Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cap Comes off Jaguars' Possibilities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cap Comes off Jaguars' Possibilities

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

It may be the NFL's greatest escape since the Baltimore Colts loaded up the moving vans in the middle of the night and landed in Indianapolis.

Wasn't it just yesterday that the Jaguars were in salary cap hell? When Tom Coughlin issued his initial post-mortem assessment of the 2001 season in January, didn't the forlorn look on his face reveal a coach wondering how many years it would take to climb out of this financial mess?

The Jaguars then seemed almost resigned to one or two seasons of being the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, three weeks before the start of training camp, they have transformed themselves from a franchise in misery into a serviceable football team with legitimate hope.

As luck would have it, the stars aligned perfectly for the Jaguars to recover. Not since Morten Andersen's kick sailed just wide left, putting them in the 1996 playoffs, have things fallen so neatly into place for them.

Unlike the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers, sentenced to three or more rebuilding years for their salary cap mismanagement, the Jaguars received a get-out-of-jail-free card. All because they happened to let their credit max out at the right time.

The biggest lifesaver was the Houston Texans, who wiped out $17 million from Jacksonville's bloated salary cap figure by claiming Tony Boselli, Gary Walker and Seth Payne in the expansion draft. That coincided with the start of the NFL beneficial salary program, which allowed the Jaguars to sign veteran players for salaries of $525,000-750,000 and count only $450,000 against the cap.

Mix in a buyers' free-agent market and, poof, Team Bailout has retooled its roster without sinking further into cap-tivity.

The franchise that used to overpay free agents who never panned out and kept renegotiating contracts with no regard for future consequences is pacing itself financially. …

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