Jaguars owner Shad Khan is no stranger to controversy.
But his team has won seven Super Bowls, and he has a history of spending money to win, so when the Colts were reportedly in need of a big-name running back, Khan did what he always does: He scooped up his closest competition.
On Sunday, the team signed running back James Conner, and it will likely cost him $6 million in salary, $4.5 million in cap space and a conditional fifth-round pick.
The Colts have a salary cap of $72 million, which is why they’re expected to have $60 million in dead money.
And while the $4 million guaranteed salary makes Conner a bargain, the $6-million guaranteed salary means that Conner could still be a free agent at the end of the season.
That’s because the $60-million cap number includes dead money, which the Colts can’t release to free up money in the future.
So while the Colts will be able to keep Conner and pay him the $3.5-million average salary, they’ll still have to pay him his salary.
Conner’s signing also makes the Colts the only team that could possibly go into free agency with a cap situation where the salary cap is less than $72.5 billion.
With the $1.5M in dead cap space, the Colts could still have $24.5-$30 million in total cap space.
And if they can’t get Conner in free agency this summer, they will have to be patient, waiting for a few big free-agent signings before they can open up a new, higher-spending space.
If Conner signs before the cap hits $72,500, the salary he’d be making with the Colts would be just $2 million.
That would be less than half the $10 million he was paid with the Browns, who had to release him to free $7.5MM in dead space.
The Jaguars have to do something to free their $8.5m cap space this summer.
The team has a $6.8 million cap space hole.
If they sign Conner now, that would leave the Jaguars with just $3 million of space, and they’d have to wait until next year to fill it.
That means they’d probably have to give up some draft picks in exchange for Conner.
The other option, which has been floated by the Jaguars, is to try to move Conner to an AFC team and sign him to a long-term deal.
But that’s a risk the Jaguars have already taken, and their recent history shows they don’t want to risk a free-agency bust with a player who was so good that they would’ve signed him to anything.
The only way the Jaguars can clear out dead space is if they sign a long, long-range free agent.
That could happen with Conner or by trading him.
It’s hard to imagine that happening, though, because the Jaguars already have three long-time free agents who have been underpaid in recent years.
One of them is defensive end Dante Fowler, who signed a five-year, $47 million contract in 2015.
Fowler is due $15 million in 2017, and the Jaguars are set to have a cap of just under $42 million.
If the Jaguars could move Fowler to another team, it could free up $10-12 million in space.
But if they didn’t have that money, they’d likely be forced to release Fowler.
If he signs elsewhere, Fowler would get $15-20 million in guarantees.
Fowler would be a much better long-shot than Conner because he would be coming off a career year, and his contract would also guarantee him a guaranteed salary in the neighborhood of $10.8-$11 million.
Fowler’s signing would free up an extra $8 million in free-cap space.
That doesn’t sound like much, but it would free the Jaguars up to move their other long-shots, including defensive end Malik Jackson, defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Quincy Wilson.
The problem with Jackson and Bennett is that they’re not exactly the big-money guys you’d want to spend $7-10 million on.
And Wilson, who has struggled in recent seasons with injuries, is still on the downside of his career.
The Jets have been aggressive in their free-agents moves, and even if Conner were to be signed, it would still leave them with $10M in cap room.
So, if the Jets had to trade Jackson or Bennett to clear space, they would be stuck with $11.5 to $12M of cap space in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The next biggest problem for the Jets would be the loss of their fifth-year option on wide receiver Jace Amaro.
The fifth-rounder is