This is not a day to compare to the dramatics of "Cap Day, 2001." Of course, you remember the Mark Brunell saga of two years ago, when making the deadline for getting under the salary cap depended on working out a new contract with Mark Brunell. And it went right to the bitter end.
Now, that was real drama. By comparison, today's "Cap Day, 2003" events are highlighted by the announcement that long-snapper Joe Zelenka has agreed to a new, beneficial-salary contract, and that restricted free agent guard Aaron Koch has agreed to a new deal.
"We're not having to cut people to get under the cap. That's good," head coach Jack Del Rio told jaguars.com today.
Ho, hum; so much for "Cap Day, 2003." And that's the good news for the Jaguars. This is not a day that should include drama. If it does, your salary cap is a problem. This is a day that should reveal only orderly and procedural personnel moves that set the tone for the team's foray into free agency. In the Jaguars' case, it does.
Today's "Cap Day, 2003" facts are very simple:
- The Jaguars are about $7 million under the $75 million salary cap.
- The team's eight restricted free agents have been offered low tenders, which means the team will retain the right of first refusal on any contract offer those players receive from another team. Those RFAs who've been low-tendered are: safety Ainsley Battles, cornerbacks Robert Bean and Kiwaukee Thomas, linebackers Bobby Brooks, Danny Clark and T.J. Slaughter, guard Leander Jordan and defensive end Paul Spicer.
- Offensive lineman Daryl Terrell was effectively released when the team opted not to pay his $750,000 roster bonus, but it's expected Terrell will re-sign with the Jaguars within the next few days for minimum wage ($530,000) and a small signing bonus.
- A list of 13 unrestricted free agents is headed by strong safety Donovin Darius, though he was designated a "franchise player" last week. That means any team that signs Darius to a contract would have to compensate the Jaguars with two first-round draft choices.
- Running back Stacey Mack heads the remaining list of UFAs, which includes tackles Todd Fordham and Zach Wiegert, quarterback Kent Graham, wide receivers Patrick Johnson, Kevin Lockett and Bobby Shaw, tight end Pete Mitchell, middle linebacker Wali Rainer, defensive tackle Larry Smith, center John Wade and Zelenka.
Where's the excitement? Hopefully, gone forever. These are the Jaguars of a different day. These are the Jaguars of a sound and more manageable salary cap. And for the first time since the team was in the wild and upward stages of its early development, it has the cap room to consider being a player in free agency again.
"We'll be active. We're not going to be out ahead of the market, but there are people we have interest in and we will be active," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' posture heading into the start of free agency.
But it's a free agency crop that isn't tempting teams to dig deep into their pockets. There will be those teams that will spring for that one player who they believe can make the difference, but, for the most part, this year's crop is below average in depth and quality.
"I see teams doing a better job of protecting guys they want to keep out of the market," Del Rio said. "It means it's not an overly strong market. There are some positions that have value and we will explore that, but there is not a glut of stars or blue-chip players to pick from. I think there are guys who will be able to establish roles for themselves and will be able to fit.
"Our task is to analyze the available talent and see how it fits with what we want to do," Del Rio added.