The Jacksonville Jaguars will enter free agency with holes to fill on both offense and defense. Which positions are the ones the team must focus on most?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to get a makeover as NFL free agency is only six weeks away.
According to Spotrac, 20 players are eligible to walk, looking for new homes and bigger deals. While not all of them will leave the confines of TIAA Bank Field, a majority will wear different jerseys in 2019. That does not include high-priced veterans who may receive a pink slip in the near future.
The Jaguars are more than $10 million over the salary cap. From a pure financial view, things will have to change. Malik Jackson, Carlos Hyde, Tashaun Gipson and Jermey Parnell are viewed as potential roster cuts. Calais Campbell has already said he is willing to restructure his contract to help free up cap space. He has a $14.5 million cap number for 2019. The team may also look to Marcell Dareus and A.J. Bouye to restructure their deals as well.
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With some reductions, releases and reassessment by the team’s front office, the Jaguars could have at least $34 million of cap space to look for replacement players, find a franchise quarterback and add depth on both the offensive and defensive line.
And that does not take into account the running back position may be overhauled and palymakers are needed for new offensive coodinator John DiFlilippo’s game plan. There are players who will hit the open market who could help this organization at a reasonable cost. The 2017 class of free agents which included Campbell, Bouye, Barry Church helped make this team a Super Bowl contender.
Last season, Donte Moncrief proved nothing more than a “guy” to catch passes. Andrew Norwell still has plenty to improve on. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has already posted on his Twitter account he was in town for a cup of coffee. Niles Paul and Don Carey are no longer on the roster.
Here is a look at three major areas of need for the Jaguars going into free agency. While the focus turned to the NFL Draft once the team was out of playoff contention, finding veterans to balance the incoming draft class is crucial for this team’s growth next season.
Offensive Line – Last season, the team signed Norwell to the biggest deal for a guard in the NFL. He showed little in his time on the field and was eventually placed on season-ending Injured Reserve with an ankle injury.
The right side of the line will be revamped with Parnell likely released and A.J. Cann a free agent. Cann, who was considered the team’s weakest link on the line, played 15 of 16 games last season and looked to be the most consistent player of a decimated unit.
Should he hit free agency, Miami’s Ja’Wuan James may be a player to look at. The right tackle just completed his rookie deal. Also, someone like Ben Garland, who is a bit older at 31, could be a solution at guard.
I expect the Jaguars to address the offensive line concerns early in the Draft as well.
Wide Receiver – The Jaguars will address playmakers in April, but adding a set of hands or two with speed to burn could help ease the need to use draft picks on unproven talent.
Moncrief was a $9.6 million mistake. DJ Chark did not develop as quickly as a second-round pick and was missed five games with an injury. Keelan Cole could not hold onto the football. Marqise Lee never played a snap in the regular season.
This team needs to find Dede Westbrook a playmate or two that can spread the field and help the passing game. Jacksonville might also try to address the tight end position as the only player under contract for 2019 right now is Ben Koyack.
For some reason, I keep thinking Golden Tate is a name to watch, but he may come with a high price tag. He made over $6 million last season, but he also brings an ability to make the big play, something this team is lacking other than Westbrook.
I like Justin Hardy from Atlanta, who at 27 might be worth a look. Someone said the Jaguars should look at Cole Beasley from Dallas. He proved he could beat the Jaguars secondary, why not join them instead.
The Draft could see the team grab a wide receiver in the third round with Deebo Samuel a potential target.
Quarterback – OK, let’s get this over with. Any quarterback the Jaguars bring in will have a high price tag. If Nick Foles is on the open market, he could command $20 million for 2019. Do the Jaguars want to invest in another veteran who is still inconsistent in his game-to-game performance?
The free agent class does not “wow” you, but there are still a few names out there who could be of interest. I think Teddy Bridgewater makes a trip to visit the Jaguars to discuss a future with the team. The same may be true for Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Jacksonville is going to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds in April if they cannot reach a deal with a signal caller who can help balance the offense. I am still of the opinion if you sign Foles or Bridgewater, the need for a rookie passer becomes less of a need.
The 2020 Draft class is much deeper and could be much better than the one this year.