After a tumultuous season where the NFLPA warned players against signing with the Jaguars in free agency in 2020, what happens this offseason?
If you read the tarot cards, listen to the local sports talk radio shows and follow social media, you see the Jacksonville Jaguars still have as many questions to answer about their football team as they did when a certain former head coach was running the front office.
This piece isn’t about placing blame at the feet of Tom Coughlin, rather it’s to question whether things have changed now that the former executive vice-president of football operations is no longer a part of the problem. We can go on and on about what happened this past season from a football standpoint, and how this team was run and how the NFL Players Association views Jacksonville as a landing spot for free agents, but we won’t know if players will come to North Florida until they are offered large sums of cash to do so.
It starts with their own soon-to-be free agents, one of which figures to command a big deal unless he is either given the franchise tag or signed to a five-year contract.
After that, who the Jaguars sign is as much a mystery as a game of Clue.
Before anything happens, front office personnel must decide who stays and who goes? Which contracts can be renegotiated, and which veterans will accept a pay cut or a re-organization of funds?
It’s a busy time inside TIAA Bank Field. Free agency is roughly five weeks away. The draft is over two months from becoming a reality. Never before has it been so important for general manager David Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone to work together like a well-oiled machine.
When Coughlin was running the show, the NFL players Association warned potential free agents to think twice about coming to Jacksonville based on the actions of the team when it came to the treatment of its players. Fines levied against Dante Fowler and Leonard Fournette were astronomical. Fowler is no longer with the team. Fournette has become a superstar.
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While Fowler has taken the social media this past season to speak about his “injustices” the running back who is running the show for the Jaguars offense has made a little mention of it. And as a writer and a fan, I have to wonder if the changes made by team owner Shad Khan to eliminate the “middle man” will have an effect on signing free agents.
Caldwell will need to repair some of the ill wills of the franchise, and figure out a strategy to talk about a new Jaguars front office that is a new organization committed to winning. It’s a tough slope to walk up given the team’ has won 11 games in the last two years, and it appears everybody is working on a one-year deal for success.
If things play out correctly, and the Jaguars are able to move their salary cap around to create more money, which players do they shop at first? Which position gets the most attention? How does Marrone’s influence factor in with the players they bring in? This will be the first year as head coach of the Jaguars that he will have more of a say in the players he wants to work with.
Before, as he told the media many times, players were brought in by the front office, and his job was to coach them. His input is as important as anybody else in the building.
The Jaguars have holes to fill on the defensive interior, at linebacker, in the secondary, on the offensive line, with the wide receiver corps, and at tight end. Depth at running back would help as well.
Not everything will be addressed in free agency, but if the team hopes to add the missing puzzle pieces, the front office had better hope changes made prior to the end of last season will go along way toward filling those needs. If not, fans will be left wondering how this can be accomplished after free agency begins.
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