The Buffalo Bills have announced the release of QB Tarvaris Jackson. While many have expressed some surprise that the Bills would release a player that had recently received a $500,000 signing bonus without even seeing him in training camp, the fact is Jackson was simply a sunk cost signed when the Bills were searching for answers at the QB position.
After signing Jackson the Arizona Cardinals released Kevin Kolb, who promptly signed with the Bills to compete with Jackson for the starting job. The situation changed even further when the Bills selected QB EJ Manuel in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, making the likelihood of both Kolb and Jackson being on the roster in September remote.
Financially the Bills put more into Kolb than Jackson. Kolb received a signing bonus that was double the amount of Jackson’s. Both players had roster bonuses tied to being on the roster in week 1- In Jacksons case $450,000 and in Kolb’s case $250,000. That made it likely one would be released rather than sinking more money into someone who was going to be a 3rd string QB.
Jackson’s chances of making the team were further compromised by incentives in his contract based on playing time. Kolb, according to reports, had incentives in his contract that were tied to non-guaranteed escalators in his 2014 contract, which could be avoided by release. Jackson, if given the starting job, had the chance to earn $1.25 million in bonuses by playing 60% of the snaps and an additional $1 million if he played in 65% of the snaps. Once earned they would be guaranteed. That would likely equate to starting 10 or 11 games which just put him further behind Kolb in the chances for the starting job.
With such little chance to make the team it made almost no sense to carry Jackson longer and it is always in a players’ interest to be released before training camp to give the player the maximum opportunity to sign a contract with a new team and compete in training camp. The Bills also should owe Jackson payment on a $50,000 workout bonus, putting his dead money total at $550,000 once the release is processed by the NFL.
Jackson had reportedly drawn interest from the New York Jets in the offseason before accepting the Bills offer to return to Buffalo. The Jets ended up signing David Garrard with Jackson was off the market. The Jets had prepared to take 5 QB’s into camp this season following the drafting of QB Geno Smith and subsequent release of Tim Tebow. Garrard has since retired due to injury concerns leaving the Jets with just 4 QB’s on the roster.
Jackson is familiar with the concepts of the West Coast Offense and was coached as a freshman by Jets coach David Lee and is familiar with Jets General Manager John Idzik who was part of the Seahawks front office when they signed Jackson in 2011. Having already earned a signing bonus with the Bills and perhaps few options the Jets may be able to bring Jackson in at a cost that they deem reasonable.
The Jets had signed Garrard for $1 million in base salary only $250,000 less than Jackson’s base salary with Buffalo. The Jets could offer Jackson a similar roster bonus as the Bills except base it solely on being on the active gameday roster rather than the week 1 roster. Because Jackson was inactive for the entire 2012 season no bonus money would hit the 2013 salary cap. If the Jets were to carry Jackson as their third QB during the season and never suited him up they would not need to pay him any bonus money under that structure. Such a contract may be the best situation for Jackson to keep alive the faint hopes of being a starter in the NFL.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.