Fred Taylor began this season with a very definite plan. That plan was to stay healthy, play 16 games and produce the best season of his career.
It was a plan his agent Drew Rosenhaus believed would force the Jaguars to negotiate a new contract for Taylor, who is committed to his rookie deal through the 2003 season. That contract was negotiated by Taylor's former agent, Tank Black, who has since been prosecuted for having stolen money from his clients. Taylor lost about $3 million to Black.
"Pretty much a K-Mart, blue-light special," Taylor says of his rookie deal, a rare, six-year contract that has left Taylor in the compromised state he's in.
Of course, Taylor's plan fell apart after just two games this year. His season was effectively ended by a severe groin injury he suffered early in the second quarter of the second game of the season. He hasn't returned to action and may not play another down this season, which he admits leaves him without much chance of getting a new contract from the cap-strapped Jaguars.
"The team asked us to re-structure to help the cap situation," he said of last winter's salary cap maneuvering, "and we did that out of loyalty. I know with injuries it's tough to get things done.
"I got injured … but it never hurts to try," he said, suggesting he and Rosenhaus will approach the Jaguars this winter about a new deal.
The Jaguars may tell Taylor to execute his "plan," then they'll talk contract after next season. Taylor expects as much.
"They got the gun. They get to pull the trigger," Taylor said. "I've always been the nice guy. I've always been the one getting screwed."
Taylor was listed as "questionable" on the Jaguars' injury report today for the fifth consecutive week, even though there would seem to be little chance Taylor will play Sunday in Cleveland. He continues to travel with the Jaguars, as though his status might change dramatically the morning of the game.
"I thought he made one move to the outside that looked like it had pretty good speed, but he didn't see it that way," coach Tom Coughlin said of a recent practice, in which Taylor was a limited participant.
His groin injury, in which the muscle was partially torn from the bone, will cost Taylor more than $2 million in lost incentives this season. That's bad news for Taylor, and it's been bad news for the Jaguars' won-lost record, but the incentives Taylor hasn't reached will significantly lower his cap hit next season.
He was scheduled to be a $4.394 million hit in 2002, but that's been dropped to $2.4 million because Taylor didn't reach his 2001 incentives and the Jaguars may declare them "not likely to be earned" in 2002.
"I haven't regained all of my speed, but I'm not too concerned. I see signs of improvement every day. I tell myself, 'you really haven't had a chance to show people what you can do. I'm a smarter player and I want to put those smarts with the ability I possess. I think about that. I really think about that and I think about 16 games," Taylor said.
He can use his plan again next season.