Jaguars decision to release Rayshawn Jenkins has an added benefit

• Releasing Rayshawn Jenkins has an unintended benefit for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Jacksonville Jaguars are doing everything they can to have ample cap space in free agency. After releasing cornerback Darious Williams and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, safety Rayshawn Jenkins is next on the chopping block. Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report first reported the Jags are releasing Jenkins. Besides creating cap space, the move paves the way for sophomore Antonio Johnson to start next to Andre Cisco.

By releasing Jenkins, the Jaguars are creating $5.1 million in space with $7.1 in dead money. He was set to make $12.2 million in the last year of a four-year deal worth $35 million he signed in 2021. While this was a cap-related move, it also gives Jacksonville the chance to make an upgrade at safety.

Jenkins was inconsistent throughout his stint with the Jags. He was underwhelming in his first season, failing to make any big plays. He then had a great 2022, playing a huge role in the team's playoff push. Besides getting a game-winning interception return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys, his forced fumble against the Tennessee Titans was crucial in the finale.

However, Jenkins took a step back in 2023. While he wasn't dreadful, he didn't make as many big plays as he did the year prior. With him out of the picture, the Jaguars can plug in Antonio Johnson at safety.

Johnson, a fifth-round pick in last year's draft, missed the start of the 2023 campaign with a hamstring injury. But once he was healthy, he progressively got lots of playing time at nickel. By the end of the season, he had flashed playmaking skills and taken over slot duties full-time. The former Texas A&M Aggie has the versatility to play different positions in the defensive back end but he's at his best at safety, where he's listed.

What's next for the Jaguars after releasing Rayshawn Jenkins?

Whereas the Jaguars will have to fill in the void left by Darious Williams' release, they already have a replacement for Rayshawn Jenkins in place. They can elevate Antonio Johnson to the starting lineup next to Andre Cisco and keep Andrew Wingard as the No. 3 safety. That said, the team's brass may want to add depth to the position.

Daniel Thomas, a fifth-round pick in 2020, is set to become a free agent. He hasn't started a game since 2021 due to the depth at the position but he's turned into a key contributor on special teams. If he doesn't return to Jacksonville in 2024, the Jags may need to invest a mid or late-round pick on a safety.

Also, the Jags may need to look for a slot cornerback if they move on from Tre Herndon. The veteran has gotten three one-year deals dating back to 2021. If the Jaguars are going to cut ties with him and move Johnson to safety, nickel will also become a need for the Jaguars. Working in the Jaguars' favor is that they should have no trouble finding a good slot cornerback in either free agency or the draft.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are putting themselves in a position to re-sign Josh Allen and Calvin Ridley. Also, they should have a bit of cap space to spare to make a couple moves in free agency. That could come in handy after a disappointing end to the 2023 season.

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