The saga that surrounded Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith took a sharp turn on Thursday when he announced his plan to stay out next season to focus on health and family.
In a long Instagram post, Smith wrote that he needs to "put my world in order" and asked that others "respect my decision not to play football this season."
Smith, 28, did not give details about how he came to his decision or what personal details require attention.
The Jaguars declined to comment until they "have a conversation with Telvin to understand the situation and the circumstances."
Translation: The Jaguars knew that Smith had pressing personal problems, but they were probably as shocked as the entire NFL by his sudden revelation.
Coach Doug Marrone is scheduled to speak with the media on Friday for the start of the three-day rookie minicamp, and Smith's status will surely be the main theme.
Smith led the team in clashes in each of the past two years and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2017, the same season in which he was selected in the second All-Pro team. Since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2014, Smith has 586 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, nine interceptions and five fumbles.
But while it became an important part of the Jaguars' defense, life outside of Smith's field was apparently not in such good shape. He expressed that sentiment on Thursday while addressing the commercial rumors that have emerged this offseason.
"A great coach told me that for man to be the best he can, he must put his world in order," Smith wrote. "At this moment, I must take time away from this game and put my world in order, I must return this time to myself, my family and my health, I appreciate all the support I will receive and I will not receive. play football this season.
"I know there were rumors of commercial conversations, but I started my career in Jacksonville and the day I do it. [decide] To quit smoking, it will be right here in Duval. I love them all and even in my free time it's # 10toesdwn, feel me! Love!"
Smith's agent could not be reached for comment.
Even before Thursday, Smith's offseason could be described as strange.
Smith chose to omit the voluntary trainings that began April 15 at TIAA Bank Field, which is not especially unusual, but received criticism from the head of the office, Tom Coughlin.
What became unusual: Marrone said several times last month that he could not communicate with Smith. When asked on April 22 whether his inability to contact Smith was surprising, Marrone said: "He's probably busy."
Five days later, general manager Dave Caldwell would not commit to Smith playing for the Jaguars in 2019. Caldwell said he did not want to get into hypothetical situations involving Smith and offered a secret: "We'll see."
Smith recorded a video of himself Monday night and said, among other things, that he did not plan to leave Duval. Those were his only known public comments of the offseason before Thursday.
Smith's bizarre offseason is radically different than when he signed a four-year, $ 45 million contract extension in October 2017 and was one of the team's most popular players. He has three years left to fulfill that agreement and was scheduled to have a salary cap of $ 12,560,235 this season, according to overthecap.com.
If Smith makes the decision to stay out of season, he is likely to fall into one of the NFL's reserve lists. The Jaguars could receive a salary cap credit for this season, possibly as much as their base salary of $ 9.75 million. It is possible that the team can also recover part of Smith's signing bonus, and that the Jaguars continue to defend their rights.
While Smith tries to put his life in order, the Jaguars have several options in the field as a weak side linebacker.
One option is to move Myles Jack there and insert Jake Ryan in his base defense down as center linebacker. They could also try to choose Quincy Williams third-round on the weak side, although it's likely that he needs some development before he's ready. They also have veteran options like Ramik Wilson.
With four months remaining until the start of the September 8 season against Kansas City, the Jaguars have time to reconfigure their defense. Addressing Smith's situation seems much more urgent.
"If there is a way we can support him, we need to understand that," the team added in its statement.
Phillip Heilman: (904) 359-4063