It would have been worse for receiver Justin Blackmon to be arrested for aggravated DUI before the draft. It would have been better for it to happen after he signed his rookie contract.
It would have been best, of course, for it to never happen at all.
But happen it did, and now the question becomes whether it will have an impact on Blackmon’s contract negotiations. As the fifth overall pick in the draft, Blackmon previously was in line for a fully-guaranteed four-year deal, with a value falling south of Matt Kalil at No. 4 and north of Morris Claiborne at No. 6.
In theory, the Jags could decide to stand firm on the requisite four-year tender offer for the minimum salaries. That approach, however, inevitably would prompt Blackmon to hold out for the entire season and re-enter the draft in 2013, given that rookie contracts now can’t be renegotiated until after three seasons. [Editor’s note: A prior version of this article explained that the Jaguars could tender Blackmon a one-year deal worth the rookie minimum of $390,000. The new CBA has changed that requirement to a four-year offer.]
The problem for both sides is that there’s not much the Jaguars can do to set the stage for the recovery of money, if Blackmon has additional issues in the future. The CBA provides for a partial forfeiture of a player’s signing bonus, if he is suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy (which covers DUI convictions). But the days of recovering large chunks of money in the event of an isolated act of misbehavior are long gone.
Given that the extent to which a rookie contract is guaranteed represents the only real item for negotiation in the fully-slotted first-round deals, it could be that the Jaguars insist on language that would extinguish any remaining salary guarantees, in the event that (for example) Blackmon has any future arrests or other violations of the substance-abuse policy. Article 4, Section 9(g) of the CBA expressly permits teams and players to “negotiate the circumstances under which the guarantee of any unearned Salary . . . may be voided.”
So while the top 16 players now each receive fully-guaranteed four-year deals, Blackmon may have to agree to language that permits future guarantees to go away, which in turn would give the Jaguars flexibility if they decide to move on from Blackmon before he finishes four full NFL seasons with the team.
Still, apart from recovering money already paid or erasing the guaranteed nature of money to be paid in the future, the Jaguars have a much greater interest in nurturing Blackmon into a great player and an even better citizen, especially since they moved up in round one to get him. They need to make their next decisions regarding Blackmon with that important overriding objective in mind.