There’s more to it, but the Jacksonville Jaguars should probably target Julius Thomas if he hits the free agent market. It’s not really as simple as you might think however, even if Thomas gets the chance to leave Denver.
The Jaguars invested heavily in the tight end position in veteran Marcedes Lewis. After a breakout year in 2010, Lewis signed a massive contract extension that made him one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL. Since then however, he’s been a consistent underperformer, especially in the passing game. The quarterback situation certainly hasn’t made it any easier for him, but he’s failed to become a viable part of the passing game. His greatest asset, which was a surprise considering his prowess as a pass catcher in college, was his inline blocking. Even that has dropped off however, and Lewis is no longer worth the massive cap hit he carries.
So the Jaguars absolutely need an upgrade at the tight end position – the question is whether or not Julius Thomas is the guy to fill that void.
"If Denver tags receiver DeMaryius Thomas (which is expected), what does that mean for tight end Julius Thomas? He’d be a perfect fit for the Jaguars and spare me the non-sense that Peyton Manning made him. The worst case for the Jaguars is if the Broncos re-sign DeMaryius Thomas and tag Julius Thomas."
While I would certainly welcome Thomas to an offense in need of veteran playmakers, I don’t know if the Jaguars should pony up the massive contract he is going to command.
Thomas had 12 touchdowns last season, but 9 of them came in the first 5 games of the season, and his only impressive performance after that was a 6 catch, 63 yard, 2 TD performance in a blowout against the Oakland Raiders. He was hampered somewhat by injuries, but he cooled off considerably after his blazing start to the year.
I’m not trying to say Thomas isn’t a talented guy, he is, and that’s exactly why he’s going to command a huge deal. Jimmy Graham set the bar pretty high last year when he signed a contract averaging $10 million a year. Thomas is going to look for an offer similar to that, or at least something close to the 5 year, $35 million contract Jared Cook got in 2013.
Someone who would provide an upgrade at a much more reasonable price is Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron. He’s almost identical to Thomas in terms of size, speed, and athletic ability, but his history with concussions is a significant drawback.
So what should the Jaguars do? The safer, but pricier, choice is to go after Thomas.