Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Jacksonville Jaguars

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Today we look at the best and worst contract on the Jacksonville Jaguars

Best Contract: Sen’Derrick Marks

Sen'Derrick MarksLast year the Jaguars were the most difficult team in the NFL to find a best contract on and were the only team where a rookie contract had to be used because of its unique structure. This year there are a few players to pick from as the team was active in free agency and made more than a few deals that should be considered as pretty solid moves.

The Jaguars are one of the teams in the NFL that is pushing a near all cash model in their roster construction, but it is very different than the all cash model used by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers usually use high guarantees to make up for the lack of signing bonuses, but the Jaguars have shied away from that and instead improve a players cash flow through the use of roster bonuses but for the most part guarantee nothing firmly outside of the first year of the contract, which can be a difficult thing to get players to accept.

Though Sen’Derrick Marks does not follow that model exactly (he received a $1 million signing bonus which was the only thing the Jaguars could do when they signed him late in 2013) it is a very flexible contract with good value at the position. The Jaguars guaranteed Marks $5 million with a first year payout of $5.025 million and for that locked up a 27 year old, improving defensive tackle for the next four years.

Marks first year payout is $875,000 less than Domata Peko’s in Cincinnati and $5.75 million less than Paul Soliai’s first year number in Atlanta. Those two are a bit more established but both are on the wrong side of thirty and received incredibly larger guarantees on a per year basis. Marks has the highest upside of three.

Jacksonville also maintains flexibility in the event he regresses and needs to be released with just $600,000 in dead money in 2015. This is a far better structure than negotiated by other teams for players like Kendall Lankford of the Rams or Earl Mitchell of the Dolphins. Marks can make up for it by performing well and earning some additional incentives, but the Jaguars pretty much beat the market with this contract extension.

Worst Contract: Marcedes Lewis

Marcedes LewisLewis is a prime example of why draft status unfairly means so much even years after a draft occurs. Lewis was a late first round draft pick in 2006 and in general did nothing for four seasons.  From 2007 thru 2009 Lewis averaged just under 37 receptions a year and 466 yards a season, numbers that at the time would have been around 20th or so in the league.

But in his contract season all the stars aligned for Lewis. Lewis would post career highs in receptions, yards, and, most importantly, touchdowns. His stat line was  58-700-10, numbers that pushed him in right into the top 10 and one of the best TD threats in the sport. The team was a respectable 8-8 and he seemed like an invaluable piece on a team that did not have much receiving talent. He made the Pro Bowl and next thing you know the Jaguars made him the team’s franchise player as the league headed for lockout.

Lewis would have been one of the rare younger players where the franchise tag made sense.  Here was a “one hit wonder” so to speak and those players are the kind you should want to see it at least twice from before committing. But Lewis had that first round cache and when you have that all it takes is one season around contract time to hit the lottery and the Jaguars obliged.

Lewis’ 5 year deal averaged $6.8 million a year and the fully guaranteed portion of the contract was $8.65 million. There was another $3 million in a virtually guaranteed roster bonus plus $4.2 million in a second year rolling guarantee that was essentially fully guarantee for all intents and purposes putting the full guarantee around $14 million, right at the upper echelon of the position. Not only that but the Jaguars put incentives in the contract to reward Lewis further for performance and honors.

With the big extension in place Lewis fell right back into his normal track. In 2011 and 2012 he averaged 45-500-2 and fell to 359 yards with just 11 games in 2013. Sure he can block a little bit but you don’t pay tight ends for that anymore.  Lewis still has $2.8 million in dead money sitting in his contract and this ranks as one of the all time contract blunders in the NFL. How he is still on the team in 2014 set to make $6.85 million, 4th in the NFL at the position (behind only a first round rookie, free agent signing, and a franchise player), is a mystery to me and I have to imagine to him as well.

2013’s Best and Worst Jaguars Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Justin Blackmon (Serving indefinite suspension)

2013 Worst Contract: Marcedes Lewis (Remains starting tight end)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Free Agency Thoughts: Jacksonville Jaguars

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Key Additions: Zane Beadles ($6M per year), Red Bryant ($4.8M), Chris Clemons ($4.4M), Ziggy Hood ($4M), Toby Gerhart ($3.5M), Dekoda Watson ($2.1M)

Key Re-Signings: Jason Babin ($2.4M per year)

Key Losses: Maurice Jones-Drew (Raiders)

Major Cuts: Uche Nwaneri ($3.7M cap savings), Russell Allen ($2.5M), Blaine Gabbert ($2M-trade)

Free Agency Thoughts:

The biggest signing was grabbing G Zane Beadles away from Denver on a $6 million a year deal. As is standard for the Jaguars there was no signing bonus which may have driven the average price slightly higher, but either way I think they went too high for a player whose success could be linked to the QB he played with in Denver. Still hes young and should help upgrade a terrible offensive line, a major need for the team.

Defensively there was a great deal of tinkering with the line.   In Red Bryant and Chris Clemons they were able to bring in two solid veterans with a championship pedigree from last season. Such moves do carry risk as often I think players from those teams exhibit a letdown season, though with both being players unwanted by the Seahawks there could be a chip on their shoulder. Neither contract carries financial risks beyond 2014, which is important, as both are on the older side. They should be familiar with the system in Jacksonville so the learning curve might not be as steep for others making their use as potential one year stopgaps likely worthwhile.

Ziggy Hood could be very effective at $4 million a season. He is younger and has potential to improve. If he fails they will release him with no penalty after just one season. If he plays well he could be a bargain at the price. Jason Babin opted out of his contract only to re-sign a favorable deal for Jacksonville with minimal guarantees. He has use as a situational player.

I do question the contract given to RB Toby Gerhart. The Jaguars ended up making Gerhart the highest paid free agent running back of the offseason and there really was little to base that number on. Gerhart has flashed at times in very limited duty behind Adrian Peterson, but more often than not the “star” backup never really lives up to expectations once given the ball. It is only a three year contract and the position itself is cheap, but I tend to think there was a better deal out there for them if they waited longer.

The fact that the Jaguars were able to get a draft selection in return for Blaine Gabbert was one of the steals of the century. Gabbert’s salary was guaranteed which should have made it even harder to trade him, but they found a suitor in the 49ers. The Jaguars finally stopped trying to convince themselves that there was some kind of shining light inside his numbers and for that alone should get a passing grade on the season.

Before free agency began the team did make some moves including retaining QB Chad Henne on an incentive laden contract.  There is little downside to the move and the team did play better with Henne than without him last year. He’s a veteran arm and by wrapping him up early they avoided the chance of losing him to a team like Oakland, Houston, or Cleveland who would be just as desperate to find a QB.

The Jaguars also swung and missed at C Alex Mack this year. Mack was a transition player which meant the Browns could match any offer sheet, which they did. Could Jacksonville have made their move earlier in free agency so that other centers may have been available if they lost out on Mack?  I think that’s a valid criticism. They may have expected the Browns to spend more money in free agency or to extend a player like Joe Haden to put them in a harder position to match but that never materialized. This probably leaves the draft for filling the position with higher upside talent.

Overall Grade: B

This is one of those free agent classes where there could be some strong upside at reasonable costs if things break right. It could also prove to be completely uneventful with the team moving on quickly from each player. Whether by design or not they did seem to make their biggest targets players with good reputations from quality organizations like the Seahawks, Broncos, and Steelers and I think that often helps build a football team. There are some building blocks already in place that could turn to these players for advice on approaching the good and bad of a season. There may have been a few other positions they could have attacked and losing out on Mack certainly hurts, but they may have added some more pieces that should aid them in turning the franchise around in the next two seasons.

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DT Sen’Derrick Marks Receives $18 Million in Contract Extension

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Last week the Jaguars extended DT Sen’Derrick Marks that would keep him in Jacksonville through 2017. Marks had signed a 1 year contract worth $1.5 million with the Jaguars in 2013 in hopes of proving he was worth a big extension and that decision paid off for Marks who whose new contract with Jacksonville carries a $18 million base value, according to a source with knowledge of the contract.

Marks received a $1 million signing bonus, $200,000 of which was prorated in the 2013 season. Upon signing that was the only fully guaranteed money, though there are vesting guarantees that immediately kick in starting in April of 2014, really making the first year of the contract fully guaranteed.

Marks’ base salary of $3 million in 2014 is currently guaranteed for injury only, but will become fully guaranteed on April 5th. He will also earn a $1 million roster bonus on the 1st day of the new League Year that is also essentially guaranteed given the timing of the bonus. He has the same contract structure in 2015 with the money becoming fully guaranteed on April 5. In 2016 and 2017 his salary for the year jumps to $3.45 million and the contract contains the same roster bonuses, however none of this money is guaranteed.

Marks’ contract contains incentives that can increase the total value to $22 million. To earn those incentives he would be required to make the Pro Bowl and register a certain number of sacks each season.

This contract is a good deal for both sides. Marks will be paid in the mid range of the starting Defensive Tackles in the NFL which is a big jump from where he was last season. If Marks proves to be a one season wonder the Jaguars can walk away from the contract after just one season paying him $5.025 million and only carrying $600,000 in dead money in 2015 by doing so.  I would imagine that the small amount of signing bonus in the contract was designed to maintain that long term protection from getting into salary cap trouble in the future.

View Sen’Derrick Marks Contract and Salary Cap Page

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Lions Cut Ties With WR Mike Thomas

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The Detroit Lions have cut WR Mike Thomas, whom they had traded for less than just one season ago. I had in my notes that he had $1 million in guaranteed salary for the year which was confirmed by Joel Corry on Twitter

Unless the guarantee’s of the contract were somehow voided by some action by Thomas, the move comes as  a bot of a surprise. Detroit had half a season to evaluate him last year and all winter to watch film to decide if he was worth going further in on. I would imagine many teams would have released Thomas before his guarantees vested on April 5th. Had the Lions done that they would have saved the team $1.05 million in cash and salary cap space. Thomas also had a $50,000 workout bonus in his contract.

Thomas was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in fourth round of the 2009 NFL draft. After two seasons in the league the Jaguars decided to extend Thomas, giving him a 3 year contract extension worth just under $15.7 million. Thomas’ play immediately declined with his production in 2011 dropping to a career low 44 receptions and 415 yards. By 2012 Thomas was demoted and caught just 13 passes for 80 yards in 7 games for the Jaguars. The Jaguars traded Thomas mid-season.

The mistake of extending Thomas early is the other side of the coin when people consider the benefits of the early extension. Had Thomas simply been allowed to play out his rookie contract he would have been released in 2012 with little consequence. Instead he seemed to be a player that played for a contract and once he received it he was finished with giving the same level of effort.

The Jaguars also whiffed with the guaranteed salary on Thomas as well, becoming convinced that 2011 was an aberration. Had Jacksonville cut him prior to the start of the 2012 season they would have avoided payment of a $3.5 million dollar roster bonus as well as guaranteeing his $1.45 million dollar salary. Unlike the Lions, though, the Jaguars do not have salary cap issues. By failing to cut him in April the Lions will gain no effective cap room in the release due to the guarantees in the contract. He was set to earn $1.45 million in salary and will be replaced by a player in the cap calculations making more than the difference between his salary and guaranteed salary.

All told, Thomas ended up receiving an additional $7,935,000 because of the extension and failure of both the Jaguars and Lions to cut him before his guarantees vested to full guarantees. Technically Thomas has been released before even playing a game during the actual extension years of the contract. Thomas should be be “buyer beware” at this point for any teams that might consider reaching out to him in 2013.

Best & Worst Contracts: The Jacksonville Jaguars

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A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Justin BlackmonBest Contract: Justin Blackmon

While I said I was more or less going to avoid all rookie deals when doing this I felt that Blackmon’s deal deserved special praise. Ever since the new CBA came into existence all we hear is how dummy proof the process is, and for the most part that’s true. The financial parameters of these contracts are all in place long before anyone signs and for the most part we predicted almost every contract correctly on the site. But there are little things that teams and players can still fight for and in this case Jacksonville fought and won big.

The standard contract for Blackmon’s slot was a large signing bonus and a fully guaranteed contract with no offsets. The Jaguars knowing that they took a risk on Blackmon due to his troubled past held firm on protecting their cash flows by giving him a smaller than slotted bonus and making up the difference via a series of fully guaranteed roster bonuses that would be treated as a signing bonus for cap purposes.

The main benefit of this mechanism is that if suspended the future contractual guarantees would all void. This is different than forfeited money in a suspension. If suspended for 4 games the most the Jaguars can recover is 4 weeks worth of signing bonus money attributed to the season of suspension. Under this contract they recover the 4 weeks of money, 4 weeks of roster bonus money, and all future guarantees void thus giving the Jaguars limited cap penalties if off the field issues cause them to release Blackmon.

Needless to say that Blackmon has already been suspended and now all his future guarantees have voided. If for whatever reason they decide they want to release him they will save themselves about $3.1 million in cash and cap acceleration due to the contractual structure, money that would have been lost to them using the standard signing bonus structure.

Marcedes LewisWorst Contract: Marcedes Lewis

Lewis is a prime example of why draft status unfairly means so much even years after a draft occurs. Lewis was a late first round draft pick in 2006 and in general did nothing for four seasons.  From 2007 thru 2009 Lewis averaged just under 37 receptions a year and 466 yards a season, numbers that at the time would have been around 20th or so in the league.

But in his contract season all the stars aligned for Lewis. Lewis would post career highs in receptions, yards, and most importantly touchdowns. His stat line was  58-700-10, numbers that pushed in right into the top 10 and one of the best TD threats in the sport. The team was a respectable 8-8 and he seemed like an invaluable piece on a team that did not have much receiving talent. He made the Pro Bowl and next thing you know the Jaguars made him the team’s franchise player as the league headed for lockout.

Lewis would have been one of the rare younger players where the franchise tag made sense.  Here was a “one hit wonder” so to speak and those players are the kind you should want to see it at least twice from before committing. But Lewis had that first round cache and when you have that all it takes is one season around contract time to hit the lottery and the Jaguars obliged.

Lewis’ 5 year deal averaged $6.8 million a year and the fully guaranteed portion of the contract was $8.65 million. There was another $3 million in a virtually guaranteed roster bonus plus $4.2 million in a second year rolling guarantee that was essentially fully guarantee for all intents and purposes putting the full guarantee around $14 million, right at the upper echelon of the position.

With the big extension in place Lewis fell right back into his normal track. In 2011 and 2012 he averaged 45-500-2. Sure he can block a little bit but you don’t pay tight ends for that anymore.  Even today if the Jaguars wanted to cut ties with Lewis it would cost them $1.15 million in cash due to the final installment of rolling guarantees in his deal. Lewis will likely be cut next year after earning $20.35 million for doing basically nothing and owing everything to a poor decision making process that looked at a draft number and one year of stats and discounting a four year history of pretty average play.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans (July 6?)

An Offseason Look at the Jacksonville Jaguars

Today we will take a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, who finished a terrible 2-14 in 2012 and may have the worst roster in the entire NFL. It’s rare in today’s NFL to find a team that does not have at least one standout player, but with the injury to RB Maurice Jones-Drew I think the Jaguars may be that team. Though they do have an owner that seems willing to spend money to try and improve the standing of the team, this may be the toughest job to navigate in the short term.

Cap Positions

I would expect the Jaguars to be somewhere around $23 million in cap room right now, which is primarily due to carryover money that they can use from the 2012 league year, which ESPN’s John Clayton reported to be $19.4 million. The Jaguars made some name moves last year trading Mike Thomas and releasing Clint Session and Aaron Kampman after June 1st which accelerated their bonus money onto the 2013 salary cap, so it leaves them with a pretty high dead money figure for this early in the season.

There are not a lot of places that the team can really go for cap relief as they don’t have any big money talent under contract, so most likely this is a situation where they will look for cash relief as much as anything else. The biggest cap relief, $5 million dollars, would come from releasing or trading Jones-Drew. MJD held out last season in hopes of getting a new contract and the Jaguars wisely refused. He ended up injured most of the season and is probably worth more to Jacksonville as trade bait than as a player.

CB Aaron Ross did not have an impactful first season in Jacksonville and saves the team $3.416 million in cap room if released before his roster bonus due date. I don’t have the particulars of the contract, but I don’t believe any of his salary would be guaranteed if released, so that is significant cap savings while also saving Jacksonville $3.75 million in salary to boot.

The release of LB Paul Posluszny, who Pro Football Focus rated the worst defender on the team in 2012, would be the best move the team could make for cash purposes.  Releasing Posluszny saves the team $6.5 million in cash while creating $2.5 million in cap room. Of course it leaves a void at LB and he played well the year before so while possible its probably not likely.

TE Marcedes Lewis, a terrible signing at $6.8 million a year, would save the Jaguars $4.35 million in cash this year and create $1.55 million in cap room. He must be released before mid-April when a small portion of his salary fully guarantees for the year.   I would anticipate that he could be released in short order unless they see reason to hold onto him as a run blocking TE for this season.

Notable Free Agents

The Jaguars do not have any free agents of note.

Rookie Pool

The following are my estimates for the Jaguars 2013 rookie pool:

 PickSB2013 Cap2014Cap2015Cap2016CapTotal
Round 12$13,799,344$3,854,836$4,818,545$5,782,254$6,745,963$21,201,598
Round 21$2,357,528$994,382$1,242,978$1,491,574$1,740,170$5,469,104
Round 32$671,176$572,794$711,794$825,794$990,294$3,100,676
Round 41$497,028$529,257$619,257$709,257$799,257$2,657,028
Round 52$213,612$458,403$548,403$638,403$728,403$2,373,612
Round 61$128,820$437,205$527,205$617,205$707,205$2,288,820
Round 72$68,900$422,225$512,225$602,225$692,225$2,228,900
Total$17,736,408$7,269,102$8,980,407$10,666,712$12,403,517$39,319,738

Hopefully none of this money will be spent on a Punter again this year. Seriously this can eat into cap money quickly so if the Jaguars are active in free agency they may have to use some large signing bonuses and backload these contracts to make significant improvements to their roster while remaining cap compliant.

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