Justin Blackmon Suspended Again…Could be Major Consequences


The NFL has once again suspended Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon due to violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He will now miss the remainder of the 2013 NFL season and be forced to apply for reinstatement to the league next season. Blackmon came into the NFL with a checkered past and it was a major part of the negotiation of his rookie contract that he signed in 2012.

Blackmon’s contract is somewhat unique in that it contained a smaller than slotted signing bonus due to concerns about his off field behavior. Instead they were replaced by roster bonuses that were treated as signing bonus. However for forfeiture purposes those bonuses should be prorated beginning in the year paid. In addition he will not be paid the remainder of his salary for the season. For the 2013 season Blackmon received $1.7 million total in roster bonuses and had a Paragraph 5 salary of $1,231,455.

Blackmon will miss 13 weeks total of the 2013 season. Per my estimates this should cost him the following:

Signing Bonus Forfeiture: $1,359,265 (13/17 of $1,777,500 SB allocation to 2013)

Roster Bonus Forfeiture: $433,333 (13/17 of $566,667 RB allocation to 2013)

Lost Salary: $941,701 (13/17 of $1,231,455 Paragraph 5 Salary)

Total Lost: $2,734,299

But the consequences of Blackmon’s actions should go much further than just his salary forfeitures. Blackmon had $8,080,647 in fully guaranteed compensation coming his way in 2014 and 2015. This was protected with “no offset” provisions. All of those will definitely be gone from his contract. Considering the heavy risks associated with signing him he could be released next season and would undoubtedly have to sign a contract for far less money than the money coming his way in his rookie deal.

Because he will only be in the NFL for two years the Jaguars would not be allowed to renegotiate his contract to include more protection for the team. He would need to be released first. If the NFL denies reinstatement the Jaguars would be entitled to collect more signing and roster bonus money. The thing that works against release is that one released Jacksonville would part ways with their ability to recollect more of his signing bonus in the future should he get suspended again if he is reinstated. It may be more prudent to allow him to play out the 2014 season, if the League allows, to keep their bonus protection intact. League rules should not allow Blackmon’s contract to be terminated until after he is reinstated by the NFL.

The Jaguars also now should have other options with Blackmon in the future. As a top 10 first round draft pick Blackmon was going to be eligible for a 5th year option in his contract that would have been equal to the transition tender that existed in the prior year. Having only suited up for 4 games in 2013 Blackmon will not earn an accrued season for 2013, which requires 6 games. That should make Blackmon a Restricted Free Agent at the end of his 4 year contract, adding what could be another interesting layer to this situation.



Best & Worst Contracts: The Jacksonville Jaguars


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?)

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.