Despite a big cap figure for 2019, the Jacksonville Jaguars must find a way to keep defensive end Calais Campbell on the roster after this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of pressing issues starting next week when the 2018 season ends and the team tries to find some balance and repair what has been a dismal year. The most important decision this organization has to make isn’t whether or not to keep Blake Bortles around. It’s not whether the front office should look different after the new year. This team must immediately decide to retain defensive end Calais Campbell despite his cap figure for the 2019 season.
Campbell is by far the team’s best free-agent signee in the history of the franchise. Without the big man on the front line, the defense that has been a more cohesive unit the past seven weeks would be in far worse shape. Without No. 93 in the locker room, Yannick Ngakoue wouldn’t have a veteran presence to learn from.
While the numbers are what defines how good a player is in the NFL, there are tangible assets Calais Campbell has brought to North Florida since inking his deal last offseason. Jacksonville looks to be about $10 million over the salary cap right now.
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The NFL’s desire to add more money to the cap has not been approved yet. Veterans on this roster may be released to make room for a veteran free agent signal caller.
The former Arizona Cardinals star would cost the Jaguars $9.5 million against the cap next season – which seems like a bargain compared to the production he has given this team in two seasons. Like a fine wine, he has gotten better with age. You cannot just grab that off the street and plug it into your defense and expect it to work right away.
The Jaguars have already cut safety Barry Church. Running back T.J. Yeldon looks like a lock to wear another uniform next season. Malik Jackson has spoken in recent weeks about the NFL is a business” and with his demotion from the starting lineup, his days appear to be numbered.
The offensive line will look different with Jermey Parnell and A.J. Cann possibly replaced as starters. We all know the wide receivers will look different. Donte Moncrief will catch passes somewhere else in 2019.
The Jaguars defense is currently ranked fifth overall in the NFL despite its roller coaster ride this season. In the last seven games, the team has given up an average of 16.6 points per contest. Calais Campbell, with the exception of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, may be the most consistent player on this side of the ball.
Jacksonville will also need to decide what to do with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who has a base salary of $8.33 million and a cap hit of $10.585 million in 2019. The front office must find a way to restructure these two contracts or the defense will unravel next season.
The defense will continue to get younger over the course of the next few seasons. Jacksonville can still make a push to3ard the Super Bowl with a few tweaks and changes on the offensive side of the ball.
The biggest loss this team will suffer next season is if Campbell is not on the roster. If that happens, fans here in Jacksonville can forget about a rush toward the division title, the playoffs or the Super Bowl.
Without Cambell, it’s not happening.