3 Jacksonville Jaguars who won’t be on the 2021 roster

How will the roster look for the Jacksonville Jaguars next season as more key veterans could be purged from the team after 2020?

How will the roster look for the Jacksonville Jaguars next season as more key veterans could be purged from the team after 2020?

The Jacksonville Jaguars front office spent the majority of the offseason working to not only clear out cap space for the coming season and bringing in free agents and draft picks to change the team’s culture but to set a course for the 2021 season and beyond.

That means players who are on the roster this season – mainly veterans – may not be part of the team’s plan once the final whistle is blown in Week 17.

As of writing this story, the Jaguars have more than $19.4M in salary cap room for the 2020 season according to Sportrac.com, which includes the money being used to cover the franchise tag tender that was offered to defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, if he signs the one-year deal with the team.

Looking at Spotrac again for the 2021 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars are projected to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $78.9M in salary cap space to use in free agency and to re-sign veterans. If this is not the season the Jaguars make a move out of the AFC South basement, perhaps the 2021 offseason is the one where the team takes a giant leap forward – much like 2016 to 2017.

Also, consider the Jaguars aren’t expected to have Ngakoue on the roster next season (or this season if trade talks progress in the next few hours. Leonard Fournette doesn’t figure to be on the roster next season either (the Jaguars are expected to move on from as well and have picked up his fifth-year option).

By doing this, the front office is essentially repeating part of its mission from this season of purging stars with free agents or draft picks to change the dynamic of a fractured roster. There are only so many times you can go back to the well and try to recreate the same situation. Veterans know this is a changed atmosphere and the regime has also changed.

In addition to the idea of losing two stars in Ngakoue and Fournette, there are other veterans who more than likely won’t be back in 2021. These three come to mind when thinking of more changes to this team next season.

Keelan Cole

I’m not sure Keelan Cole makes the team this season given the increased numbers in the wide receiver room. When the Jaguars drafted both Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson, it immediately put a bullseye on Cole’s jersey.

Cole was clearly the fourth wideout on the roster last season but played well when called upon because of injuries to both DJ Chark and Dede Westbrook.

I do expect Cole to make the team in 2020, but this is the last season of his contract. This may be a position battle to be the fifth man in the rotation with Johnson in training camp.

Abry Jones

Abry Jones’ story is one that gives every undrafted free agent a reason to believe in themselves. The former Georgia defensive tackle signed with the Jaguars after the 2013 Draft and has been a mainstay of the interior line ever since.

Last season, he did not have his best year. Neither did any of the other interior linemen on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster. Hopefully, it was just a one-year drop in performance. But with new players signed this offseason, the potential change in defensive philosophy, and Taven Bryan needing to have a huge season, Jones is a man who will be watched with a large microscope.

The eight-year veteran must come to camp in good shape and play above his threshold of last season. He figures to be part of the defensive tackle rotation in 2020. After this season, he may wind up being a casualty of youth over experience.

D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden is another one of the veterans who might be looking over his shoulder in camp this season due to all the defensive backs the Jaguars brought in through free agency and the NFL Draft. As the nickel cornerback, his job should be safe for this season, but he may give some time up to rookies Josiah Scott and Daniel Thomas.

Hayden is now the elder statesman of the group and with that comes the responsibility of helping the younger players adapt to the speed of the NFL. Hayden has been a solid addition since coming to Jacksonville in 2018.

Hayden is playing in the last season of a three-year deal he signed in 2018 that pays him more than $7.6M this season.

If he were to stay in Jacksonville after this season, it is presumed he would need to take a pay cut from the team.