The Jacksonville Jaguars are committed to protecting Trevor Lawrence and they believe Cam Robinson is the best option to watch his left side. That’s why they applied the franchise tag on him before the start of free agency, ensuring he remains in Jacksonville for at least one year. But while Robinson seems poised to be the Jags’ left tackle in 2022, Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report thinks general manager Trent Baalke should consider trading him to the Carolina Panthers.
Wharton recently drew up a list of five trades that should be executed before the 2022 NFL Draft and suggest the Jaguars exchange Robinson and No. 137 for picks 198 and 223. He sees Jacksonville’s decision to tag the left tackle as wasteful and adds that Walker Little can easily take over at left tackle. Furthermore, Wharton hypotheses that the Jags might have used the tag on Robinson with the intention of trading him.
"Regardless of whether the Jaguars take an offensive lineman or pass-rusher with the No. 1 overall pick, spending $16.7 million on Cam Robinson’s franchise tag is wasteful, considering their needs. 2021 second-round pick Walker Little can take over at left tackle, and Robinson doesn’t have the talent to justify paying so much for a left guard. The Jags’ decision to tag him feels more like they’re angling for a trade."
Robinson has made 61 starts since being taken in the second round of the 2018 draft. This is the second year in a row the Jaguars use the franchise tag on him and while he hasn’t been a model of consistency, he had a strong performance in 2021, allowing just one sack and posting a Pro Football Focus passing grade of 67.4, a career-best.
The Jaguars should only trade Cam Robinson at the right price.
While the idea of trading Robinson makes sense on the surface, they are better off keeping him, especially if they can only get a couple of late-round picks. Had they opted not to apply the franchise tag in 2022, they could have signed one of the top edge rushers in free agency and then take Alabama’s Evan Neal or North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
However, pass rusher is the Jaguars’ biggest need entering the draft. Neal and Ekwonu would be worthy replacements for Robinson if he were traded but pass rusher would remain a need. Sure, there will still be a few available in the second round, where Jacksonville holds the 33rd overall pick. But none of them are nearly as talented as Hutchinson nor have the same upside as Georgia’s Travon Walker, a darkhorse to go No. 1.
Also, Carolina holds the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft and they should have a shot at taking one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. Neal and Ekwonu may be gone by then but Trevor Penning and Charlie Cross will still be on board. Desperation could push Panthers head coach Matt Rhule to draft a quarterback in the top 10 but the truth is that this isn’t a particularly strong class and his team would be better off taking an offensive tackle in the first round.
Robinson isn’t an upper-echelon left tackle but he showed enough progress in 2021 that the Jaguars felt comfortable retaining him. It would only make sense to trade him if Jacksonville were to get premium compensation for him, but that’s not the case in the scenario Wharton presents.