A perennial favorite to "get over the hump," Jacksonville often goes against the norm each season, trying desperately to reinvent mediocrity. In spite of this, GM David Caldwell's safe, BPA approach to the draft has slowly patched up some of the glaring needs in the starting lineup. Jacksonville has an appealing young defense as well as another top 5 pick in 2017. This offseason, they need plenty of help after pressing "reset" in order to take that growing core group to the playoffs.
Step 1: Hire a head coach/coordinator
Defensively, Jacksonville could stick with a 43 or swap to the 34 due to the personnel compiled for Gus Bradley's scheme. Caldwell actually did a decent job grabbing compatible talent for his former head coach. Of the hot HC candidates so far this offseason, Sean McDermott is a good fit for this franchise. McDermott's well respected and has schemed a strong unit in Carolina. For me, McDernott's been able to field an overachieving secondary for multiple seasons, while also weathering key injuries/suspensions at the defense end position. For an OC, the team needs to look hard at Mike McCoy, who's head coaching experience aside, had years in Denver that were stellar regardless of quarterback (think: Orton, Tebow).
Step 2: Retain and procure key free agents
WR Allen Robinson - JAX - 5 years, $37 million, $21 million guaranteed
SS John Cyprien - JAX - 4 years, $28 million, $9.4 guaranteed
LG Ron Leary - DAL - 5 years, $37.5 million, $14 million guaranteed
CB Captain Munnerlyn - MIN - 3 years, $10 million, $4.4 guaranteed
DE Charles Johnson - CAR - 2 years, $7.5 million, $2.67 guaranteed
RB Danny Woodhead - SD - 1 year, $ 1.3 million
Allen Robinson and John Cyprien need to be retained. Robinson isn't a true #1 wideout; he's also not far off. My deal would even be a hometown bargain based on what Marvin Jones and Muhammad Sanu received last offseason. Cyprien was a top 10 safety this past season; they probably believe he will keep producing against the run. It's a deal with a high price tag, but, for a guy entering his prime and receiving his second contract, you have to pony up. Cyprien has improved each season, having entered the NFL as an in-the-box college safety.
The prize of this list is Ron Leary. While not the best guard in the league, he's a huge upgrade at a glaring weakness. The area between $7 and $8 million per year is the going rate for an above average guard. Paired with RG A.J. Cann and C Brandon Linder, Jacksonville would have a decent interior O-line for the first time in several seasons.
Munnerlyn and Johnson are solid veterans familiar with McDermott and his system. Most coaches will bring along a veteran or two to boost the learning curve and add leadership in the locker room. Both players would have a role immediately next year. Munnerlyn would be among the starting 3 corners. Johnson would rotate in the lineup, possibly starting early downs and rotating out for Yannick Ngakoue in obvious passing situations. It's worth mentioning that this contract reflects the impending 31-year-old end's health (21 games the last 2 seasons). Woodhead follows his former HC to San Diego. He's 32 and played in just 21 games the last three seasons. If healthy, he can likely still contribute a dynamic element at a very cheap price.
Step 3: Romo
Jacksonville trades 2017 1st Round pick to Dallas for 2017 & 2018 1st Round picks and Tony Romo
Plain and simple: Blake Bortles lost Gus Bradley's job for him. They had no chance to compete in games because of bad decision-making as well as an allergy to passing downfield. Bortles has not gone over 60% completions in any season, averaging over an INT a game for all three years. While not a lost cause, the team already tanked this past season for the sake of his development. Tony Romo is ready to head deep into the playoffs now with two years left under contract. More on this trade later.
Step 4: Bortles' option
At worst, trading for Romo delays the inevitable release of Blake Bortles. At best, Bortles improves into a decent starter as Jacksonville projected. Either way, it would be very dumb not to pick up the 5th-year option on Blake. He can start games for you, and that option is only around $7 million. For Bortles, his eyes need to improve as much as his mechanics.
Step 5: LT Andrew Whitworth - Free Agent
Having obtained the injury-prone, Tony Romo, an upgrade to the blind side is paramount. Whitworth could come cheap, as Cincinnati has drafted the cheap veteran out of a roster spot in anticipation of this year's free agency. His deal would be for 1-2 years, and around $6 million per year. He's still a quality starter, and maybe their best option.
Step 5 (alternate): Joe Thomas - Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville trades their 2017 & 2018 2nd Round picks as well as Dallas' 2017 1st Rounder to Cleveland for LT Joe Thomas
With two years left on his current deal, this trade would also come with a 3-year extension worth roughly $10 million per year–a bargain. Thomas is a blue-chip player, and the previous trade for Romo makes this move imperative. Keep Romo healthy.
Step 6: Draft strategy notes
Jacksonville still needs a FS, which they could find early in the draft. Gipson is okay, so they could also find a project for McDermott to breathe some magic into. With a FA veteran at left tackle for another season, they should grab a swing tackle to potentially develop into an everyday starter. A running back is needed–neither Yeldon nor Ivory did much to speak of in 2016. Improving the left side of the O-line will help the run game some, too. Corner depth is a must-have. Amukamara was a nice add last offseason, but didn't live up to his deal. Wide receiver depth is an issue, as Bryan Walters was a poor option to step into a #4 role. It's hard to see a way, but a top 15 pick on a wideout is a great option. Mike Williams and Corey Davis are good names there. D-line depth, although I feel like a true 40 front will at least fix the interior a lot.