Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver promises the Jaguars will be under the salary cap on the March 2 deadline, and he maintains his belief that quarterback Mark Brunell will be retained.
"We're going to be under the cap on March 2," Weaver told jaguars.com in an interview today.
When asked what penalties the Jaguars would incur if they are not under cap on March 2, Weaver said: "That's not going to happen. We're not going to be over the cap."
The Jaguars began today some $37 million over the NFL's $67.4 million salary cap figure for the 2001 season. Contract re-structuring efforts are being conducted on several fronts, and veteran middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson is expected to agree soon to a new deal that would grant the Jaguars considerable relief.
Of course, everyone's attention is focused on Brunell, who would be a $13.35 million salary cap hit in 2001, the final year of Brunell's current Jaguars contract. The Jaguars want to sign Brunell to a new deal, but agent Leigh Steinberg is firm in his demands for a contract that would break what remains of the Jaguars "bank."
"We're still in the posturing mode. Michael (Huyghue) is going to meet with Mark's people on Thursday and Friday, and hopefully we'll get a real sense of where they really are, instead of posturing, and they'll get a real sense of where we are. Both sides are going to have to get into some give and take to get this thing done," Weaver said.
Weaver is intent on maintaining Brunell's rights, as opposed to cutting the quarterback prior to the March 2 deadline and realizing $7 million of cap relief.
"To think we'll get Mark's deal done by March 2? It may take longer," Weaver said.
That would mean the Jaguars would have to fit Brunell's current contract under the salary cap on March 2, or agree to a temporary contract that would buy more time for negotiations. The Jaguars will need to find even more cap room to sign their 2001 draft class.
Will the Jaguars be able to re-structure enough contracts to fit Brunell's current deal under the salary cap on March 2?
"It can be done," Weaver said. "It would take us doing some things we don't want to do."
The severity of the Jaguars' situation, which is by far the worst in salary cap history, has made an impact on Weaver. He says he wants to take more of a hard-cap approach in the future. That means declaring money paid in the year it's paid, as opposed to creatively pushing the money out to future caps and mortgaging the team's future. It is that process that put the Jaguars in the bind they currently find themselves.
"You have to be willing to let a productive player off your roster earlier than you want," he said. "We've been very aggressive. The truth is it served us well. We were in two AFC title games. Did we pay a price? Obviously, we did.
"First, we're not going to do anything improper, and number two, we have to be under the cap on March 2. That's the rules," Weaver added.
Of the 31 teams in the league, 15 are currently over the cap. Six of those teams are more than $10 million in excess.
Among the group of 16 teams under the cap, eight (Broncos, Colts, Dolphins, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Rams and Bucs) were in this past season's playoffs, and the Giants ($1.43 million under the cap) made it to the Super Bowl.
In the Jaguars' AFC Central Division, the champion Titans are $11.16 million over the cap, the Super Bowl-champion Ravens are $1.32 million over, the Steelers are $1.96 million under, the Browns are $10.52 million under, and the Bengals are a whopping $17.36 million under the cap.