The Jacksonville Jaguars announced their initial 53-man roster for the 2023 season Tuesday. Like any other year, there are a few surprises. One of them was that they'll be carrying seven receivers, at least early on. Among those who earned a spot is Elijah Woods, an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State.
General manager Trent Baalke, along with head coach Doug Pederson met with the local media Thursday and talked in detail about the moves they made when putting together this year's roster. Regarding Cooks, Baalke says he made enough plays to warrant a spot in the initial 53.
"He's a young man that keeps showing up," Baalke told the media. "He comes to work every day. He's got a great attitude. He's got the tools, he's 6'4" plus long he's got long arms. Got a great catch radius and he was making plays. You gotta be pleased with the draft class when you see this many of the guys able to stick on the roster."
Heading into cutdown day, it looked like Cooks was going to be a victim of the numbers game. After all, there were four spots earmarked for Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Jamal Agnew. Similarly, Tim Jones and rookie Parker Washington seemed to have secured two more.
This made it look like Cooks was going to be a candidate to land in the practice squad. But out of nowhere, the Jags threw a curveball at everyone: They keep seven receivers.
Regarding the decision, Pederson said they didn't have a set number at any position, "That's the unique thing about the roster. And the way it's constructed every year, you never really go in with a set number, meaning you might have a set number and sometimes you're gonna go heavy into one position. You go light at another one, whatever it might be."
"So it's just how it worked this year. We're excited about the seven that we have the depth here and a couple of practice squad," Pederson said.
In addition to the seven receivers that made the initial roster, the Jaguars signed a couple more to the practice squad, Jacob Harris and Seth Williams. Both made plays during the preseason and might have also made the team if the Jags weren't stacked at the position.
The Jaguars didn't want to run the risk of losing Elijah Cooks to another team
The downside of expecting players to clear waivers so you can sign them to your practice squad is that another club can put in a claim on him. That's precisely what happened to Garret Prince, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs after getting the boot. Jacksonville avoided that with Cooks, who ended up making the 53-man roster.
Now, it's important to keep things in perspective. He gives Trevor Lawrence a huge target, something that will come out handy in the red zone but expecting him to have a huge role barring injuries may not be realistic. He's probably at the bottom of the depth chart, meaning that he could be a healthy scratch a handful of times next season.
Having said that, there's a reason Elijah Cooks made the roster to begin the 2023 season. The Jaguars believed he was capable of helping them win games. All he needs to do is take advantage of his opportunities, regardless of how many he gets.