It’s time for tough decisions.
They say the NFL is a business. And, looking at the millions of dollars the league makes on a yearly basis, it’s hard to argue with that statement. A predicted $242.5m salary cap for every team in 2024 represents a 7.9% rise from last season - theoretically meaning there’s even more money to go ‘round. Despite that, each franchise will be furiously analyzing how their biggest earners will impact the team coffers come this Fall.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, as things stand, have an estimated $17.6m worth of cap space available. But with some big contracts looming on the horizon, concessions will need to be made somewhere. Here are five names whose contracts will likely be addressed one way or another this offseason.
Christian Kirk - $24,236,932 cap hit
Did the Jaguars get Christian Kirk's contract right, or do we still think they overpaid? pic.twitter.com/fiLMwlLLNi— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 22, 2022
After making a big impact as a free agent acquisition in 2022, wide receiver Christian Kirk’s 2023 season ended in Week 13 after he suffered a core muscle injury against the Cincinnati Bengals. An impact player who has cultivated good chemistry with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Kirk found his best form in Jacksonville after an uneventful stint with the Arizona Cardinals.
Kirk is likely someone the Jaguars will want to keep around - but with a contract that currently represents almost ten percent of the team’s available cap space next year, it almost certainly won’t stay as it is. Cutting Kirk before June 1st is improbable, but more so after that date, when the dead cap resulting from such a move will drop from $21.3m to $7.8m. Regardless, the number is still too big - and with Kirk representing a success by Trent Baalke despite the initial scorn he endured from around the league, expect the Jags GM to adjust the deal and extend his stay. Kirk may even take a modest discount to mitigate any future injury fears and remain working with Trevor Lawrence.
Brandon Scherff - $23,908,184 cap hit
Entering his final year of a 3-year, $50m deal signed back in 2022, Brandon Scherff was another of Trent Baalke’s big acquisitions after the departure of Urban Meyer. Coming over from the Washington Commanders, Scherff played every game in his first year in Duval County, helping the Jaguars go on a tear and win a playoff game. Despite playing a perhaps undervalued position, the right guard has been considered a high-level operator, team leader and mentor on the offensive line - helping rookie Anton Harrison acclimate to life in the league.
Scherff played 14 games last season, missing three contests with an ankle injury - but on the whole has been a durable starter. Now 32, Scherff may not be the future for the Jaguars, but I would be surprised if the Jaguars moved on from the eight-year veteran - particularly before June 1st, where the dead cap hit would be just shy of $15m. A trade is possible, maybe more likely than an extension; but I would imagine some kind of contract tinkering to convert some money into a pre-cutoff bonus would make the most sense here.
Foye Oluokun - $21,750,668 cap hit
Foye Oluokun. Worth every penny of that $45m contract.— Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi) January 21, 2023
Despite a potential out this offseason, resulting in $14m in dead cap, Trent Baalke might just be lynched by a baying mob should linebacker Foye Oluokun be allowed to leave town. Potentially one of the best free agent acquisitions in Jaguars history, the hard-hitting LB has recorded an incredible 357 tackles the past two years - and firmly established himself as the heartbeat of the defense. Whilst the team is hardly rolling in cap space, and Josh Allen, Trevor Lawrence and even Calvin Ridley are potentially ahead of him in the pecking order for a new deal, the team will likely explore an extension before any other course of action.
Oluokun is still only 28 years old, and despite his violent style of play has not missed a game in the last three years. He also indicated a willingness to re-negotiate his deal after adjusting his terms last offseason. It’s fair to assume that new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen will be consulted regarding how he sees the six-year veteran fitting into his scheme - but who doesn’t need a dominant linebacker?
Cam Robinson - $21,109,473 cap hit
The Cam Robinson cap hit for 2024 ain’t pretty - $21.6M. But without him the offensive line has stunk out loud. He’s the franchise left tackle imo. Took me a while to get here, but I’m here.— Jordan de Lugo (@jordandelugo) January 1, 2024
Extend him, reduce 2024 cap hit. Prosper.
A career Jaguar, Cam Robinson signed a three-year, $54m contract extension in 2022 after starting 61 games in his first five years in Jacksonville. That said, he is quite clearly the most likely cut candidate on the current roster, with just a $5m cap hit should he be deemed surplus to requirements.
A starting left tackle when healthy, Robinson has had his fair share of injuries during his professional career, and also spent time on the sidelines in 2022 serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Despite the games missed, Robinson probably finds himself a victim of a numbers game - particularly with the success of rookie Anton Harrison, who could potentially switch to the blindside in his sophomore season.
Foley Fatukasi - $12,808,334 cap hit
Another one of Baalke’s 2022 imports, Folorunso Fatukasi might prove to be the trickiest contract for the Jaguars front office to remove from the wage bill. Since his arrival from the New York Jets Fatukasi has been a steady presence on the defensive interior, but never really hit the levels of play he achieved with Gang Green. In fact, his stats pretty much halved in Jacksonville; maybe a more nuanced understanding of why that is the case is needed, but it’s fair to say the production has not equated to the compensation.
The issue here? Swallowing $9.2m in dead cap from a $12.8m contract isn’t particularly appealing. This figure halves after June 1st, making it highly likely Fatukasi sticks around until the Summer before learning his fate. His agent may best be served trying to organize a more team-friendly extension or restructure, but considering the financial pressure the Jaguars are heading toward, I’m not sure there will be the appetite for negotiation.
*All contract figures provided by spotrac.com