The Jaguars didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on 2013 No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel’s contract. But that doesn’t mean Joeckel is a short-timer in Jacksonville.
On Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell suggested that Joeckel remains in the team’s long-term plans.
“[It] really nothing to do with Luke but more so . . . our cap situation,” Caldwell said. “We have plenty of cap space going into next year. We’ll have more next year than we will this year and we just didn’t need to do it. Luke, we expect him to be here for a long period of time. I talked to him. Luke did play good football this year for the most part. He had a couple games that he struggled with and he knows that but for the most part he’s a good football player and we’d like him to be part of this moving forward. But we just didn’t feel like we needed to pick up the option. If he plays great we’ll pay him like a great player and we have the capability to do that.”
Picking up the option would have given Joeckel an $11.9 million salary for 2017, guaranteed for injury only until March 2017, at which time it would have been guaranteed fully. Apart from avoiding the risk that Joeckel will suffer an injury that carries into next year, the Jaguars can keep him with a deal based on his market value, if the market value is less than $11.9 million for 2017.
The only risk that the Jaguars assume is that Joeckel will have a year so strong that they’d have to consider using the franchise tag to keep him around. Next year, that number will be north of $14 million, making it a gamble of roughly $3 million.
But here’s the thing. If the Jaguars are forced to pay the extra $3 million, it means that Joeckel has finally lived up to the potential that made him a player they envisioned eventually giving an enormous contract. So that would be a good problem to have.
Actually, it wouldn’t be a good problem. It would simply be a good development, since they have the cash and cap space to keep him under the franchise tag if he becomes a player who merits that kind of pay.
If Joeckel doesn’t, the Jaguars will be able to either keep him with a much lower investment or let him walk away, leaving millions available to address the offensive line with free agents from other teams.