Hays Carlyon's Jaguars Blog

Keeping the Jaguars together: Here’s the plan

todayJanuary 26, 2023


By Hays Carlyon

The Jaguars are riding high off surging to the AFC South title and a thrilling playoff win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Good times are here.

The culture is fantastic, led by coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The key is keeping it together, which in the NFL is difficult with the salary cap.

The Jaguars rank 30th in salary-cap space at $28.1-million OVER, according to spotrac.com. There are 15 teams currently projected to be over the estimated cap. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are both $55 million over.

Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke has a daunting task, but fortunately Jaguars owner Shad Khan is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.

“Cash is more important than cap,” Baalke said Tuesday at his season-ending press conference. “There’s ways to maneuver the cap, and there’s ways to extend things into the future, but you’ve also got to be smart and diligent when you’re doing that.”

So how do we keep as much of this Jaguars team together as we can?

We have to create enough cap space to re-sign three priority free agents: tight end Evan Engram, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and outside linebacker Arden Key. We also have to leave roughly $5 million to sign the draft class.

Keep in mind, we can’t touch the contracts of any player that has yet to play three seasons in the NFL.

Here’s the step-by-step plan.

*Cut CB Shaq Griffin

Griffin was injured for much of this season and its time to move on. The Jaguars save $13.1 million by releasing Griffin, taking on $4 million in dead money in 2024.

Now we are $15 million over.

*Restructure WR Christian Kirk

This will be a new wrinkle. We haven’t seen much restructuring in the past with the Jaguars. Basically, we are taking a valued player and kicking massive cap hits down the line by giving him a signing bonus to create cap space now. Players love this because it puts money in their account immediately. They also have no control over it, as long as it is a simple restructure. A maximum restructure adds years to the contract and would need player approval.

The 26-year-old Kirk had a marvelous first season with the Jaguars. His cap number in 2023 is $23 million.

The move lowers Kirk’s 2023 cap number to $13 million, saving $10 million.

We are now $5 million over.

Again, it helps that Khan has plenty of cash.

*Restructure ILB Foye Oluokun

The 27-year-old Oluokun was sensational in his first year with the Jaguars, leading the NFL in tackles. He also led the league in tackles in his final season in Atlanta before leaving for the Jaguars as a free agent.

His current three-year deal stipulates that his cap number is $19.1 million in 2023.

The restructure saves another $10 million.

We’re now $5 million UNDER the cap.

*Restructure LT Cam Robinson

The 27-year-old Robinson has a 2023 cap charge of $22.1 million. A restructure can drop that number to $12.1 million.

We’re now $15 million under.

*Restructure RG Brandon Scherff

The 31-year-old Scherff has a cap hit of $20.9 million. A restructure saves $5 million here.

We’re now $20 million under.

*Cut OLB K’Lavon Chaisson

The Jaguars should release the former first-round pick. Chaisson simply hasn’t done enough to warrant a $4.2-million cap hit. He had nine tackles and one sack last season. Cutting Chaisson saves $2.4 million, with a $1.8 million dead-money hit in 2024.

We’re now $22.4 million under.

*Special teams cuts

The Jaguars can save roughly $1 million in cap apiece by cutting cornerback Chris Claybrooks and safety Daniel Thomas, both of whom are special teams players.

We’re now at $24.4 million under.

Now, the fun begins.

The Jaguars should be able to sign Engram, Taylor and Key to contracts with the following first-year cap hits: Engram and Taylor both at $7 million and Key at $4 million.

That’s $18 million, leaving us with $6.4 million in space.

That’s enough to sign the draft class.

This plan allows the Jaguars to keep defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris ($10.1 million cap hit), safety Rayshawn Jenkins ($10.25 million) and receiver Jamal Agnew ($5.8 million cap hit). Just to give you an idea, cutting these three would have created nearly $19 million in space.

The Jaguars would also create cap space if they agreed to a contract extension with outside linebacker Josh Allen, who has a cap figure of $10.8 million in 2023.

Unfortunately, other free agents like defensive end Dawuane Smoot, receiver Marvin Jones, safety Andrew Wingard and tight end Dan Arnold are not in the plan.

Every team is different, but the Jaguars should be able to retain much of this year’s team if they choose.

Again, be thankful Khan is willing to spend to win.

This offseason will be different, but Khan will still be cutting lucrative checks. These will just be in-house, the ideal way to do business in the NFL.

(You can email Hays at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon).

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