If Allen Robinson was still a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, this might not be a discussion. Now that the former second-round pick has taken his talents to Chicago, there is a new No. 1 wide receiver on this roster. His name is Marqise Lee.
While Lee figures to be “the guy” in the Jaguars passing game, how does he stack up with other No. 1 pass catchers in the NFL? A recent story on ESPN.com discusses each team’s top wide receiver and how they are perceived by the local beat writers. Lee is in the second tier of pass catchers, but not formally thought of as a true No. 1 guy.
Per spotrac.com, Lee signed a 4-year, $34,000,000 contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, including a $7,000,000 signing bonus, $16,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $8,500,000. In 2018, Lee will earn a base salary of $2,250,000, a signing bonus of $7,000,000 and a roster bonus of $656,250, while carrying a cap hit of $4,656,250 and a dead cap value of $16,500,000. It’s a lot of money for a wide receiver who has had injury concerns in the past and someone who will be competing with new faces for time on the field.
“Lee led the Jaguars in receptions last season (56) and has 119 catches over the past two seasons, but he has just six TD catches in that span,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “He has not been a deep threat (13.1 yards per catch over the past two seasons) and instead has been more of a catch-and-run guy. Still, he has proven to be a reliable player, has fought through several nagging injuries and should again be the Jags’ top pass-catcher in 2018.”
The Jaguars got quicker this offseason with the additions of free agent pass catcher Donte Moncrief and rookie DJ Chark. The question is will there be enough balls to go around given the Jaguars are a run-first offense. The second is can this unit stay healthy as the injury bug, including Robinson’s torn ACL two plays into the 2017 season, affected the offense at different points in the season?
Wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell spoke highly of both Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook during OTAs. There is a chance Cole may take a bigger step forward in this offense. Westbrook is healthy again, McCardell pointed out, which makes this an exciting unit to watch, with one or more players potentially on the bubble of making the final 53-man roster. And in case anyone was wondering, Lee had off-season knee surgery but participated in OTAs and minicamp.
Both Rashad Greene and Jaydon Mickens could be on the outside looking on, or one of the two of them may be the final decision made by the coaching staff of who stays and who looks for another home in 2018.
Lee’s commitment to getting better and his leadership on and off the field were pointed out by McCardell, who has gone from catching footballs in Jacksonville to teaching a young receiving corps how to be better each day in practice.
With all the new faces, which also includes tight Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has looked solid both in OTAs and minicamp, Lee’s numbers may dip a bit this season. DiRocco thinks Lee may be relegated the 50 or more catches while the ball is spread around.
As I see it, the injury concerns are still there for Lee. As one writer pointed out this offseason, the Jaguars did not need to draft Chark given the work they did in free agency. I say having too many pass catchers is a good thing.
Do I think Lee is a true No. 1 receiver? No. But as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett pointed out in his press conference during OTAs, having many good receivers will provide plenty of competition in training camp.