QB Cody Kessler, WR Donte Moncrief, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Niles Paul, G Andrew Norwell, CB D.J. Hayden, S Cody Davis, S Don Carey.
Early Draft Picks:
DT Taven Bryan, WR D.J. Chark, S Ronnie Harrison, OT Will Richardson. Jaguars Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
QB Chad Henne, RB Chris Ivory, WR Allen Robinson, WR Allen Hurns, TE Marcedes Lewis, G Patrick Omameh, LB Paul Posluszny, CB Aaron Colvin, P Brad Nortman.
2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
The Jaguars were extremely lucky for several reasons last year, one of which was that they had the only starting quarterback in the AFC South who didn't miss time with an injury. Blake Bortles started all 16 games, and thanks to a very easy schedule, he was able to complete a career-best 60.2 percent of his passes. He still threw 13 interceptions to 21 touchdowns - not a very good ratio - and his YPA was an underwhelming 7.0, as he completed mostly checkdowns unless he was playing against bottom-tier defenses like the Colts and the injury-ravaged Texans.
Bortles will return as the starter with no competition, which is a bad thing. Bortles is not a professional quarterback, as he doesn't put full effort into his craft. He parties too much, as evidenced with his car nearly being stolen this offseason because he forgot to lock the doors while at a party. Bortles has never completely taken his career seriously, and this is going to come back to haunt him when the Jaguars aren't nearly as fortunate. That could very easily be this season.
If Bortles fails in 2018, he won't be able to blame the offensive line very much. The blocking unit has been problematic in the past, but the team signed guard Andrew Norwell, formerly of the Panthers, to a 5-year, $66.5 million contract. This deal was well deserved for Norwell, as the 26-year-old is one of the top guards in the entire NFL. Norwell is one of three strong starters on the front, with the other two being center Brandon Linder and right tackle Jermey Parnell. Linder is a stalwart blocker, but needs to focus on staying healthy, as he hasn't played a full season yet as a pro.
The two weak links on the offensive line are left tackle Cam Robinson and right guard A.J. Cann. There's a chance Robinson will improve, as he was just a second-round rookie last year. There isn't much hope for Cann, but teams can survive with only one weak point on a blocking unit.
While the Jaguars obtained Norwell this offseason, they lost Allen Robinson to free agency. The top receiver on the Jagaurs, Robinson barely played in 2017, as he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. Jacksonville survived without Robinson last year, but will be playing tougher opponents in 2018. Thus, one of Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole or D.J. Chark will have to step up as a viable starter across from Marqise Lee. Chark is a second-round rookie, but Westbrook, a 2017 fourth-round choice, might have the most potential. Elsewhere, newly acquired Austin Seferian-Jenkins figures to provide an upgrade over the poor play the Jaguars had from their receiving tight ends last year.
The strength of the offense, meanwhile, will continue to be the rushing attack. Leonard Fournette, the fourth-overall selection from the 2017 NFL Draft, got off to a great start in his first year, but hit the rookie wall eventually. He posted just one 100-yard rushing performance between Weeks 12 and 17, but absolutely trampled the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. With improved blocking, Fournette should be even better in 2018.
2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
Blake Bortles certainly didn't carry the Jaguars into the playoffs, and it wasn't Leonard Fournette either, as he hit the aforementioned rookie wall. It was the defense, which was a dominant unit throughout the 2017 campaign.
Every portion of Jacksonville's defense was prolific. It all starts up front in the NFL, and Calais Campbell's addition to the roster last offseason was an enormous one. Proving that he's still one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL despite his age (32 in September), Campbell was absolutely dominant in his first year in Jacksonville. Campbell was able to play both on the edge and in the interior, and he was joined by terrific players in both areas. As far as the interior is concerned, Malik Jackson was tremendous in all facets, while Marcell Dareus, acquired from the Bills in the middle of the season, provided help in run support. The Jaguars will be even better in this area, as their first-round choice was used on Taven Bryan, who will likely be Campbell's replacement in the future.
On the edge, Yannick Ngakoue applied heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks, rightfully earning him a spot on the NFL's top 100 players list. Ngakoue logged 12 sacks in just his sophomore campaign, and big things are expected in the future from the 23-year-old. The Jaguars will be hoping that Dante Fowler, the team's first-round pick from 2015, can follow Ngakoue's lead. Fowler collected eight sacks last year, but most of those occurred by accident. It was telling that Jacksonville declined Fowler's 2019 team option.
Jacksonville's relentless pass rush made things easier for the secondary, which was one of the NFL's top units. Jalen Ramsey, the fifth-overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, has developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the entire league. A.J. Bouye, acquired via free agency the year before, has gotten lots of acclaim for his play in 2017 as well, but he's not nearly as good of a cornerback as Ramsey. Bouye, who is flagged for too many penalties, was a clear byproduct of the Jaguars' ferocious front, whereas Ramsey legitimately clamped down on opposing receivers. That said, Bouye should continue to perform on a high level, barring a rash of injuries on the defensive line.
The rest of the secondary is mostly intact, as safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church will both return. Both are solid, though unspectacular, so the Jaguars spent a third-round pick on safety Ronnie Harrison to perhaps eventually replace one of them. Meanwhile, the one defensive starter who didn't return was nickel corner Aaron Colvin. His absence will be felt, as the Jaguars don't have a clear, viable replacement for him.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny also won't be with the team any longer, as he opted to retire. He'll be missed from a veteran leadership standpoint, but 2017 fifth-round pick Blair Brown has some promise and could do a decent job as a two-down player. Brown won't have to play every snap because the Jaguars have two stud linebackers in Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. Smith, in particular, is a dominant player who has no flaws in his game.
2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule and Intangibles:
Jacksonville's hot and humid climate contributed to its outstanding 83-53 home record from 1995 to 2011. They were just 9-29 as hosts in the four seasons prior to 2017, perhaps because of the curse of the swimming pool. That curse has snapped, as Jacksonville was 6-2 at home in 2017.
The Jaguars signed Josh Lambo to be their kicker in the middle of the season, and it paid off. Lambo hit 19-of-20 attempts, including both of his tries from beyond 50.
Gene Smith solidified his standing as one of the worst general managers in NFL history by drafting a punter in the third round. This regime is obviously better, as it selected its new punter, Logan Cooke of Mississippi State, in the seventh frame this past April.
Jacksonville was solid on special teams last year, outgaining the opposition on both punt and kickoff returns.
The strength of the Jaguars' schedule depends mostly on the health of the other three quarterbacks in their division. Outside the AFC South, they get three games against AFC East foes not named the Patriots. However, they also have to deal with the Patriots, Chiefs, Eagles and Steelers, who will be seeking revenge.
2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Rookies:
Go here for the Jaguars Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: The Jaguars, as mentioned, were very lucky last year. In addition to seeing the other three quarterbacks in their division go down with injuries, they also battled teams when they were at their worst. For instance, they took on the Seahawks when Seattle was missing its entire back seven. They ripped the Ravens to shreds when Baltimore suffered numerous injuries the week before. They squeaked by the Bills in the opening round of the playoffs, thanks in part to Tyrod Taylor suffering an injury and being unavailable at the end of the game. Things won't go as smoothly for the Jaguars in 2018, so some major regression is expected.
Projection: 6-10 (Tied 3rd in AFC South)
2017 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6. 2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 3-13.
Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Jaguars were lucky last year, enjoying great health while the other three starting quarterbacks in their division were all injured at some point. Jacksonville won't be as fortunate in 2018, so it needs to put Blake Bortles in the best position possible to succeed. Adding more blocking and receiving talent is a must, and even an insurance policy for Bortles makes sense.
2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Taven Bryan was very unexpected at No. 29 overall, partly because many didn't think he would be there. Bryan was widely projected to the Lions (No. 20) and Falcons (26), so the Jaguars may have been surprised that he was available. Bryan doesn't fill a current need, but he was the best player available, and he'll make for a great replacement for Calais Campbell in the future.
Bryan was the initial part of the 4-of-4 "A" grades the Jaguars received. Wide receiver D.J. Chark, safety Ronnie Harrison and tackle Will Richardson all were outstanding choices. Only Chark and Richardson filled needs, but all four prospects provided great value, especially Harrison at No. 93 overall. There was some speculation that Harrison would sneak into the opening round!
Excluding the seventh round, the only pick of the Jaguars that wasn't graded an "A" or higher was sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee. The Nebraska product is a strong-armed prospect who doesn't know how to play quarterback, so he's a lot like Bortles. However, Jacksonville needed to find someone to challenge Bortles, so the Lee choice is at least understandable.
Jacksonville had one of the top hauls in the 2018 NFL Draft class. The team found great value with nearly every pick, and it addressed a couple of key needs.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
29. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida A Grade
Taven Bryan doesn't exactly fill a need, but the first round is not necessarily a time for needs. Selecting the best player available who makes sense is usually a winning strategy, and the Jaguars appear to have made a terrific move.
Bryan was being discussed as a possible top-20 prospect. Getting him at No. 30 is great value, and it doesn't hurt to have another interior pass-rusher to rattle Deshaun Watson.
61. D.J. Chark, WR, LSU A Grade
D.J. Chark was the fourth- or fifth-ranked receiver by several teams, so it's a bit of a surprise to see him slip so late in the second round. The Jaguars won't complain, as they're getting quite the bargain at No. 61. Chark will fill a huge need at one of the starting receiver positions, vacated by Allen Robinson. It's not out of the question that Chark could be Jacksonville's top wideout by season's end.
93. Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama A+ Grade
"Wow" is what I just said aloud. Harrison is the third prospect I forgot was still on the board on Day 2. Harrison was a high second-round prospect, and if he would've been taken late in the first, I wouldn't have hated it. Harrison is a very talented safety who will make Jacksonville's defense even more dominant.
129. Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State A Grade
The Jaguars are having a fantastic draft. Will Richardson is a second-round talent, but fell because of off-the-field problems. The time is right to take a chance on someone like Richardson, and Jacksonville seems like the right place for Richardson to stay out of trouble.
203. Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska C Grade
You'd think the Jaguars wouldn't draft a poor man's version of their current quarterback, but that's exactly what they did. Like Blake Bortles, Tanner Lee has a big arm but doesn't really know how to play quarterback well at all. If coached up, he could maybe become a semi-decent backup, but Jacksonville should've gone in a different direction.
230. Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin B Grade
Leon Jacobs, if he does anything beyond special teams, will have to be limited to just two downs. He was strong versus the run in Wisconsin, but his coverage skills are questionable. This is a decent pick in the seventh round.
247. Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State C Grade
Logan Cooke isn't even a good punter prospect. I'd go lower than a "C" on this if I promised I wouldn't go lower than a "C" in the seventh round.
The Jaguars made great strides in 2017, thanks to a prolific defense. Their offense, however, was very inconsistent, and that's an area that must improve in 2018 because there is bound to be regression on the defensive side of the ball.
Jaguars cut TE Marcedes Lewis
Jaguars cut WR Allen Hurns
Jaguars sign TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Jaguars sign S Cody Davis
Jaguars sign TE Niles Paul
Jaguars sign S Don Carey
Jaguars sign CB D.J. Hayden
Jaguars sign WR Donte Moncrief
Jaguars re-sign WR Marqise Lee
Jaguars announce retirement of LB Paul Posluszny
Jaguars sign G Andrew Norwell
Jaguars cut RB Chris Ivory
Quarterback: Blake Bortles is holding the team back. The Jaguars should spend an early selection on a quarterback to challenge Bortles as early as next year.
Left Tackle: Outside of finding a new quarterback, Jacksonville's top priority this offseason is bolstering the offensive line. Left tackle was a major problem area last year, as Cam Robinson struggled mightily. Robinson could be better at right tackle or guard, so a new blind-side protector will be needed.
Guard: Here's another position that should be addressed up front. Even if Cam Robinson moves inside, another guard will be needed, as this was a big problem area for Jacksonville in 2017. Signed Andrew Norwell
Tight End: Marcedes Lewis is no longer cutting it as a receiving threat. Luckily for the Jaguars, there are some solid tight end prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul
Wide Receiver: Both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are impending free agents. One will need to be re-signed. If it's Lee, Jacksonville will still need a new No. 1 wideout, a role Robinson can reprise if he returns. Re-signed Marqise Lee; signed Donte Moncrief
Slot Cornerback: Aaron Colvin has done a good job as Jacksonville's slot cornerback over the past couple of years, but his contract is set to expire in March. Signed D.J. Hayden
Defensive End Depth: Dante Fowler has been a disappointment thus far in his career. Jacksonville should bring in someone to challenge Fowler. Depth wouldn't hurt either.
Linebacker Depth: Paul Posluszny will be hitting free agency in March. Blair Brown could probably replace him effectively, but if he does, some new depth will be needed at the position.
Punter: Brad Nortman has been ranked in the bottom 10 of net average the past couple of seasons.
Andrew Norwell, G, Panthers. Age: 26. Signed with Jaguars
Andrew Norwell is one of the top guards in the NFL. He has improved every single season in the league, and he's now dominant in every regard. Norwell should continue to get better, as he won't even turn 27 until October.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets. Age: 25. Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2014, had been a disappointment prior to this season, but he finally came alive and was dominant in some games. He'll only be 26 in late September, so he has plenty of upside. However, he comes with some character and effort concerns.
Cody Davis, S, Rams. Age: 29. Signed with Jaguars
Cody Davis missed nine games this past season with a thigh injury. He's solid in coverage, but misses too many tackles.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts. Age: 25. Signed with Jaguars
Donte Moncrief proved that he was just a byproduct of Andrew Luck's elite passing, as he really struggled without him in 2017. However, he still has some potential, and at 25, he has time to improve.
D.J. Hayden, CB, Lions. Age: 28. -- Signed with Jaguars (3 years, $19 million)
Don Carey, S, Lions. Age: 31. -- Signed with Jaguars
Niles Paul, TE, Redskins. Age: 29. -- Signed with Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. Age: 25. Signed with Bears
Allen Robinson was a monster in 2015, catching 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, he hasn't done much since. He had a lazy 2016 campaign, perhaps because he partied too much with Blake Bortles. He was on the field for one game this past season before tearing his ACL. That said, Robinson will turn just 25 in August, so he could still have a very bright future ahead of him.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Jaguars. Age: 26. Signed with Texans (4 years)
Aaron Colvin fell in the 2014 NFL Draft because of a torn ACL. It paid off for the Jaguars, as Colvin has served as a very effective slot corner. Just 26, Colvin should continue to improve.
Paul Posluszny, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 33. Announced retirement
Paul Posluszny has been reduced to a two-down linebacker, which is understandable at his age. However, he performed extremely well in that role as a fierce defender in run support. Posluszny, 34 in October, is not nearly the same in coverage now.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars. Age: 26. Re-signed with Jaguars
Marqise Lee has never topped 900 receiving yards in his career, but it should be remembered that he plays in a conservative offense, so perhaps he'll do better elsewhere. Lee has been a solid performer the past couple of years. He thrived at the end of 2017, albeit against some poor secondaries.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars. Age: 34. Signed with Packers
Marcedes Lewis is 34, and all of his receiving talent is gone, but he's still a terrific blocker.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars. Age: 30. Signed with Bills
Chris Ivory should probably be a 1.5-star free agent, but he's a big name, so I'll give him a write-up. General manager David Caldwell made an incredibly stupid move two offseasons ago when he signed Ivory to a 5-year, $32.5 million deal. Ivory, in two seasons with Jacksonville, rushed for a combined 821 yards, scoring five total touchdowns. He averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2017, and he turns 30 in March.
Patrick Omameh, G, Jaguars. Age: 28. -- Signed with Giants
Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars. Age: 26. -- Signed with Cowboys
Corey Grant (RFA), RB, Jaguars. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Jaguars
Chad Henne, QB, Jaguars. Age: 33. -- Signed with Chiefs
Brad Nortman, P, Jaguars. Age: 28.
Lerentee McCray, DE, Jaguars. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Jaguars