PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
Trevor Lawrence during an Oct. 23, 2023, loss against the New York Giants. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

SPORTS | Did the Jaguars overpay Trevor Lawrence?

Published on June 17, 2024 at 7:00 pm
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When the news of Trevor Lawrence’s massive new contract with the Jaguars came out, it sent shockwaves through the NFL.

Five years, $275 million. The $55 million per year average matches Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s deal as the largest in NFL history by average annual value.

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That could be a huge risk for a player who has not turned in a full season of top-tier quarterback play.

The contract is broken down to a (sort of?) more manageable amount: the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Lawrence is guaranteed $200 million, $142 million at signing. That means that an additional $75 million can be earned through other incentives.

These are the salary cap hits in the coming years for Lawrence:

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  • 2024: $15.03 million
  • 2025: $17 million
  • 2026: $24 million
  • 2027: $35 million
  • 2028: $47 million
  • 2029: $78 million
  • 2030: $74.84 million

The Jaguars have an out after the 2028 season, when the deal would leave no dead cap money. In other words, they won’t be paying Lawrence if he falls short of expectations and the Jaguars let him go.

So what does Lawrence have to do to make the contract make sense? There are two scenarios.

First, if Lawrence plays as he did in the second half of the 2022 season or even as he did in the first half of the 2023 season, the Jaguars should be a playoff team and perhaps a significant contender. That’s plenty good for the next three years.

Once the 2027 season hits and Lawrence is accounting for $35 million of salary cap space — even though the salary cap will certainly be higher by then — the expectations should be even higher.

Now, when a quarterback with a big contract is playing well, it creates a major positive for a team. Let’s say that Lawrence plays at a Pro Bowl level for the next two seasons. If the Jaguars need some extra salary cap room after the 2025 campaign, they can rework his contract, giving Lawrence another signing bonus and pushing the final years of the contract off into the future. That can give a team more ammunition to attract a free agent star who can, in theory, help to push a contending team over the edge to win a championship.

Everybody is happy. As long as the winning continues and the quarterback continues to play well.

But if the quarterback’s play dips (see Russell Wilson or DeShaun Watson), he can become a weight holding back the team’s ability to be aggressive in free agency.

So, Lawrence’s new deal can be a turbo-charged weapon for the Jaguars’ front office. Or, it can be the albatross around the franchise’s neck.

It’s up to Lawrence to realize the potential that made him the No. 1 pick in the draft. If he does, nobody will blink an eye at the contract in a year or two.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

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