Salary cap-cutting measures have now cost the Jaguars six starters in 11 days, but owner Wayne Weaver believes his team can find help from the list of players other teams cut today, and Weaver believes the Jaguars' 2002 prospects are brighter than his team's 6-10 finish last season.
"I'm convinced this team can win more games in 2002 than we did last year. First, we have to have a good draft. Secondly, we have to identify some veterans who can come in here close to minimum salary and make good contributions. There are going to be a lot of good football players out there. I'm very optimistic," Weaver told jaguars.com immediately following the team's four p.m. announcement today that cornerback Aaron Beasley had been released.
On this day a year ago, the Jaguars were involved in panic negotiations with quarterback Mark Brunell that would get the team under the salary cap by the four p.m. deadline. Today, the big news was the release of Beasley, which left the Jaguars about $300,000 under the NFL's $71.101 million '02 salary cap at the four p.m. deadline.
By releasing Beasley, the Jaguars avoided paying a $750,000 roster bonus due Beasley tomorrow. Even though $1.25 million of his salary is guaranteed, the Jaguars realize an $800,000 cap savings by having released Beasley.
It was the Jaguars' only major personnel move on this, "D-Day" for players whose contracts were perceived as bulky. Not even Beasley's salary guarantee could persuade the Jaguars to keep the six-year veteran.
Guard Zach Wiegert will be paid a $500,000 roster bonus on Saturday, which means Wiegert will be retained on the Jaguars roster. Wiegert had been considered a cut possibility, since he would've provided $425,000 in '02 cap savings.
Veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell had also been rumored to be a potential cap casualty, but indications are the Jaguars will delay releasing McCardell until after June 1, which would increase the cap savings McCardell would offer the Jaguars in '02.
Kevin Hardy's and Renaldo Wynn's Jaguars contracts expired yesterday, the combination of which presented the Jaguars with about $15 million of '02 cap savings.
In other "D-Day" news, the Jaguars made "low tender" offers to restricted free agents Stacey Mack and Jason Craft. Those tenders give the Jaguars right of first refusal on any free agent contract offer Mack or Craft would receive. The Jaguars can retain those players by matching any offer they receive. If Mack and Craft receive no offers, the Jaguars would have to pay them $563,000 each in '02.
Sean Dawkins, Jonathan Quinn, Todd Fordham, John Wade, Jeff Smith, Mike Hollis and Jeff Posey are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents tomorrow.
The Jaguars lost Tony Boselli, Gary Walker and Seth Payne in the Feb. 18 expansion draft, which began a run of personnel moves necessary to get the Jaguars under the salary cap without re-structuring contracts and pushing money onto future caps. The Jaguars will attempt to re-structure the contracts of Tony Brackens and Mark Brunell, but those two players would seem to be the only re-structuring targets.
"To do what we need to do, we still have to create some (cap) room," Weaver said. "We still have a lot of work to do over the next three months, in terms of building our roster and determining who's going to be on this football team when we go to training camp.
"I think we're going to look back, as painful as it is to lose players like Tony, Gary and Seth, and say we made a huge gain forward in our ability to compete at the highest level on a much quicker timetable," Weaver added.
In other news, the Jaguars re-signed tight end/long-snapper Joe Zelenka and signed offensive tackle Shaun Rose, 21, a rookie from East Carolina who was eligible for the '01 supplemental draft but was not selected.
Beasley is the Jaguars' all-time interceptions leader with 15 thefts. He holds every Jaguars single-season and career interception record and has 18 career takeaways and scored four defensive touchdowns, also team records. In '01, he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the final four games of the season, finishing with 42 tackles and three interceptions. He was a starter in 71 of the 76 games he played with the Jaguars, after having been drafted in the third round in 1996.
Hardy was the team's first-round draft choice in '96; the second overall selection. The Jaguars' all-time leading tackler with 789 over six seasons, he was sidelined by a knee injury for the final seven games of last season. Overall, he was a starter in 83 of the 86 games he played with the Jaguars, making 28.5 sacks and five interceptions. He was voted a starter in the '99 Pro Bowl.
Wynn was the Jaguars' first-round draft pick in '97. He had a career-high five sacks and 75 tackles in '01, when he was a starter in all 16 games for the first time in his career. He totaled 285 tackles and 13.5 sacks in his five-year career.
Mack was the Jaguars' leading rusher in '01, when he started 11 games for the injured Fred Taylor and gained 877 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Only the fourth player in team history to rush for 100 yards in a game, the three-year veteran had the fourth-most rushing yards in a season in Jaguars history and ranks fourth on the team's career rushing list. He joined the team as an undrafted rookie in '99.
Craft was a fifth-round draft choice in '99 who played in all 48 games of his career. In '01, he started eight games and made two interceptions and a career-high 56 tackles (tops among the team's cornerbacks). Craft scored a touchdown in his first NFL game in '99, returning a fumbled kickoff for a score against San Francisco.