Jacksonville Jaguars must make tough choices to free up cap space
The NFL told all 32 teams that there will be an increase of $16.6 million to cap space in 2023 for a total of $224.8 million. This is great news on paper but even with the increment, the Jacksonville Jaguars are currently $22.2 million in the red, and that’s without accounting for the contract of wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who’s currently serving an indefinite suspension. To get under the cap, they’ll need to make some tough decisions to get under the cap.
There are two ways the Jags can get cap relief. The first one is to move on from players with big cap hits in 2023. For example, releasing cornerback Shaquill Griffin would free up $13.14 million in cap space with $4 million in dead money.
On the other hand, the Jags can’t simply release players with big contracts. For example, the Jags wouldn’t create cap space if they released left tackle Cam Robinson and would instead add dead money to this year’s cap based on how his contract is structured. But this isn’t to say Jacksonville should move on from Robinson.
The point is that there is only a limited number of players the Jags can release for cap relief. Besides Griffin, safety Rayshawn Jenkins, defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, return specialist Jamal Agnew and offensive lineman Tyler Shatley could also be cap casualties. If the front office were to cut all of them, they would free up a total of $35.5 million.
An alternative is to restructure the contracts of the players that could be released. The downside of reworking those deals is that the team is pushing the money to future years. This means, that they would get cap space in the short term but the bill would eventually be due.
The Jaguars will find a way to get under the cap in 2023
While it’s true that the Jags aren’t in great cap shape, it does sound more concerning that it might ultimately be. General manager Trent Baalke met with the media ahead of the offseason and said that there are always ways to work around the cap. In fact, teams often find themselves in a cap crunch.
The Jags will eventually get under the cap. However, they won’t be able to be as active in free agency as they were the previous two years. Then again, they’ve already made many important additions and can now resort to the draft to replenish their roster.
On the other hand, some of their pending free agents will walk away. Simply, the Jaguars won’t have enough space to bring back right tackle Jawaan Taylor, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., tight end Evan Engram, defensive end Arden Key, and outside linebacker Dawuane Smoot. But that’s the nature of the business, you can’ keep all your players and teams need to find ways to replace them.
In the end, the Jaguars won’t let the dearth of cap space hold them back in 2023. They have a top-10 quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, an outstanding head coach in Doug Pederson, and enough pieces in place to pick up where they left off last season.