4 pressing priorities for Jacksonville Jaguars GM Trent Baalke in 2024

• Here are 4 areas Jaguars GM Trent Baalke will need to address in the offseason to ensure they return to the postseason in 2024.

Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and owner Shad Khan look on during day 2 of the
Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and owner Shad Khan look on during day 2 of the / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
3 of 4
Next

2. The Jaguars must fortify the interior offensive line

The Jaguars' biggest weakness last season was without a doubt the interior offensive line. Unable to open lanes in the running game or give Trevor Lawrence enough time to throw, the Jags had a hard time moving the ball and putting points at times. The weakest link was center Luke Fortner but both guard spots could also use a makeover.

Fortner has played every single snap on offense since Week 1 of his rookie season. While that's a feat worth recognition, he doesn't have much else going for him. He's struggled as a run blocker and didn't improve in pass protection last year. There's a chance he'll eventually turn the corner but the Jags cannot afford to wait. They need to either draft a center early in the draft — not necessarily in the first round — or look for a proven veteran in free agency. Regardless of the route they choose, they cannot go into the season with Fortner at center.

In regards to the left guard spot, the Jaguars could re-sign Ezra Cleveland, who arrived via trade at the deadline. Cleveland had made 49 consecutive starts for the Minnesota Vikings before he dealt with a series of ailments last year. Before that, he was as reliable as they come, so the Jags may feel tempted to give him a one-year deal to see if he can hit his stride. Spending a full offseason with the team could help him do precisely that.

An alternative route is to pursue Dalton Risner or Kevin Zeitler in free agency. Conversely, they could sign Kevin Dotson or Robert Hunt to replace Brandon Scherff at right guard. Scherff has been named team captain two seasons in a row and he's made 34 straight starts. That said, he's play hasn't been proportional to the three-year deal worth $49.5 million he signed in 2022.

Scherff is still under contract for one more year but he's set to have a massive cap hit of $23.9 million. If Jacksonville releases him, they could free up nearly $10 million with $14.8 million in dead money. That extra space could come in handy to reinforce the trenches in the offseason. Of course, it wouldn't hurt the front office to use a couple of draft picks on the interior offensive line.