The Jaguars are nearing a March 31 deadline on a new contract for Mark Brunell, and this deadline may be ironclad.
Brunell is due a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 31 that would seem to force the two sides to come to an agreement, or Brunell might be traded.
To that end, jaguars.com has learned from outside sources that the Jaguars have spoken to the Kansas City Chiefs about a trade for Brunell. The March 31 deadline is obviously the impetus to those talks.
If a new contract or a trade hasn't been completed by March 31, and the Jaguars pay Brunell the roster bonus, they would have to count that $2.5 million bonus against their salary cap if they trade Brunell after March 31. For that reason, March 31 would effectively seem to be the deadline for a Brunell trade, since the team desperately needs to create cap room. Of course, the Jaguars want to create that necessary cap room in a new contract for Brunell.
The Jaguars would take a $6.35 million cap hit if they trade Brunell before March 31, but the quarterback would be an $8.85 million hit on the Jaguars' 2001 cap if they traded him after paying him the March 31 $2.5 million roster bonus.
The roster bonus is part of a re-structured contract Brunell signed on March 1, to help the Jaguars meet the March 2 salary cap deadline. In that re-structured deal, Brunell agreed to "not likely to be earned" incentives that saved the Jaguars $2 million on their 2001 cap.
On March 1, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver credited Brunell for saving the team from having to cut another four or five players to make it under the cap, and Weaver said he expected a new contract for Brunell would be complete within two weeks. That has not happened, though jaguars.com has also learned the two sides are close to a new deal.
"I had a personal conversation with (Brunell's agent) Leigh Steinberg, so I continue to be optimistic we're getting closer, and each of us is having an opportunity to clarify our positions. That's very helpful," Weaver said when asked if the two sides were nearing an agreement.
When asked about the March 31 roster-bonus deadline, Weaver added: "I don't think that's the issue. We have everyone's interest aligned to get this thing done in the next few days. If not by the end of the week, certainly by early next week. My hope is we'll get something done this week. The sooner we can get this done, the sooner we can start looking at the players we have to bring back and who else is out there who might help the football team."
Weaver will attend the NFL owners meetings in Palm Desert, Calif., next week.