5th-year option ensures Travis Etienne remains a mainstay of Jaguars offense

• The Jaguars are exercising the fifth-year option on Travis Etienne's rookie deal.
Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1)
Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't letting running back Travis Etienne go anywhere. After the 2024 NFL Draft ended, general manager Trent Baalke told the local media that the Jags plan to pick up the fifth-year option on Etienne's and Trevor Lawrence's rookie deals. This will ensure that both of them remain under contract through 2025.

Baalke limited himself to saying yes when asked if the team would be picking up the options. The truth is that this doesn't come as a surprise. Both Etienne and Lawrence are key pieces on offense, so it would've been puzzling to see the Jaguars choose not to pick up the options.

Etienne, in particular, has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The former Clemson Tiger missed his rookie campaign with a Lisfranc injury and started the 2022 season behind James Robinson. However, he made the most of his playing time and eventually supplanted Robinson in the starting lineup.

After averaging over 5.0 yards per carry in 2022, Etienne had less than 4.0 last year but that was mostly due to the offensive line's inability to open lanes in the running game. He still managed to lead the NFL in missed tackles, though, so his effort cannot be questioned. Since the end of the season, the team's brass has taken the necessary steps to bolster the offensive

Besides reinforcing the offensive line, the Jags hired Jerry Mack as the running backs coach after dismissing Bernie Parmalee. On top of that, Tank Bigsby is expected to have a bigger role in 2023. If he steps up, the running game will be more effective, as Etienne won't have to carry the workload alone.

Why it makes sense for the Jaguars to pick up Travis Etienne's 5th-year option

The value of running backs is not the same it was 30 years ago. Teams no longer build an offense around them, and they're among the lowest-paid positions in the NFL nowadays. That said, they still play an important role on offense, which is why exercising Travis Etienne's fifth-year option is the right call.

In today's NFL, running backs no longer get blockbuster deals. This past free agency, Josh Jacobs got a four-year, $48 million deal but it's only guaranteed for 2024. The truth is that Etienne probably won't break the bank once he becomes a free agent. Then again, that's a bridge the Jaguars will need to cross at the appropriate time.

For the time being, they should be thrilled about Etienne's impact in 2024. Last season, the offense became one-dimensional, and put additional pressure on Trevor Lawrence to win games. Without a running game to force teams to bring more defenders into the box, opposing teams were able to contain the Jaguars' passing game. Behind an improved offensive line, Etienne should once again have a productive season.

The Jaguars are aware that Travis Etienne is an important piece of the offensive puzzle. For that reason, picking his option is a no-brainer. What happens afterward is uncertain, but he'll at least be around for the next two years.

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