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Deadline closing on Jaguars


Thirty-seven days remain between now and March 2, the day the Jaguars must be under the 2001 salary cap. Currently $37 million over the 2001 cap, the Jaguars must trim from their books a million dollars a day from now until March 2.

The formula is simple: re-structure contracts. It's the only way the Jaguars can make it under the deadline; the only way to avoid having the league step in and penalize the Jaguars for not being in cap compliance.

What may not be simple is convincing their players to re-structure their contracts in ways that'll benefit the team, which is what must happen for the Jaguars to repair their salary cap. There is no other way of achieving cap compliance.

The players hold the March 2 deadline in their hands. If they say no to re-structuring, March 2 is almost certain to become a day of reckoning. If the players comply, the immediate bullet will have been dodged, though the situation will present itself again next winter.

Of course, trading Mark Brunell is a move that would save the Jaguars $7 million on the 2001 salary cap, but trading is not permitted until March 2, which means that for the Jaguars to be able to trade Brunell, they must first carry him for at least a day on their salary cap.

The same applies to several players. Consider the circumstances involving Kevin Hardy. If Hardy is unwilling to re-structure his contract prior to March 2, the Jaguars will have to carry his $2.3 million bonus amortization and his $2.2 million salary on their 2001 cap. They could trade him and get his $2.2 million salary off their cap, but, like Brunell, the Jaguars would have to include Hardy on their cap for a day before they could trade him.

Brunell and Hardy are players the Jaguars want to keep on their roster, but if they can't sign Brunell and Hardy to new deals, the Jaguars certainly want to retain their rights so they might recoup value in trades. The Jaguars could cut Brunell and Hardy now and clear $9.2 million from their 2001 salary cap, but Brunell and Hardy are worth too much to give away.

That's the dilemma the Jaguars face. To maintain trade value for some of their star players, they must first fit them under the 2001 $67.4 million salary cap by March 2. And the $1.05 million 2000 incentive money that will be paid to Fred Taylor in February must be included on the 2001 cap as money likely to be earned, swelling the $37 million figure to $38.05 million over the cap.

Contract re-structuring efforts have begun on several fronts, but needing to cut $37 million in 37 days, the old contracts must begin falling like dominoes for the Jaguars to avoid losing draft choices in the form of league punishment, or the rights to players who would seem to have major trade value.

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