If Todd Fordham gets the big free-agency contract he's expecting, he should give half the money to Zach Wiegert. After all, Fordham would probably be re-signing with the Jaguars for minimum wage had Wiegert not been lost for the season with a knee injury in the eighth game of the year.
Wiegert's injury allowed Fordham an opportunity to prove what he can do, and Fordham proved it against some of the best pass-rushers in the game: Marco Coleman, Michael Sinclair, Jason Gildon, Jevon Kearse, Courtney Brown and Michael Strahan.
Fordham's success as a fill-in for Wiegert at right tackle was so startling that it's unlikely the Jaguars will be able to re-sign the former undrafted rookie free agent. In 1997, Fordham signed with the Jaguars for minimum wage, $164,000, and a $7,500 signing bonus. For each of the next three seasons, he also made minimum wage.
Now, Fordham is about to become an unrestricted free agent. The Jaguars would love to re-sign Fordham and recoup the development time they put into him, but the Jaguars have severe salary-cap problems and don't have the room to match the kind of offer Fordham is likely to get in free agency.
What's he worth? A million a year?
"Should get more," Fordham said with a smile.
How about $1.5 million a year?
"That's low for a right tackle in this league. Of course, I don't expect to get Jon Runyan money," he said.
Based on the way Runyan was dominated by Michael Strahan this past Sunday, and the fact that Fordham more than held his own against Strahan, Fordham's stock would seem to have only increased in value.
Fordham wants to remain with the Jaguars, but he understands this winter will be his opportunity to earn financial security.
"It's always been a goal to go into free agency with a positive outlook. That should be a goal of every football player," Fordham said.
Fordham confirmed the Jaguars did contact his agents, Ken Landphere and Ray Anderson, but talks were not serious and there have been none since. Depending on whether or not the Jags believe then can re-sign quarterback Mark Brunell, Fordham may have had his last contact with the Jags.
Meanwhile, fans want Brunell to accept less than a market-value contract, out of loyalty to the Jaguars.
"You know what I say to that? You should try to make the most legitimate money you can make. You look at any businessmen who are trying to move up in their professions. They're trying to make the most money they can make for as long as they can make it. Football is no different," Fordham said.
"I would say take a little less, if it's all guaranteed, but it's not all guaranteed," Fordham added.
He made those remarks with his three knee surgeries in mind. That's how many times Fordham had to be cut, between August and November of 1999, following a major knee injury in a combined practice with the Atlanta Falcons in August of '99. Most thought his career was finished. Certainly, no one expected Fordham would become a high-priced free agent this winter.
"I think the future of the (Jaguars), who's here and who's not, depends on (Brunell)," Fordham said.