The Jaguars wannabe GM explains the salary cap

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 11: Yannick Ngakoue /

With money still left to spend and players looking for contract extensions, will the Jacksonville Jaguars make it all fit within the team’s budget?

The salary cap of the Jaguars is a complex subject.  Several Jaguars players are looking for additional money for 2019. The question is simple but the answer is quite complicated.

Some have said that the salary cap is a joke and can be easily circumvented. To be clear the NFL has a hard salary cap and a hard salary floor. To start no team can go over or under the salary cap.  Every contract must be approved by the league office.

There are ways to get around the cap but there is a price to be paid. First, a team can restructure a players contract. This gives short term flexibility but long term issues.  A team can only release or force a player without a guaranteed contract to restructure. Others must agree. If a player agrees the team can convert part of the player’s salary to a signing bonus. The full amount of the bonus is paid to the player but the cap hit is spread out through the remaining years of the contract.

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This is said to be best for a team that must win now – like the Jaguars. However the can is being kicked down the road because the money will count against the cap for the life of the contract.

There is also a roster bonus. This bonus does not immediately count against the cap and is only paid if the player is still on the team by a specific date. The bonus counts against the cap when the bonus is paid. Most teams use the March 1 or June 1 date.

There is a lot of conversation about dead money.  Dead money is money paid to a player no longer on the team.  This counts against the salary cap.  The Jaguars have to pay Blake Bortles $16.5 million, Malik Jackson $4 million, Austin Seferian-Jenkins $1.605 million and Tashaun Gipson $1.6 million.  There are several other small additional amounts. The obvious problem here is the signing of Blake Bortles and keeping him only one year. There would have been enough money to sign Yannick Ngakoue and possibly Myles Jack without that contract.

High salary players who could be asked to restructure their contracts are Nick Foles, Andrew Norwell, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Marqise Lee. Foles is highly unlikely,  and Campbell has already restructured. That leaves Bouye, Lee, and Norwell. Remember this will just add the bonus money into the future of the contract.  It never goes away.

The recent announcement by Telvin Smith that he will not play this season frees up $9,750,000 in cap space.  Our current cap space was $13,553,886.  Of that, $8-9 million must go toward rookie contracts.  If Smith’s salary is put on hold for a year that frees up a healthy amount of cap space to sign or extend contracts for other players.

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This article is about cap space and the salary cap. Salary cap is part of the business of the NFL and has no room for compassion.  I want to make it very clear that I in no way am happy that Smith will not be a member of the Jaguars this season. My greatest hope is that he will be able to handle his issues and return to the Jaguars in the future.