zero guarantees remaining in his contract. Originally signed to a four-year, $60M deal with $30M guaranteed at signing, Campbell has earned every penny, becoming just the sixth Jaguars player to ever participate in three or more Pro Bowls in their respective careers.

Since signing with the team Campbell has accounted for 137 solo tackles, 44 tackles-for-loss, 76 quarterback hits, and 31.5 sacks, according to Pro Football Reference. However, this past season the team saw a slight drop in production caused by general wear and tear from the amount of snaps he has participated in during his time in Jacksonville. For the first time since 2017, Campbell accounted for less than 10 sacks (6.5) and the 33-year-old accumulated only 37 solo tackles, down from 53 a year ago.

While many statistics were down for the Jaguars defensive lineman, one stat sticks out that was higher than any year he’s had with the Jaguars — hurries. According to SIS (Sports Info Solutions), Campbell had a ‘hurry’ percentage of 9.1, the highest of his three-year career in Jacksonville. Campbell pressured the quarterback 60 times, a Jaguar-career high since 2017 when the pass rusher had 59 hurries.

An argument could be made, however, that Campbell is still the team’s best defensive lineman. Another factor to keep in mind regarding his contract status and Campbell’s overall status with the team is the Jaguars’ ability to replace the veteran defensive lineman. The team does not currently have anyone who can play the role Campbell plays, at the same level.

This week, Campbell spoke to John Reid of the Florida Times Union to discuss his thoughts on a potential pay cut. “You have to pay for talent, and I’m a very talented player. So I don’t think my cap number is too high at all, based on my performance,″ Campbell told the Florida Times Union. “But I understand what the situation is with the team not in a great cap situation. But these guys are really good at this, and they’re going to make it work.″

At this point, the Jaguars can decide to restructure the big man with an extension, allowing the team to save money against the cap space for the 2020 season along with allowing Campbell to retain the money he feels he deserves, based on his performance. During the Pro Bowl in 2019, Campbell expressed a willingness to restructure if it came in the form of a contract extension. He stated he and the team had already had some discussions regarding his contract.

The Jaguars will continue discussions regarding one of the core pieces of their defense since 2017, which will likely set the tone for the rest of the 2020 offseason in their plans for free agency and in the upcoming draft. Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell recently stated during an interview with Jaguars.com that the team still feels like Campbell has football left ahead of him.