Center Brandon Linder has been a key cog in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive line since 2014. However, he’s going to enter the last year of his current contract in 2022 and has missed a good chunk of the last two seasons. Should the Jaguars consider moving on from him next offseason?
Money won’t be an issue for the Jaguars next year, as they’re set to have around $71 million in cap space, the third-highest figure in the league, per Spotrac. On the other hand, they can save $10 million, without a dead cap hit, if they decide to release or trade Linder in 2022.
Linder is one of the best centers in the league when healthy but he’s missed several 12 games (soon 13) over the last two years and veteran Tyler Shatley has held his own during Linder’s absence. At this point, the team’s brass must consider if they’re better off moving on from Linder one year too early.
This has certainly been a frustrating year for Linder. He suffered an MCL injury in Week 5 and ended up missing five games and returned in Week 12. Alas, he exited the Jags’ Week 13 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and is unlikely to play against the Tennessee Titans in Week 14. All in all, the veteran center has missed 41 throughout his eight-year career.
The Jaguars need to decide if Brandon Linder is part of their future plans.
Linder was named a team captain before the season, which shows his teammates hold him in high esteem. The Jags’ current management hasn’t been afraid to cut ties from players the previous regime acquire but you can’t simply get rid of your locker room leader and not expect a kind of drop in the team’s chemistry. Furthermore, right guard A.J. Cann, left tackle Cam Robinson, and left guard Andrew Norwell are set to be free agents in 2022. They need some sort of consistency up front and it’s uncertain how much turnover the Jags would be comfortable with.
Trading Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jalen Robinson weren’t popular moves, and when it comes to Linder, the team’s brass must tread the needle lightly. Is keeping Linder cost-prohibitive? Moreover, how would they spend the money they would save by cutting him? Unless they acquired a better center, the Jags may be better off keeping him. They could even ask to take a pay cut or restructure his contract. This isn’t a black-or-white kind of issue and Jacksonville has to decide if keeping Linder outweigh the benefits of cutting him.
Also, Shatley is slated to become a free agent next offseason. The Jags could re-sign him and roll with him as a starter or they can stay put, let Linder start, and keep Shatley as the backup. After all, Linder is the better player of the two, and when both are healthy, he’s the better option.
The Jaguars started a rebuild this year and will continue making changes to their roster next offseason. Moving on from Linder comes with certain benefits but so does keeping him. This is something the organization will most likely ponder.