Unable to reach agreement on a new contract with Mark Brunell, the Jaguars were able to re-structure the quarterback's existing one-year contract this afternoon and save $2 million on the team's 2001 salary cap.
Even with Brunell's re-structuring, the team had to cut 10 players to make it under the NFL's $67.4 million salary cap ceiling by today's four p.m. deadline. The 10 players waived are: Veteran offensive tackle Leon Searcy, linebacker Brant Boyer, quarterback Jamie Martin, guard Brenden Stai, tight end Rich Griffith, linebackers Erik Storz and Edward Thomas, fullback Kevin Clemens, cornerback Evan Hlavacek and wide receiver Mike Horacek.
Searcy had to be released due to a $6 million roster bonus he was due by four p.m. today. The Jaguars will continue to negotiate for Searcy's return, and are also expected to attempt to re-sign Boyer and Martin.
"Mark worked with the club to re-structure, which allows time to negotiate," Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said of the Brunell negotiations, which were thought to be close to an agreement this afternoon.
The re-structuring converts $2.5 million of Brunell's $7 million 2001 salary into a roster bonus that'll be paid at a later date, and $2 million into "unlikely to be earned" incentives. The "unlikely to be earned" incentives represent the cap savings. However, the re-structured deal is merely a maneuver to provide the Jaguars with more cap room. Brunell is expected to sign a new deal before the $2.5 million roster bonus is to be paid.
Brunell did not have to agree to the re-structuring. Had he declined, the Jaguars may have been forced to cut linebacker Kevin Hardy, whose release would've provided a $2.2 million cap savings. Beyond the 10 players they did cut, the Jaguars were running out of players who would've saved the team cap money by cutting them. Brunell's willingness to re-structure is strong indication he wants to remain with the Jaguars, and that he also wanted to help the club maintain roster integrity.
"We've had a very difficult week. We put ourselves in a difficult position. We had to make decisions we didn't want to have to make," Weaver told reporters at a 4:15 p.m. press conference today.
"We were right down to the wire; who would have to go and how many?" he added of making it under the cap limit by the four p.m. deadline.
The roster bonus portion of the re-structuring doesn't impact the Jags' cap number. It's a good-faith device that assures Brunell and his agent, Leigh Steinberg, that negotiations won't drag on past the deadline.
"It's never been an option for us to trade Mark. We believe we can get a deal done and I'm more optimistic today than I was yesterday," Weaver said.
"Our plan is to take the weekend off and start back Monday morning," he said of negotiations. "I'll be shocked if we don't have something done in the next couple of weeks."
Negotiating new contracts for Brunell and Hardy is necessary because the Jags need to clear more room on their salary cap for their 2001 draft class. Hardy has a year remaining on his contract. If the Jaguars are unsuccessful in negotiating a new deal for Hardy, the possibility exists they would trade him prior to this April's NFL draft.