Stroud Finished for Season.. or Longer

(Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The Jaguars placed three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud on the injured reserve list today, thus ending his 2007 season. Stroud injured his ankle on the first play from scrimmage of the second half in Sunday's 37-6 rout of the Carolina Panthers.

The ankle injury is currently being diagnosed as a sprain, and it is the same right ankle that Stroud had micro fracture surgery on in the off season. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio commented on Stroud--

"It's going to be six-plus weeks (of recovery), so we're not going to get him back. It's a shame to lose him."

Stroud's latest injury, combined with his four-game suspension for violating the league's performance enhancing drugs policy, begs the question of how much longer the former star defensive tackle will be in Jacksonville. Stroud hasn't played a full season since 2005, and he hasn't been the same player since. In fact, Stroud's numbers have steadily decreased ever since he signed his contract extension back in 2005, when Stroud vowed to earn his pay--


Marcus Stroud
Doug Benc/Getty Images
"The thing I have to do now, though, is play up to the contract. A lot of guys, they get a deal like this, and they think it's over. For me, the responsibility has just begun. I can get even better, be a more dominant player, and that is what I intend to do."

Injuries are injuries, and they happen to most players, but when are the injuries considered to be chronic? By seasons end, Stroud will have missed 12 of the teams last 28 games. Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich was considered injury prone prior to his release, and he missed 16 games over his final two seasons in Jacksonville.

Stroud has been more of a key cog to the Jaguars defense on paper than on the actual football field. While Stroud was out serving his four game drug suspension, the Jaguars went 3-1 in his absence, and the defense went from 24th overall, to 22nd overall, and the rushing defense went from the 16th ranked unit in the league, to the eighth ranked unit. This was despite facing four teams with winning records.

Defensive tackles Rob Meier and Grady Jackson have filled in next to Pro Bowl tackle John Henderson during Stroud's previous absence, and have both done a solid job. Del Rio spoke of what the Jaguars will do without their starting defensive tackle--

"Rob Meier is going to play more. We continue with our quest. No one is going to spot you seven. We'll go compete."

If Stroud wants to continue to play football in north Florida, it is likely that he'll be asked to take a pay cut. When Stroud signed his six-year, $31.5 million contract back in 2005, he was given a $6.5 million signing bonus and $5.2 million worth of roster bonuses that were paid to him before March of last year. Stroud's contract calls for a $5 million salary in 2008, a $5.5 million salary in 2009, and a $6 million salary in 2010.

If the Jaguars were to cut ties with the injured defensive tackle after the season, they would be responsible for approximately $3.25 million of accelerated signing bonus money, but they would recoup the $5 million salary, for a cap savings of approximately $1.75 million.

Marcus Stroud will be celebrating his 30th birthday in the off season, and with his recent injury concerns and his level of play plummeting, it doesn't appear that Stroud will be able to "play up" to the level of his contract like he promised when the deal was signed. If Stroud isn't receptive to absorbing some kind of considerable pay cut, it is a strong possibility that the days of the Jaguars "Twin Towers" in the middle (Stroud and John Henderson), will be over.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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