Over the course of the past 5+ seasons the Jaguars have been a laughing stock of the NFL. Whether it be signing big in free agency or making poor draft choices, the Jaguars haven’t been able to make it work. Now, with one of the best young defenses in the NFL the Jaguars are only a few small moves away from once again playing in the postseason.
Part One: Hiring Tom Coughlin and what it means for the Jaguars
After firing Gus Bradley this past season it was rumored that the Jacksonville Jaguars would look for a head coach to continue to develop the struggling Blake Bortles. The Jaguars ultimately went in a different direction and stayed in house. Doug Marrone, former head man of the Buffalo Bills was Jacksonville’s assistant head coach this season and coached the final two games of the regular season. The Jaguars looked like a different team in the final two game and while both games may have been against division rivals with below average quarterbacks, the Jaguars liked enough of what they saw to make Doug Marrone their full time head coach. The bigger surprise to most however was the hiring of Tom Coughlin. Coughlin was originally interviewed for the head coaching vacancy but instead became a front office executive.
Coughlin is 70 years old. This hiring of Coughlin once again reiterates that the Jaguars want to win now. Coming into the 2016 season expectations were high for the Jaguars. After spending millions on star free agents like Malik Jackson, Tashuan Gipson, and Prince Amukamara, the Jags’ look liked a potential playoff team. Teams that win in March rarely win in February, that’s important to know. Signing big name free agent names has been a common theme for the Jaguars under the reign of David Caldwell and all it’s gotten them is five consecutive top five picks in the NFL draft. The Jaguars will have an estimated $64 million in cap space come free agency and could have almost $95 million in cap space if some veterans are cut. The following sections will tell of how the Jaguars can win the offseason and potentially win the AFC south come 2017.
Part Two: Save Money & make smart decisions
The first section in this article will regard free agency. We will first look into the re-signing period and cutting players that are already on roster. As stated earlier, the Jaguars are likely to have roughly $64 million dollars in cap space coming into the offseason. Cutting Jared Odrick, Jeremy Parnell, Davon House, Paul Posluszny, and Dan Skuta could save the Jaguars almost $30 million dollars of their cap space. Odrick has been with the team for two seasons now and has failed to live up to his $8 million dollar cap threshold. In 22 games with the team, Odrik has only garnered 6.5 sacks. Cutting him would save roughly $8 million dollars. Jeremy Parnell, the former Cowboy, was brought in two years ago with Odrik and has been arguably one of the worst right tackles in all of pro football. Dan Skuta and Davon House were once both capable starters for the 49ers and Packers but have both been major flops since arriving in Jacksonville. Cutting both would free up about $10 million dollars. Paul Posluszny was once a former All-Pro type of player but over the course of the past three seasons his play has rapidly declined. All in all it would be smart for the Jaguars to find younger, cheaper options for these players.
Now comes the re-signing period. Johnathan Cyprien was one of the best safeties in all of pro football this season and should be looked to be retained long term. A fair deal for Cyprien would be a 5 year deal that pays him $40 million dollars with $20 million in guarantees. Re-signing Cyprien would put the Jaguars at around $84 million dollars in cap space. Patrick Omameh, Abry Jones, and Prince Amukamara are all worthy of being re-signed. Jones and Omamah are still young so 2-3 years that pay anyway from $8-12 million would be fair deals. Re-signing both players would put the Jaguars just under $80 million in cap space. The big question is Amukamara. Aaron Colvin is a fine young player who still has one year left on his deal. Amukamara was okay in 2016 but may ask for way too much money this offseason. If this is the case, let him walk. If Amukamara does however decide to take less money it’s a no-brainer to re-sign him. In this scenario we’ll assume Amukamara comes back once again on a one year deal but this time it only pays him around $6 million dollars with $2 million in guarantees. Retaining him would leave the Jaguars with $73 million dollars left in cap space.
In Free Agency make some moves but don’t spend all of your cap. Jason-Pierre Paul would make for a great fit next to Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. Given Jacksonville’s cap situation and that Pierre-Paul grew up near Jacksonville it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Pierre-Paul is interested in signing with the Giants. Signing Pierre-Paul would put the Jaguars at $63 in million cap. The Jaguars would be wise to give Pierre-Paul a front loaded one year deal that would pay him roughly $12 million and include a team option if he proves he’s worth the money for 2018. If Pierre-Paul can continue to play at the high level and stay healthy this will be a fantastic signing for the Jaguars. Signing a third-down back who can pass protect would be another smart decision. Bobby Rainey has played well for a dull Giants offense this season. T.J Yeldon and Chris Ivory aren’t great backs so adding needed competition would be wise. Brian Hoyer played well this previous season and would give Blake Bortles’ some much needed competition. Given that Bortles’ is entering a make or break it year, Jacksonville should want maximum production from their former first round pick. Bengals’ tackle Andrew Whitworth may be willing to leave the Bengals’ this offseason. Whitworth is 35 but is still one of the best tackles in the NFL. Signing Whitworth to a one year to serve as a stop-gap would be a bright idea given the lack of lack of quality tackles in this years’ draft. Signing these three players would cost an estimated $13 million dollars giving the Jaguars a tad under $50 million free in cap space to fill out their roster.
Free Agency Recap:
SS Johnathan Cyprien
OG Patrick Omameh
CB Prince Amukamara
DL Abry Jones
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
OT Andrew Whitworth
RB Bobby Rainey
QB Brian Hoyer
Part Three: Nail the draft again
Last year David Caldwell had one of the best drafts of any general manager in the NFL. In the first round the Jaguars selected Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey looks to be a potential top five corner in the NFL by the end of 2017. In the second round the Jaguars selected Myles Jack. Jack fell due to concerns about his knee. This past season Jack looked like a potential defensive cornerstone for years to come. The Jaguars will be picking fourth this year and still have an array of needs that need to be taken care of.
List of Potential needs:
QB1 (Blake Bortles has been a disaster however the Jaguars are likely to give him 2017 to prove himself)
RB1 (Neither Chris Ivory or TJ Yeldon solidified their role last year as a starter)
WR4( Brian Walters was okay, could find a fourth option)
TE2 (Julius Thomas is fine as a pass catcher; finding a run blocker would be smart
LT2(Andrew Whitworth is entering the end of his career, though this tackle class is weak it may be smart to look for potential depth in the later rounds)
OLB & ILB (Telvin Smith and Myles Jack are great but it would be smart to find depth, it may even be a good idea to move Dante Fowler Jr. to OLB)
FS1(Tashuan Gipson is alright, depending on who the Bears’ take my garner a selection at this position early)
RT1(Jeremy Parnell stunk and we got rid of him)
RG2(AJ Cann has been solid, you can add competition)
If we’re to prioritize these needs it’d go 1. RT, 2, QB, 3. LOLB. The rest of the needs can be taken care of later in the draft.
Now that we’ve addressed what positions need to be addressed in the draft, let’s look at what picks the Jaguars have in this years’ draft. The Jaguars have a pick in each of the seven rounds and aren’t expected to receive any compensatory picks from the league.
With the fourth overall pick the Jaguars should either take Johnathan Allen DE from Alabama or FS Malik Hooker from Ohio State. Depending on who the Bears’ select (most likely Jonathan Allen) it will determine who the Jaguars take at four. While it’s still early it look as if Jonathan Allen will be of the board at four alongside OLB Miles Garrett and QB Mitch Trubisky. Taking Malik Hooker would allow the Jaguars to move on from Tashuan Gipson and give them one of the most dynamic young secondaries in the league. The Jaguars also have the 35th overall pick. Adding Ohio State inside linebacker Raekwon Mcmillan would give the Jaguars arguably the most athletic linebacking core in the league. Mcmillion reminds of former Buckeye Ryan Shazier. Both were phenomenal athletes coming out of Ohio State. The third round should see the Jaguars address the tackle position. The Jaguars right tackle position graded out as one of the worst in 2016. Perhaps Taylor Morton, an offensive tackle from Western Michigan will be available. Morton, is fantastic in pass blocking and would fit Jacksonville’s offensive scheme well.
The Later rounds should see the Jaguars continue to address positions of need. Vince Biegel from Wisconsin will likely be available early in the fourth round. Biegel is fantastic in run support and can drop back in coverage from time to time. While he may not be the most explosive athlete, Biegel still has the ability to be a quality NFL starter. Jeremy Sprinkle from Arkansas is regarded as a fantastic run blocking tight end and would allow for the Jaguars to use more two tight end sets on offense. The final two selections will likely be spent on skill positions. It is rumored that Joe Mixon may go undrafted. Mixon, if still available, should be taken here. What he did was horrible yes but Adrian Peterson is still on a roster as is Trevone Boykin. Mixon, who seems to know what he did was putrid and disgusting, should be given a shot at an NFL roster. If Mixon is not available, then Justin Jackson from Northwestern would be another option. Isaiah McKenzie from Georgia is an intriguing option as a 7th rounder, could fill Jacksonville’s fourth receiver role quite nicely.
1: Malik Hooker FS, Ohio State
2: Raekwon Mcmillan LB, Ohio State
3: Taylor Morton OT, Western Michigan
4: Vince Biegel LB, Wisconsin
5: Jeremy Sprinkle TE, Arkansas
6: Joe Mixon RB, Oklahoma or Justin Jackson RB, Northwestern
7: Isaiah McKenzie WR, Georgia
Part Four: Keep Bortles’ on a tight leash this season.
If Blake Bortles’ continues his poor play in 2017 do not hesitate to let him go. Bortles has a party-boy persona and if he continues his ways he’ll be out of the league in no time. Next years class will have Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen in it. All three are potential franchise quarterbacks who, if Jacksonville struggles again, could become a Jaguar.
Potential 2017 Jaguars Starting Lineup
QB: Blake Bortles
RB: Chris Ivory/Joe Mixon
WR1: Allen Robinson
WR2: Marqise Lee
WR3: Allen Hurns
TE: Julius Thomas
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Patrick Omameh
C: Brandon Linder
RG: AJ Cann
RT: Taylor Morton
LE: Dante Fowler Jr.
DT: Malik Jackson
RE: Jason Pierre-Paul
LOLB: Myles Jack
ILB1: Telvin Smith
ILB 2: Raekwon Mcmillan
ROLB: Vince Biegel
CB1: Jalen Ramsey
CB2: Aaron Colvin
CB3: Prince Amukamara
FS: Malik Hooker
SS: Johnathan Cyprien
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