Jacksonville Jaguars current regime showing urgency to keep core together

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke during the Scouting Combine. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke during the Scouting Combine. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars turned plenty of heads in 2022 and seemed poised to have sustained success for the foreseeable future. However, things haven't always gone well for the Jags. In fact, they only had one winning season during the 2010s and they struggled to win games despite the fact that they always spent big in free agency and routinely picked in the top 10 of the NFL Draft. One of the reasons the organization has shown the urgency to retain their own players, something previous regimes hardly ever did.

The Jaguars acquired several playmakers in the 2021 draft and made several splash signings last offseason. But they've also done what they can to keep most of their homegrown talent. Sure, they let right tackle Jawaan Taylor walk and sign a four-year million contract worth $80 million with the Kansas City Chiefs and they cut ties with linebacker Myles Jack in 2021 but you could make the case that Jacksonville was well-equipped to overcome both losses.

In Taylor's case, Walker Little is expected to step in at right tackle but the team's brass could also use an early-round pick on an offensive tackle prospect. Similarly, the Jags parted ways with Jack because they brought Foyesade Oluokun onboard. Jack went on to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers but currently finds himself looking for a new team. Meanwhile, Oluokun was named team captain and became a key cog in their front seven.

Moreover, the Jaguars raised eyebrows when they applied the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson in 2021 and gave him a multi-year extension the following year. Even though Robinson isn't among the best players at his position, he became a leader on the Jaguars' offensive line and a steady presence at left tackle.

You could argue that the Jags shouldn't have paid Robinson and kept Taylor instead. But the truth is that they're keeping whoever they think can help them win games. Although they haven't acquired a player from another club in this year's free agency, they've re-signed cornerback Tre Herndon, quarterback C.J. Beathar, safety Andrew Wingard, and running back JaMycal Hasty. None of them had feature roles last season but they all provide depth to their respective position groups, which is something former Jaguars general manager David Caldwell rarely did during his stint with the Jags.

Jacksonville Jaguars GM Trent Baalke is keeping the 2022 group together

David Caldwell rarely handed out second contracts during his stint as the Jaguars general manager and let players such as wide receiver Allen Robinson and running back Leonard Fournette walk. In the same manner, he traded defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue despite the fact that they all played pivotal roles in their AFC Championship appearance in 2017.

It's true that Caldwell gave contract extensions to safety Jarrod Wilson, center Brandon Linder, and Myles Jack but they were the exception, not the norm. Caldwell didn't have a great track record of identifying talent in the draft but he actively tried to trade his players for future assets, which turned out to be a questionable strategy.

After years of minimal results, Caldwell was given the pick slip and Trent Baalke made good use of all the picks his predecessor hoarded. Baalke also took advantage of all the cap space Caldwell could have used but opted not to and it's easy to see which approach worked better.

The year Caldwell was let go, his "biggest" signings were tight end Tyler Eifert and journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon. On the other hand, Baalke gave top-market contracts to players such as Evan Engram, Folorunso Fatukasi, and wide receiver Christian Kirk in last year's free agency. Caldwell was kicked to the curb while Baalke helped the Jaguars make the playoffs and win the AFC South for the first time since 2017.

The bottom line is that the Jaguars aren't afraid to be aggressive with Baalke leading the front office. Having said that, they'are aren't reckless and won't make a move they deem unnecessary and will instead take a calculated approach, which is why they've focused on re-signing their own players this offseason.

While it would be great to see the Jacksonville Jaguars go after big-name free agents, they don't really need to. They already have a stacked roster and they rather make additions if necessary. This strategy isn't particularly thrilling but it should result in another trip to the playoffs and maybe, just maybe one to the Super Bowl.

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