The Jaguars have a problem.
Telvin Smith, an unquestioned team leader, has gone awol.
The Jaguars are currently in the voluntary portion of their offseason program, so Telvin Smith not being there isn’t really an issue. The NFLPA collectively bargained for players to not be required to be with their teams until the mandatory portion of the program later this summer.
The issue with Telvin is that there is no communication with the team from Smith or his representation. Doug Marrone and team officials have repeatedly reached out Telvin Smith since the start of the offseason program but to no avail. The Jaguars can’t get ahold of their $10 million weakside linebacker.
Now many fans and media alike have turned on Telvin. It’s hard to blame them. It’s one thing to not be in attendance for the voluntary portion of the offseason program, but it’s an entirely different beast to not communicate with an organization that made you one of the highest paid players at your position on the planet.
So what should the Jaguars do? Should the team move on from Telvin? Should Tom Coughlin and company do their best to repair the relationship with Smith?
Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone are attempting to build a team-first culture. Telvin Smith obviously isn’t furthering that cause right now. So, the Jaguars may look to move Smith by trading him or releasing him.
But I would caution the Jaguars not to make a rash decision.
If the team does decide that moving on from Telvin is the best move, they should wait to do so until after June 1. The reason for this is purely financial. If the Jaguars trade Smith before 6/1, they’ll save about $4.1 million against the cap in 2019. Releasing him before June rolls around would be even worse as the team would save less than $1 million. But post 6/1 releasing or trading Smith becomes much more lucrative. If the Jaguars can find a trade partner after the start of June, they’ll save $9.75 million against the cap. Releasing Smith at that point would save the team $4.75 million against the cap.
If moving on from Smith is the route the organization wants to take, then finding a trade partner post 6/1 would be the best option, but that might be difficult with his pricey contract. Still, it’s possible that a team that thinks they're an explosive outside linebacker away from being a championship defense might give up a sixth or seventh round pick. But even if the Jaguars can’t find a trade partner, saving $4.75 million against the cap this year could give the team enough cap space for them to lock up Yannick Ngakoue or Myles Jack (or both) on long term deals.
Don’t forget: the Jaguars will structure new deals by making a large portion of the first year salary a signing bonus, which can be prorated across the length of the contract. So if the Jaguars sign Ngakoue to a deal worth nearly $20 million per year, he won’t count that much against the cap in year one.
It’s entirely unclear how this situation will play out. But the Jaguars aren’t as locked into Smith for financial reasons as many believe. If moving on from Smith is what the Jaguars elect to do, they’ll be able to clear enough cap space to lock up some of their younger talent.
Yannick Ngakoue started the offseason program with the team but has since left. Making sure the star pass rusher is in Duval for as long as possible is vital. Getting rid of a portion of Telvin Smith's cap hit would, without question, help in that regard.
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