The Jaguars are in a precarious salary cap situation thanks to roster moves sanctioned by Tom Coughlin.
Deja vu much?
Let the past die; kill it if you have to.
The Jags desperately need to cut some salary to get in a more manageable cap situation moving forward — especially with the prospect of re-signing star pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue looming.
To reasonably gauge the Jaguars' cap situation, we first must project what the salary cap will be in 2020. The 2019 salary cap was $188.2M. According to Tom Pelissero, the cap is expected to increase to anywhere from $196.8M to $201.2M. To be safe, we'll go with the lower number. We must also factor in rollover cap space. The Jaguars should get around $10 million in rollover cap space for the 2020 season.
Jacksonville currently sits at $209.6 million in cap liabilities heading into 2019.
Here are five realistic cap saving roster moves that the Jaguars must make in the coming months.
Cut Marcell Dareus
Dareus has been a key cog for the Jaguars since arriving in the middle of the 2017 season. When on the field for Jacksonville, Dareus positively impacted their run defense in a big way. And without him, the Jaguars' run defense fell apart in 2019. But with a cap number of $22.5 million in 2020, the Jaguars have to move on from their run-stuffing defensive tackle. By doing so, they'll save $20 million against the cap. His replacement should be found in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
Jags' cap number after cutting Marcell Dareus: $189.6 million
Restructure or cut Calais Campbell
It pained me to write that. Calais Campbell has been the most impactful defensive free agent in team history. With three straight Pro Bowls since arriving in Jacksonville, Campbell has been dominant against the run and highly effective as a pass-rusher — he's already fourth on the franchise's all-time sack list. But the Jaguars need to reduce his cap number of $17.5 million. During the 2019 offseason, Calais Campbell said he would be open to restructuring his contract, which is exactly what the Jaguars should do now. By offering Calais a signing bonus of $7 million, the Jaguars could reduce his 2020 cap number to $10.5 million. If Campbell is unwilling to restructure, then he should be cut. I would hate to see it, but moving on from Campbell would save the Jags $15 million in cap space. With Yannick Ngakoue (hopefully) and Josh Allen on the edges, losing Campbell would hurt a little less. For the sake of this exercise, let's project that the Jaguars can agree to a restructured deal with Calais.
Jags' cap number after restructuring Calais Campbell's deal: $182.6 million
Restructure AJ Bouye
I could potentially see the Jaguars moving on from AJ Bouye entirely, which would save the team $11.5 million in cap space next season. But with a severe lack of depth at cornerback, the Jaguars would be wise to offer Bouye a hefty signing bonus to entice the former Pro Bowler to reduce his 2020 salary. Bouye's still in the prime of his career and could have productive seasons in front of him. Dave Caldwell and company should be able to get his Bouye's salary down to $10 million, which would save Jacksonville $5.5 million against the cap.
Jags' cap number after restructuring AJ Bouye's deal: $177.1 million
Cut Marqise Lee
The Albino Tiger has been in hiding for much the last two seasons. Unfortunately for Marqise Lee and the Jaguars, the talented receiver just hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. The Jaguars can't afford to pay Marqise Lee in 2020. Releasing him will give the team an extra $5.25 million in cap space next year. With a host of receivers already on the team and an insanely talented crop of wideouts in the upcoming draft, losing Lee won't hurt the roster.
Jags' cap number after cutting Marqise Lee: $171.85 million
Cut Jake Ryan
Linebacker Jake Ryan was never able to get healthy after signing with Jacksonville last offseason. The Jaguars will save $6 million by parting ways with Ryan. The team has work to do at linebacker this offseason, but hopefully, they'll be able to find a potential starter in the draft and kick Myles Jack outside to his more natural WILL position. Donald Payne — an upcoming free agent — played reasonably well at middle linebacker late in the season and has the potential to develop this offseason, should the Jaguars decide to retain him.
Jags' cap number after cutting Jake Ryan: $165.85
Several other moves could be made to save some cap room in 2020, but these five are the most impactful. Many fans believe Andrew Norwell should be cut, saving the Jaguars $5.5 million. While Norwell hasn't played anywhere close to the level of his contract, he's still played at a starter level. I wouldn't blame the Jaguars for dumping Norwell this offseason, but if I were in control, I'd keep him around for one more year (maybe on a restructured deal) and release him following the 2020 season.
By taking the low end of the projected 2020 salary cap, $196.8 million, and adding the projected rollover cap space of about $10 million, the Jaguars would have around $40 million to work with after making the five major moves outlined above. That would give the team enough cap room to sign Yannick Ngakoue to a massive long-term deal, sign their rookie class, and fill in some roster gaps in free agency.
If Dave Caldwell can work some magic and unload Nick Foles' salary by trading him, that would also be a massive salary cap win for the Jaguars in 2020 and beyond.
PS: I'd also release AJ Cann (saving $2.44 million) and Geoff Swaim (saving $4.050 million).
All contract numbers in this article via OverTheCap.com
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