Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smeenge, Barlow Released Jags Close to New Deals with Smith, McCardell

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smeenge, Barlow Released Jags Close to New Deals with Smith, McCardell

Article excerpt

Five players are leaving, negotiations with several others are ongoing, and the Jaguars' deadline for being under the NFL's salary cap is less than two days away.

The Jaguars, in an effort to trim their league-high cap surplus, yesterday released five players -- defensive end Joel Smeenge, wide receiver Reggie Barlow, center Quentin Neujahr, safety Rayna Stewart and offensive tackle Joe Chustz -- in moves that saved $8.9 million against the cap.

"It's obviously disappointing," said Smeenge, who had been with the team since signing as a free agent before the 1995 expansion season. "I wanted to stay in Jacksonville, but I realize it's a business. It's frustrating, to even think about playing for another team, but sometimes you've got to roll with it."

Smeenge had long been a fan favorite, with fans cheering "Sme-e-e-e-e-nge" in long, deep tones after he made a tackle.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity this franchise has given me," Smeenge said.

The moves dropped the Jaguars' cap surplus from $37.9 million to $29 million, coming as team officials worked to negotiate details on expected restructurings and to renegotiate the contracts of Mark Brunell and Kevin Hardy.

"I know we're very close to the deadline, but talking to [agent] Leigh [Steinberg] today, I'm still optimistic a deal will happen," Brunell said last night.

The Jaguars' deadline to turn in documents to the league showing they are under the $67.4 million cap is 4 p.m. tomorrow. The league year and free agency period begin Friday.

The NFL Management Council will review the cap status of the Jaguars and 30 other teams tomorrow night, contacting team officials that evening if revisions still need to be made.

"At that point, it's mostly details," said Michael Huyghue, the team's senior

vice president of football and chief manager of the cap.

Yesterday, however, was more than details, with Huyghue and the rest of the Jaguars' front office working on various cap-related issues, including:

-- Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith. The two Pro Bowl receivers have yet to finalize restructured contracts, but each is close, three sources close to the situation said yesterday.

Smith and McCardell have agreed to restructure, but McCardell -- who had career highs in catches and yards last season -- is balking at a straight restructuring. He wants the Jaguars to guarantee money in this year's contract and next year's, protecting himself if he is released after next season. McCardell, if he agrees to a straight restructuring, would save the team $2 million against the cap, but if the team gives him the guarantees, that would cut into the savings.

Smith, who has more catches than any receiver in the NFL over the past five seasons but makes less than the league's top-paid receivers, also wants more money to sign an extension. …

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