Every offseason is important but the Jacksonville Jaguars will need to nail this one if they hope to bounce back in 2024. Last year, they chose not to make meaningful changes because they thought they were close to competing for a Super Bowl. That turned out to be a crass miscalculation, as they went on to miss the playoffs just one season after making the divisional round and winning the AFC South.
Working in the Jags' favor is that they don't have to start from scratch. They have several talented pieces in place, and they could be back in contention if they make the appropriate upgrades. Also, they need to decide which pending free agents they'll re-sign.
With that in mind, here's a look at the players they should prevent from hitting the open market and a couple they shouldn't bother bringing back.
3. D'Ernest Johnson did enough in 2023 to earn a new deal
The Jags didn't make many signings last year and most of the ones they made didn't move the needle. Running back D'Ernest Johnson was the exception. Last offseason, head coach Doug Pederson said he wanted the team to add a running back who could provide depth at the position but also contribute on special teams. Johnson checked off both boxes.
Expected to compete for a roster spot, the Florida native was signed to a modest one-year deal worth $1.23 million. He put his head down and went on to make the 53-man roster. He then passed Tank Bigsby as the No. 2 on the depth chart.
While Johnson's numbers don't pop off the stat sheet, that's mostly the result of the offensive line's inability to open lanes. You could argue that his 2.6 yards per carry is a reason for concern but Bigsy had the same amount. Similarly, Travis Etienne failed to crack the 4.0-yard mark. It's fair to assume that they'll all post better numbers in 2023 if the team's brass fortify the offensive trenches.
Going back to Johnson. He gives the Jaguars an inexpensive option at running back. At worst, he gives the team insurance in case Bigsby struggles once again. At best, he gives the No. 2 running back who can spell Etienne from time to time at an affordable rate.