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NFL 2016: The Dilemma with the Allen Hurns Contract

The Jacksonville Jaguars made a smart decision in signing wide receiver Allen Hurns to a four-year, $40 million contract extension last week. The third-year wideout from Miami was an undrafted free agent who has been ranked as one of the top 100 players in the league.

The Jaguars have decisions to make in the coming year. Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith and Brandon Linder all will be playing their third seasons in Jaguars’ teal. Team officials – namely general manager David Caldwell – will have to decide what to do when it comes to negotiating new deals. The team has plenty of cap space and veterans who have contributed to this team’s rise (Paul Posluszny, Marcedes Lewis) may not be on the roster in two seasons, which frees up cap space.

With many young core players to hand second contracts to in the next year, who is next? Which players inks the big deal? And now that Hurns – who is taking flak from some NFL media people for his huge deal – is the recipient of big money, how will general manager David Caldwell make everyone happy?

Here’s something to ponder, which I had not thought of. Other players in the league are going to use this kind of model and Hurns’ success to barter for new deals. ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss wrote how upcoming free agents on the New England Patriots roster might just do that.

If the Patriots decide to seriously pursue contract extensions with the top three players entering the final year of their contracts in 2016 — cornerback Malcolm Butler and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower — the four-year, $40 million extension signed by Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns last Thursday is a concept that can be an effective middle ground for both sides. Hurns was entering the final year of his contract in 2016 that would have paid him $600,000, and the extension got tacked on to the original deal.

I never thought of Jacksonville becoming a focal point of other teams’ negotiation tactics, but it could and probably will happen. That speaks volumes about where this team has come and what kind of players the Jaguars roster has. We would not have been talking about this two seasons ago.

Reiss goes on further in his explanation.

So while the extension part of the deal is four years for $40 million, when considering 2016 into the pact it’s really a five-year, $40.6 million deal. Any extension for Butler, Collins and Hightower would likely be similar in concept and it can be a win-win because the player gets coveted financial security while the team stays ahead of a rising market/cap by being willing to strike a deal a year early.

Given the fact Hurns was the Jaguars No. 2 receiver and the team also has to decide what to do with Marqise Lee – should he finally have two solid years after injuries have plagued his career – how large will Robinson’s deal be? What happens if he catches 90 passes and makes the Pro Bowl once again? The $40 million deal could seem like chump change.

The Jaguars must also figure out how to keep Blake Bortles happy. Franchise signal callers make $100 million over the course of a contract. Bortles expressed last offseason how it would be great to make that kind of money. We all figured it would be a few seasons away because of a poor rookie campaign. Now, with 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns under his belt, those numbers seem as reasonable as any contract in the league.

The NFL media is going to talk about this like it’s a huge decision, but frankly it’s not. Everyone should get paid, even linebacker Telvin Smith, who may be the last to sign a new contract. There has been too much planning for this team’s future. Team owner Shad Khan has been committed to making this franchise a winner. Balking at big contracts would put that to a halt. Everyone will get paid. It’s just going to take time.

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