The degree to which the Jaguars have re-structured contracts and, ultimately, their salary cap, is too great for mere checkbook mortals to understand in terms of dollars and cents. What is simple to understand is that there was no other way to become cap compliant without re-structuring deals and shoving money into future caps.
They had no choice. This was not a simple matter of keep or cut. In almost every case involving a veteran player who had previously received a large signing bonus, that portion of the bonus amortization that remained to be declared would come flying forward into the 2001 cap if that player was cut. On most veteran-player fronts, the Jaguars would've gone even farther over the cap by cutting that player.
Safety Carnell Lake is a perfect example. The remaining amortization of his signing bonus was $3.6 million. If the Jaguars cut Lake, they would take a $3.6 million hit this season. Re-structuring in the form of converting Lake's salary into bonus money allows the Jaguars to spread that money out evenly over the remaining years of Lake's contract. In short, Lake's hit this season, including the million-dollar roster bonus he's due on March 1, will be $2.8 million, a savings of $800,000.
You knew all of that, right? Don't you wish you didn't?
Yes, it's become mind-boggling. It's too much to digest and there isn't a reporter who doesn't want to stop writing about all of this as much as you want to stop reading about it.
Cap figures have become the major statistics of this era in professional football, and there isn't a reporter in the league who would bet his life on the numbers he's dug up. What we can give you is an accurate and broad analysis of what it all means. In the Jaguars' case, it's especially clear.
This is not an issue that's been settled. Next winter, we'll do this again, and next winter we will introduce to you a new piece of cap terminology: Money Likely To Be Earned.
Oh, no. What's that?
Well, when a player reaches incentives in his contract, such as Fred Taylor did last season, that money has to be declared as "likely to be earned" in the next season, meaning it has to count against the next season's cap. In the Jaguars' case in 2002, that "likely to be earned" money could become a double hit. For example, if a player this season reaches an incentive, it will have to be declared on the 2002 cap because there will be no room to move it back into the 2001 cap. Then, that money must also be declared as "likely to be earned" in 2002. Wham! Double hit.
That was not the case with Taylor in 2000, because the Jaguars had saved enough room in that cap to move Taylor's incentive money back to the 2000 cap. His "likely to be earned" money will be on the 2001 cap.
Thoroughly bewildered? You should be. How do you think the Jaguars feel?
Winning had become their opiate, their obsession. No team has ever wanted to win more or spent more to win than the Jaguars. In the process, they became careless, but, remember, we cheered them on. The media, including this reporter, is guilty of not having waved a red flag until it was too late. Now, we find ourselves writing stories we never wanted to write.