Releasing Jaguars WR Zay Jones comes with a set of pros and cos

• Zay Jones could be a cap casualty this offseason but there are reasons the Jaguars may want to hold on to him.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (7) is met by Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (7) is met by Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

The Jacksonville Jaguars will need to make a decision on Calvin Ridley. Coming off the second 1,000-season of his career, Calvin Ridley is set to hit the open market. However, he's not the only receiver who may not return next season. Zay Jones is entering the last year of the contract he signed in 2022 but could be a cap casualty this offseason. In fact, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus believes Jones is the Jags' top candidate to get the boot.

Spielberger made a list of potential cap casualties for each NFL team and picked Jones for Jacksonville, noting that he's coming off an injured-marred season. On top of that, he thinks keeping Ridley around may be a bigger priority.

"Jones missed multiple stretches of the 2023 season, and Jacksonville is preparing to bring fellow wideout Calvin Ridley back on a much bigger veteran contract. The emergence of rookie Parker Washington could help fill the void here in 2024 and beyond."

A second-round pick in 2016, Jones spent time with the Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders before inking a three-year deal with the Jaguars in 2022. At the time of the signing, general manager Trent Baalke earned plenty of scrutiny because Jones had only tallied more than 600 yards in a season once in his career.

However, Jones went on to have an immediate impact in Jacksonville, setting new career highs for catches and receptions in his first season in Jacksonville. Along the way, he came up big in the clutch, catching the game-winning two-point conversion against the Baltimore Ravens and later reeling in a 39-yard touchdown reception in the playoff comeback over the Los Angeles Chargers, to name a couple plays.

Unfortunately, Jones wasn't able to build on his success in 2022. A PCL injury forced him to sit out several games last year and he wasn't his productive self when he was on the field, catching a measly 34 receptions for 321 yards with two touchdowns. The former East Carolina Pirate is scheduled to count $10.7 million against the cap in 2024 but the Jags could free up $4.1 million in space with $6.5 million if they release him.

The Jaguars could benefit from keeping Zay Jones but they could release him

The Jaguars currently have around $11 million in space. Even if the limit increases by $8 million, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests, they'll need to move on from a few players so they can operate in free agency. Jones would then become one of a handful of candidates to get cut.

The issue with moving on from Jones is that it would create a need at wide receiver. It's true that he was underwhelming last year but that was because he dealt with injuries rather. It's fair to assume that he'll bounce back if he stays healthy in 2024. That said, the team's brass may want to add youth to their receiver corps. If that's the case, they could then cut Jones, and invest a draft pick in the position.

If the Jaguars look for receiver help in the first round, they could target Keon Coleman or Brian Thomas Jr. But if they want to address other needs first, they could then go for Adonai Mitchell in the second or third round. However, moving on from Jones only makes sense if the team's brass manages to retain Calvin Ridley. Otherwise, they would need to replace two starters from last year.

The bottom line is that the Jacksonville Jaguars will have options in case they want to move on from Zay Jones. However, don't be surprised if he returns for at least one more season.

Here are more stories from Black & Teal: