The re-structuring of Tony Brackens' and Kyle Brady's contracts set off alarm bells. Were the Jaguars doing it again? Hadn't they learned their lesson?
Those have been the two most popular questions of the last week, as fans attempt to understand how a team that was spared years of salary cap suffering by the timely birth of the Houston Texans would spit in the face of that good fortune and begin taking steps down the same path to ruin that led the Jaguars into this mess in the first place.
Do you really believe that? C'mon, these are intelligent men. Beyond that fact, there simply just aren't those many contracts on this team that can be re-structured and offer significant cap room.
It was explained to me by an anonymous executive that the Jaguars hadn't re-structured Brackens' or Brady's contracts to make room for a high-priced free agent whose bonus amortization would eat up the Jaguars' future salary caps. That was the formula that got the Jaguars into trouble; re-structuring Tony Boselli so the team might sign Carnell Lake. Now, both are gone.
No, in the most recent cases, the anonymous executive said, the Jaguars had re-structured Brackens' contract so the team might match a reasonable offer to promising young cornerback Jason Craft, and had re-structured Brady for the purpose of pitching a modest contract to free-agent wide receiver Patrick Johnson.
Craft's deal will pay $3.6 million over three years and includes a $1.2 million signing bonus. Those numbers are not out of line.
Johnson got a one-year contract worth a league-minimum salary of $525,000 and a $100,000 signing bonus. Not much risk there.
It is the best argument in the Jaguars' defense: They believe the money they "saved" in re-structuring Brackens and Brady was spent wisely and cautiously.
Repairing their salary cap remains the Jaguars' top priority. Assurances have been offered, however, there is also a great concern for putting a respectable product on the field next season. That's where a player such as Johnson enters the picture.
It's expected Keenan McCardell will be released after June 1, which will provide about $3 million of necessary cap relief this season. So, how do you replace 94 pass receptions and 1,207 yards, and still make that person fit under your limited salary cap? Well, the answer is you take a flyer on a player you believe has the talent to be productive, but is affordable because he largely hadn't been productive in the first four years of his career. Johnson is that player.
Such is the Jaguars' formula for salary cap repair and roster reconstruction in the year 2002. The strategy would suggest limited re-structuring for the purpose of bargain-basement shopping, and that's very different from the approach of a few years ago.
In that sense, yeah, they learned their lesson.