Potential Costs of Justin Blackmon’s Suspension

Today the league announced the suspension of WR Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the first four games of the 2013 NFL season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The effects of the suspension may be very far reaching.

Unlike most first rounders the Jaguars essentially deferred his full signing bonus due to Blackmons poor reputation when he was drafted. In order to accomplish this and still remain within the 25% rules for rookies the Jaguars fully guaranteed large roster bonuses from 2013 thru 2015 that were treated as signing bonuses for salary cap purposes but not paid until the future date. Due to being suspended it is highly likely that Blackmon has now voided these guarantees as well as his base salary guarantees. The remaining guarantees on the contract total $11,012,022.

The immediate financial impact to Blackmon may be significant. It is clear that he will lose 4 weeks pay since he will be suspended for 4 games, but he will likely lose prorated portions of both his signing bonus and his roster bonus that he earned this season. Here is the relevant section from the CBA regarding drug or steroid suspensions from the NFL:

A player suspended by the League pursuant to either of those policies for a period encompassing regular season or postseason games shall be required to forfeit any Forfeitable Salary Allocations on a proportionate weekly basis.

In this case his salary allocation is the $1,777,500 proration of his signing bonus plus $566,666 which would be the portion of his $1.7 million dollar roster bonus if prorated over the final three years of the contract. Considering the language in the CBA states “required” his lost earnings should be as follows:

P5: $1,231,455 x  4/17 = $289,754

SB: $1,777,500 x 4/17 = $418,235

RB: $566,666 x 4/17 = $133,333

Total: $841,322

While it would not be expected that the Jaguars would release Blackmon once he serves his suspension, he has now made the financial impacts of such a decision far less damaging to the Jaguars since he no longer should have guaranteed salaries to protect him. I believe that the league will prorate the forfeited bonus allocations over the next three seasons. If the Jaguars chose to release him this season his dead money would now only be $8,375,886. That total includes money not yet paid in the form of the no longer guaranteed roster bonuses in 2014 and 2015. The Jaguars would receive a salary cap credit for that money in the form of a cap adjustment bringing the net cap effect of release to be just $5,282,614, His original dead money charge would have been $15,196,490.  A release next year prior to the due date of his roster bonus would be only
$2.49 million.

So at the least Blackmon has cost himself quite a large sum of money in 2013 and has potentially lost all the protections he should have been afforded as a top draft selection.

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