Commentary

Justin Blackmon cost himself

Jaguars may be slotted in salary but should make WR earn his money

Updated: June 7, 2012, 4:34 PM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

There has been plenty of condemnation of Justin Blackmon for his inexcusable DUI arrest early Sunday morning. The best way for the Jacksonville Jaguars to deal with their rookie wide receiver is by sending a strong message with his first contract.

You would think that Blackmon wouldn't be stupid enough to sabotage his contract negotiations with Jacksonville, which chose Blackmon fifth overall in this year's draft but hasn't signed him yet.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Rick Dole/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon works out during Jaguars minicamp.

Now that he's been charged with aggravated DUI -- his second DUI in two years -- Blackmon is officially at the Jags' mercy.

Forget about a hometown discount. The Jags have earned a significant knucklehead discount.

Moral outrage doesn't correct bad behavior as quickly as financial repercussions. Blackmon, who pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge Monday, was thought to be in line for a contract in the $20 million range, since cornerback Patrick Peterson -- last year's No. 5 pick -- signed a four-year, $18.4 million deal that included an $11.9 million signing bonus.

There is no way the Jags can give Blackmon that much guaranteed money, even if the total worth of the contract is similar to Peterson's. Instead of being giddy about how Blackmon can bolster the Jags' anemic offense -- which ranked last in the NFL last season -- the team now has to worry about whether money will improve Blackmon's decision-making or make it worse.

So Jacksonville needs to make this DUI arrest one of the most expensive on record.

Blackmon's 2010 DUI was somewhat forgivable, but after this latest arrest he has forfeited any benefit of the doubt.

In 2010, Blackmon said he had not been drinking, but his arrest was registered as a DUI because there was alcohol in the vehicle he was driving. And he was 20 years old, which is under the legal drinking age.

This time, Stillwater police say Blackmon was going 60 in a 35 mph zone and was charged with aggravated DUI because his blood-alcohol level was over .15. Police say Blackmon's blood-alcohol level was .24, which is three times the legal limit in Oklahoma.

The stupidity aside, what's worse is that before playing a NFL down, Blackmon has brought bad press to a city and franchise that simply can't afford the negative attention.

I wouldn't blame the Jaguars for wondering if they made a mistake drafting Blackmon because his arrest furthers the perception that the Jaguars attract players with significant character issues.

In one stretch from 2006 to 2008, 11 Jaguar players were arrested. In April this year, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton needed eye surgery after he was hit in the head with a bottle at a Jacksonville nightclub.

The incident that received the most national attention happened in 2008, when offensive lineman Richard Collier was shot six times. As a result, he was paralyzed from the waist down and his left leg was amputated.

What's ironic is that Collier spoke about making good decisions off the field to his former Jaguars teammates the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, during organized team activities.

It's too bad someone wasn't listening.

Blackmon's arrest also has opened old wounds because several of the team's wide receivers have had extensive issues with drugs and alcohol.

The most notable was five-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith, who was placed in the NFL's substance-abuse program in 2003 after testing positive for cocaine following a traffic stop. Smith also was busted for possessing crack cocaine and marijuana in 2009 -- three years after he had retired from the Jaguars.

The problem with young players is that many of them are too arrogant to believe their reckless behavior will ever jeopardize their careers. They don't believe their lives will ever turn out like those of Matt Jones and Reggie Williams, two receivers the Jaguars selected in the first round who eventually destroyed their reputations and careers because of drug and alcohol arrests.

Blackmon has taken a step down that destructive path, and it would be beyond embarrassing if another Jaguars receiver proved to be a waste of time.

So the Jaguars must take a hard stance. They also need to demand that Blackmon receive professional help, because only an expert can determine whether he has a problem with alcohol.

Of course, Blackmon bears the ultimate responsibility for changing his behavior. The Jaguars just need to make sure he's properly motivated.

Jemele Hill | email

ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine

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