The Jacksonville Jaguars have done a good job of revamping their offensive line this offseason, applying the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson and signing guard Brandon Scherff. However, they may soon have to fill a hole at center if Brandon Linder decides to hang up the cleats, which is a likely outcome.
Mark Long of the Associated Press reports the Jags are giving the veteran center time as he “contemplates retirement“. Per Long, general manager Trent Baalke and Linder were going to meet last Wednesday an hour before the start of the league’s new year to release Linder face to face. However, Baalke ended up agreeing to give him time to decide what he wanted to do.
A third-round pick by the in 2014, Linder has been a mainstay of the Jaguars’ offensive line over the last eight seasons. He was the first player in franchise history to get a gold ‘C’ on his jersey, meaning he’s been named team captain five times. Although he’s never earned a Pro Bowl designation, he’s been among the best centers in the league throughout his career.
Linder has made 88 starts for the Jags but has only played a full season once and has missed 15 games in the last two years. In fact, Long says the veteran’s injury history could lead him to consider stepping down from the football field. He’s entering the last year of the five-year, $51.7 million deal he signed in 2017, and releasing him would free up nearly $10 million in cap space with no dead money.
The Jaguars will have options at center if Brandon Linder retires.
Whether Brandon Linder retires or not, the Jaguars will have options at center. They just gave interior lineman Tyler Shatley a two-year deal, so he would be the first in line to take Linder’s place in the starting lineup up whether he calls it quits or is released. While the dropoff from Linder to Shatley, the latter has held his own when called upon and has made 18 starts over the last two seasons.
Also, the Jaguars could sign a center in free agency. There are still a few players available in the open market. J.C. Tretter, who was just released by the Cleveland Browns, may be the best of the bunch. The Jaguars currently have $14 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, but they still need to sign their draft picks. They could either restructure a couple of contracts or if they release Linder, use the savings to sign Tretter or someone else.
Last but not least, the Jags could target a center in the second or third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Tyler Linderbaugh will most likely be gone by the time they’re on the clock with the 33rd overall pick but they could target Alec Lindstrom or Dylan Parham in the third round.
It’s uncertain what the timeline is for Linder to make a decision. He himself might not currently know but the Jags will have a plan in place by then.