The Jacksonville Jaguars are 6-3 but have started to show cracks in recent weeks. Their offensive line has struggled to block while their interior defensive line has failed to consistently create pressure. Some of these issues lie in execution but it's fair to say that the Jags' front office could've done a better job of addressing them in the offseason. For this reason, it's not surprising to see Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus assign general manager Trent Baalke a low spot in his tier list.
Spielberger listed all NFL general managers by tiers and placed Baalke in the third one (questionable process, varying results). His reasoning is that Trevor Lawrence fell on his lap in 2021, and the Jaguars had to overspend last year to lure free agents into signing with them. Moreover, Spielberger points out that Jacksonville hasn't gotten much production from their 2022 draft class. On the other hand, he praises Baalke for their 2011 class, Lawrence notwithstanding, and for being patient during last year's coaching cycle.
"There has been a lot of good recently, but at the end of the day, generational quarterback prospect Trevor Lawrence fell into Baalke’s lap, which is propping up a lot here.
To his credit, Baalke was very smart to be patient during the 2022 coaching cycle with the public outcry for other candidates before eventually hitting a home run with Doug Pederson, who has helped elevate Lawrence’s game to new heights.
Outside the first round in 2021, Baalke deserves a lot of props for selecting cornerback Tyson Campbell, offensive lineman Walker Little and safety Andre Cisco.
It’s still very early, but the decision to draft Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 1 overall pick in 2022 is not off to a hot start. And using the Jags' three remaining top-70 picks — with no picks between No. 70 and No. 154 — on two off-ball linebackers and a center may not have been the soundest approach."
For context, Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles), and Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs) popped up in the top tier, clear vision sound process), while Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills), and John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks) landed tier 2 (clear vision, mostly sound process).
Baalke joined the Jaguars in 2020 as the director of player personnel and became the interim general manager later that year when Dave Caldwell got the boot. After a searching process, Baalke got the job full-time in 2021.
Trent Baalke has had hits and misses with the Jaguars the past three years
There's been a lot of good, mixed with questionable decisions, during Trent Baalke's tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most of his 2022 free-agency class has gone on to have an impact. Players such as wide receiver Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram, linebacker Darious Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff, and cornerback Darious Williams have gone on to become key contributors for the Jags.
Baalke wasn't nearly as active in free agency this year but still managed to land kicker Brandon McManus, who's been an upgrade at the position. His 2021 and 2022 draft class have also had a positive impact, with players such as cornerback Tyson Campbell, safety Andre Cisco, and linebacker Devin Lloyd becoming mainstays on defense.
On the other hand, some of the Jaguars' draft picks under Trent Baalke have left a bit to be desired. While Outside linebacker Travon Walker has made strides, he's still a work in progress, not precisely what you expect from the No. 1 overall pick in 2022.
This year's draft pick, running back Tank Bigsby, has had as many turnovers as big plays in 2023. Similarly, rookie tight end Brenton Strange (Round 2) has been a non-factor. Ideally, you would want your early-round picks to contribute early on but that hasn't been the case with the Jaguars' 2023 draft class. However, Trent Baalke's biggest flop with the Jaguars is arguably his inability to address the offensive line this past offseason.
Left guard has been an issue throughout most of the year and center Luke Fortner hasn't made progress since the end of the 2022 season. Had Baalke made the necessary moves, pass protection wouldn't be an issue. Moreover, the Jaguars wanted to bolster their pass rush in the offseason and up to the trade deadline and failed. That falls on Baalke.
That said, the sky isn't falling. Trent Baalke has done enough to help the Jacksonville Jaguars load up on talent these past two seasons. Then again, it's fair to wonder how much better they would be if their general manager had made a bigger effort to address position groups that have turned out to be needs this season.