Jacksonville Jaguars: Time for Some Tough Decisions
The 2019 season was somewhat of a head scratching experience for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they finished 6-10. The season was quickly sent into a spiral by an injury to new franchise quarterback Nick Foles. In his place stepped up Gardner Minshew, who performed so well at times that Foles was actually benched for him down the home stretch of the season. Now the Jaguars need to take this offseason to decide who will be their franchise QB moving forward.
Additionally, this season saw their defense struggle at times. The Jaguars made the decision to move on from star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and now they are looking at finding answers for a position that has been a strength for them in the recent past. They Jaguars also moved on from Tom Coughlin in the front office. Coughlin took the blame for a situation which led to the NFLPA warning players against signing in Jacksonville. With Coughlin gone, it will be fascinating to see what direction the Jaguars locker room takes in 2020.
General Manager: Dave Caldwell
Head Coach: Doug Marrone
Neither Marrone or Caldwell were considered completely safe entering this offseason. However, both have been retained for the 2020 season. With Coughlin now gone, neither will have a scapegoat to point to if things do not get better next season.
Cap Space: $-1 million
The Jaguars are one of three teams currently in the red with their 2020 cap space. The good news is that of the three teams the Jaguars are the closest to zero. A small deficit in the salary cap can be easily fixed with contract re-negotiations, but what about major moves they might be able to make to clear up space?
There are some obvious cuts right off the bat if they want to clear a bulk of space. Marcell Dareus has a club option entering 2020. If they choose to activate it then Dareus will count $22.5m against the cap, but if they move on they will save $20m. Calais Campbell ($15m) and A.J. Bouye ($11.5m) would clear over $26m while costing just $6.5m in dead money. However, losing all three of those would leave major holes in their defense. Some lesser cuts on the defensive side of the ball could be D.J. Hayden ($6m), Jake Ryan ($6m) and Abry Jones ($4m). I expect to see Dareus, Hayden and Ryan all leaving the club in the coming weeks.
On the offensive side of the ball their major opportunities to open space involve the offensive line, including Brandon Linder and Andrew Norwell. However, Linder ranked fourth in pass block win rate at the centre position, making his salary a solid value and something hard to move on from. Geoff Swaim is a likely cut candidate, with the potential to clear over $4m by moving on from him, with very little dead money. Marquise Lee and Leonard Fournette could also be potential cut candidates to save around $10m, but those cuts would result in over $7m in dead money.
We are likely to see the Jaguars very active in the early part of this offseason as they look to clear cap space on their roster.
Impending Free Agents
The decision over Dareus is huge but it is arguably not their biggest. Yannick Ngakoue is a huge talking point. At 24 he is set to potentially get even better, but the price is not going to be small to keep him. The market value calculator from Sportrac estimates that he would be looking at an average annual value of around $17m. However, when you look at the comparable contracts, all of those players were older than Ngakoue when they signed their deals. With five years already under his belt, Ngakoue has a fascinating combination of experience and talent. The former third-round pick could be a contender for the franchise tag in 2020, which will cost the Jaguars around $19m.
Outside of Dareus and Ngakoue there are no impending free agents who stand out. Nearly all of the Jaguars major decision in the early part of this offseason will revolve around their defensive line. Outside of that a lot of the players set to leave are low-end starters or depth pieces.
Major Need: Offensive line
Offensively the Jaguars have questions about their quarterbacks, but it is not a position of need. They have two guys capable of being competent starters, but their ceilings rest on the offensive line. Linder is a solid centre, ranking fourth at his position in PBWR. However, the line as a whole ranks 24th in PBWR, which suggests a need for serious improvement. Getting the offensive line right could change the perspective of their entire offense in 2020.
Major Need: Defensive Back
Trading Jalen Ramsey has left a huge hole in the defensive backfield of the Jaguars. The Jaguars pass rush ranked seventh in pass rush win rate but 23rd in net passing yards per attempt and 25th in interceptions. They need to get better on the back end of their defense and quickly.
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