- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t planning on releasing suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, because it’s much more advantageous to maintain their rights to the former first-round pick.
On the surface, cutting Blackmon seems like the logical move. He has already violated the league’s substance-abuse policy three times and is another failed test away from possibly losing his career. He has maintained minimal contact with the organization, and GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley know very little of Blackmon’s progress.
Several teammates, including receiver Cecil Shorts, have tried to reach out to Blackmon to no avail.
It seems best to just cut bait, wish him well, and go in another direction.
But the Jaguars won’t do it, even though it’s possible Blackmon might not play at all this season, because there is not much benefit -- financially or on the field --- to doing so.
Blackmon is not taking up a roster spot, and the team doesn’t have to pay his salary while he is suspended. He doesn’t count against the salary cap, either, so there is no monetary reason to let him go. Plus, if the Jaguars release him they might not be able to recoup some of the $11.9 million in bonus money they paid Blackmon when he signed his contract after being the fifth overall selection in 2012.
The clock has stopped on Blackmon’s contract. It will start again if he is reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meaning the Jaguars will have him under contract for three more seasons at a pretty reasonable salary. He was to make $289,745 in 2013, and though his salary jumps to $2.07 million and $2.91 million in the last two years, thatis still economical for a player with his ability.
That is another reason the Jaguars don’t want to part with the former Oklahoma State standout. When he has been on the field he has been pretty darn good. He has 93 receptions for 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in just 20 games, including 29 catches for 415 yards and one touchdown in four games last season.
The Jaguars would rather not see that kind of talent end up with a division rival, which would be a risk if they cut him.
If Blackmon returns to the field to join Shorts and Ace Sanders and the two rookie receivers the team drafted in the second round last month (Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson) develop as hoped, the Jaguars would have a deep and productive group of receivers. Possibly even one of the better units in the AFC.
Despite his off-field problems, Blackmon is not a bad teammate or a problem in the locker room. He works hard in practice and the weight room. Those things have never been an issue with Blackmon, and management doesn’t anticipate them becoming a problem if he were ever to return.
Keeping Blackmon is a low-risk move that could end up with a high payoff. They could get one of the game’s better young receiver back, but if they don’t, it’s not taking a financial toll on the franchise.