The Jaguars’ offseason is crucial to their future success. Jacksonville has the most cap space at $75 million and the first overall pick. Look for them to be big spenders and use their plethora of picks to revamp their roster. Urban Meyer is running the show now and will surely introduce a more competitive Jaguars team to the AFC South.
Roster Needs: QB, TE, OT, DT, CB
Few teams have as many holes to fill as the Jags this offseason, but no teams have the combination of multiple early draft picks and significant cap space. The dire need for a quarterback is a no-brainer fix with Trevor Lawrence as the first overall pick. Gardner Minshew was given the opportunity and was unable to do anything with it. The Jaguars offseason will be strongly reliant on both the draft and free agency.
The often injured 30-year-old Tyler Eifert is not likely to be re-signed. A pass-catching, security blanket tight end would be monumental for Trevor Lawrence’s transition to the NFL. Tight ends generally take a couple of years to acclimate to the NFL, therefore, drafting one would not be ideal for their franchise rookie quarterback. Instead, free agency offers intriguing replacements. Hunter Henry should be at the top of Jacksonville’s list. Two years ago, Henry looked like the next great tight end until injuries cut his progression short. Henry came back this past season and became a safety blanket for the rookie, Justin Herbert. In 14 games, Henry garnered 60 catches for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns. Henry can find holes in coverage and can separate from linebackers across the middle, a trait Trevor Lawrence will appreciate.
If Henry decides to go elsewhere, the athletic Jonnu Smith should be the next top option for the front office. While not a great blocker, Smith has track speed, demonstrated on multiple catch and runs. Regardless of who they acquire, a tight end to help Trevor Lawrence’s development is key.
After tight end, the Jaguars need to protect their quarterback. The Jags gave up the 7th most sacks in the league last year. After seeing what happened to Joe Burrow, offensive tackle should be the top priority for Jacksonville. Cam Robinson is a free agent and should not be re-signed as he has been lackluster so far. Promising tackles could be available in the draft such as Alex Leatherwood or Sam Cosmi, but considering all the cap space, the Jags should get a guaranteed stud in free agency.
Trent Williams was exceptional for the 49ers in 2020. Per PFF, he was the best tackle in all of football and is an unrestricted free agent. Williams displayed elite play at the age of 32 without showing any signs of regression. Williams will be an elite blindside protector for Lawrence giving him time in the pocket. The young playmakers for Jacksonville will benefit immensely from an addition like Williams.
In 2020, Jacksonville was 31st in sacks, generating 18 along with 107 pressures which was 30th in the league. K’Lavon Chaisson, the 1st round pick from the year prior, is a project and can develop into a feared speed rusher off the edge. On the opposite side of the defensive line, Josh Allen was put on IR, but will be back next season and capitalize off his Pro Bowl rookie season. The interior, however, is where changes need to be made. The defensive front let up the 3rd most rushing yards last year, and in a division where they see Derrick Henry twice a year, that cannot be allowed. Daniel Ekuale and Adam Gotsis failed to make an impact in the middle of the line and need to be replaced.
This draft class is not deep with interior defenders, but players like Christian Barmore from Alabama, or the Big Ten DPOY Daviyon Nixon would be massive upgrades. If the Jaguars look to free agents, Leonard Williams would make a solid addition up front. A career-high 13 sacks and a premier run-stuffer like Williams would make a great fit in this 4-3 defensive scheme. If Williams is too expensive, the front office can turn to a true vet in Ndamukong Suh. The 34-year-old has declined over the years but can still generate solid pressure in the middle and be a short-term fix for the porous defensive line.
The defensive line was not the only issue for the Jags. The secondary constantly gave up big plays. Per Pro Football Reference opposing teams averaged a whopping 7.7 yards per pass attempt, 2nd most in the league behind the Lions. Rookie corner C.J. Henderson flashed the physical attributes that made him the 9th overall pick early in the year before his season was lost due to a groin injury. Sidney Jones played surprisingly well until an Achilles injury put him on the IR but cannot be a long-term answer for the secondary.
If the Jaguars look to the draft to address corner, the top players will be gone by their late 1st. A young corner to grow alongside Henderson would be a smart decision for the Jags, therefore, a physically gifted such as Tyson Campbell would make a great fit. The Georgia corner is a raw athlete who can be molded into a shutdown corner opposite Henderson. Jacksonville could form a duo resembling the vaunted Ramsey and Bouye tandem on the 2017 defense.
The multiple early picks in the draft and ample cap space will set up Urban Meyer for success in the future. The Jaguars offseason can lead to shoring up the trenches and allowing Trevor Lawrence to develop into the franchise quarterback he can be.