Third and Goal: What the Jaguars need to do in free agency
By David Levin
The Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of needs to fill on both sides of the football. As free agency approaches, here are three things the team must do come March.
At 4 p.m. on March 13, free agents can officially sign with teams and the league’s trading period for 2019 starts. It a date the Jacksonville Jaguars and the other 31 NFL teams are waiting for with bated breath.
The Jaguars are currently treading into the unknown, with cap figures in the red and veterans with large contracts on the bubble, not knowing if they will stay or they will play another season in North Florida. It’s been one week from Super Bowl 53 and the front office at TIAA Bank Field is working to get its ducks in a row, with multiple plans taking shape to fill depth on the defensive side of the ball and potentially as many as five new starters on offense.
These Jaguars could look plenty different than the 5-11 team from last season.
"Per Debbi Taylor of Forbes.com, “The Jaguars have 17 contracts that are expiring, according to Spotrac.com. According to the NFL Players Association, the collective bargaining agreement allows teams to carry over unused salary cap space from the previous year."
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"Per the NFLPA, the Jaguars have $11.6 million that will be carried into the 2019 season.”"
The Jaguars figure to part ways with Malik Jackson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jermey Parnell and possibly Tashaun Gipson. Marcell Dareus and Carlos Hyde. And of course, there is the elephant in the room – the Blake Bortles contract and how the team will swallow $16.5 million in dead cap space.
There is a lot of work to do in just a month’s time. Here are three things the Jaguars must do in free agency before the NFL Draft, which begins April 25.
First Down: Beef up the offensive line – With Parnell almost a certainty to be released, the Jaguars will need to find another starting right tackle. A.J. Cann is a free agent after playing on the last year of his rookie deal in 2018.
While Cann played better last season and was the healthiest starting offensive lineman from Week 1, I don’t see him returning.
Jacksonville must find mid-range replacements and seek depth in the Draft. I have been committed to the team grabbing a tackle with the seventh pick in the first round and hunting for a signal caller in Round 2. If this happens, the Jaguars could move Cam Robinson to the right side and find a guard in March who can provide better run blocking.
Second Down: Playmakers and more playmakers – Other than the insurmountable list of injured players the team accumulated last season, the Jaguars lack of offense was the reason for such a dismal season. No one other than T.J. Yeldon in the first half of the season and Dede Westbrook after the bye week stepped up and made a difference on this side of the ball.
Yeldon will test free agency this coming season.
Jacksonville needs more speed on the outside and a more reliable tight end who can go across the middle and make an important third-down catch. If the Jaguars see wide receivers and/or a tight end in free agency, they may try to find three pass catchers to bring in at low cost.
I expect this area of offense to be addressed as early as the second round in April.
Third Down: Find another option besides Nick Foles – If Nick Foles does become a free agent, he will command a salary somewhere in the $20-25 million range. The Jaguars cannot afford to hitch their wagon to another high-priced quarterback who limited success.
The playoffs are one thing, consistent play during the regular season is another.
Jacksonville must first decide to what to do about Blake Bortles and come up with three quarterbacks the team will strongly pursue this offseason. Foles will be in the mix, but who else is a good fit here?
I like Teddy Bridgewater, but his knee is still a concern for me. Joe Flacco is on this list, but he is not a mobile signal caller. I’d still like to see what Bortles can do in a system run by Joe DiFilippo and roster that is injury riddled.
That’s unlikely to happen.
The name I also think makes sense here is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who would be a cheaper alternative and could be the bridge quarterback to a rookie signal caller the team drafts in Round 1.