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Peterson deal home run

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It was his first swing at an expensive, free-agent contract, and all indications are Jaguars salary cap boss and lead contract negotiator Paul Vance hit a home run.

Yeah, there will be those who will say $21 million is too much to pay for a smallish linebacker who had no sacks or forced fumbles last season. And maybe it is too much. But the manner in which Vance structured the contract allowed the Jaguars to take the big-money risk and not lose flexibility in the contract.

Here are the details of the deal:

• Mike Peterson agreed to a six-year contract that put a cool $4 million in his pocket immediately. He received a $2 million signing bonus and an immediate $2 million roster bonus. His salary this season will be $530,000 (minimum wage), which makes his salary cap hit this season a rather pricey $2.86 million. But don't forget, roster bonus must be declared in full in the year it's paid, and that means the Jaguars have taken a very aggressive route in extinguishing Peterson's bonus amortization. More on that later.

• In 2004, Peterson will earn $1.47 million in salary, of which $500,000 is guaranteed.

• He will be paid $3 million in salary in each of the '05 and '06 seasons, and $500,000 of the '05 salary is guaranteed.

• The salary bumps occur in '07 ($3.8 million) and in '08 ($4.6 million), of which $1.6 million of that latter amount is in the form of a roster bonus. By then, the Jaguars will have their answer on Peterson; foundation player or not worth the money.

But the really good news in the structure of Peterson's contract is that the annual bonus amortization is a meager $333,000. There's your flexibility. After the second year of Peterson's contract, there is no year in which the Jaguars couldn't trade or cut Peterson without realizing salary cap relief. He will not hold the Jaguars hostage.

Sound familiar? Yes, it's a deal similar to Mark Brunell's, which was hailed as a model contract in this space a few weeks ago. As is Brunell's deal, Peterson's is low in amortization, high in salary in the back-end years and, for the most part, flat in its salary amounts.

The Peterson contract is the exact opposite of the kinds of contracts that got the Jaguars in cap trouble through the first six years of history. During that time, the Jaguars' mantra was: High in bonus money and push it as far into the future as possible. Then, one day, they ran into their future.

This contract, the Jaguars' first big-money, free-agent contract since signing Hardy Nickerson in 2000, preserves the future.

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