Safety Rayshawn Jenkins was one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ biggest free-agent acquisitions last offseason but besides not having the impact the Jags originally expected when they gave him a four-year $35 million deal, the University of Miami product got a less-than-flattering distinction.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report drew up a list of every NFL team’s worst contract heading into the offseason and Jenkins was the pick for the Jaguars. While he was a solid starter for the Los Angeles Chargers, he failed to live up to expectations in his first year with the Black and Teal, logging 73 total tackles, three passes defensed, and no turnovers. While players are worth what teams are willing to pay them, it’s fair to say that Jenkins’ salary wasn’t proportional to his production in 2021 and Ballentine notes that.
Coming off his second season as a starter for the Los Angeles Chargers, the Jags signed him to a deal that cost them little in the first year but will now balloon up to around $10 million per year for the next three years. The problem is that Jenkins wasn’t nearly as good this season. In his final season with the Chargers, he gave up just 5.7 yards per target and an overall passer rating of 78.0 when targeted. This year, those numbers rose to 8.5 yards per target and a passer rating of 96.9, per Pro Football Reference.
Ballentine points out that Jenkins’ Pro Football Focus’ overall grade ranked 71st among safeties last season, which is not what you want from the player with one of the top ten salaries on the Jaguars’ roster. To make matters worse, the safety got himself ejected against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11 after losing his cool and punching wide receiver Jauan Jennings. That’s simply unacceptable, especially when you take into account that Jenkins is a team captain and is supposed to lead by example.
The Jaguars should expect Rayshawn Jenkins to improve in 2021.
Looking back, the Jags may have been better off not signing Jenkins but there’s not much they can do. He’s set to count $10 million against the cap in 2022 and if the Jags decide to move on from him, his release wouldn’t net the organization any cap relief. Instead, he would create a dead cap money hit of $13 million because of the way his contract was crafted. Unless Jacksonville is willing to eat up the cap penalties they would incur by parting ways with the safety, he’s a good bet to return to be on the roster next season.
Jenkins missed the last three games of the season after hurting his ankle in Week 13. Daniel Thomas played well in his place and rookie safety Andre Cisco joined him in the starting lineup once Andrew Wingard landed on the COVID-19/Reserve list. You could make the case the secondary was better with Thomas and Cisco.
Keep in mind that there will be a new head coach in place and even if defensive coordinator Joe Cullen is retained, Jenkins might need to compete to get the starting job back. Having said that, the veteran safety could bounce back and play the way he did during his last two years with the Bolts, when he logged five interceptions, 96 total tackles, and eight passes defensed.
Jenkins’ first year with the Jaguars’ didn’t go as planned but moving on from him could be an overreaction to his performance in 2022. He should get a chance to get his starting job back and prove the Jags’ front office right.