The Jacksonville Jaguars of 2021 are a completely new team than that of 2020. With the hiring of Urban Meyer and his new staff, comes promise and hope for a winning season. Overall, the Jaguars have been a disaster of a franchise and needed a complete reboot. The team won one game in 2020 and locked the No. 1 overall pick, which means securing Trevor Lawrence. This offseason should have one primary objective, find ways to protect and support Lawrence. Every decision needs to be geared towards making the offense as supportive as possible for Lawrence’s development.
Pending Free Agents
According to Over the Cap, the Jaguars have 25 players heading towards free agency this season. Yet the 25 players are mostly backup players, and the team only has three or four players who are starters. Most of the players listed here will most likely not be re-signed, as there are lots of talented free agents.
Cam Robinson, Left Tackle
Robinson was average last year, yet at the age of 25, he’s still improving. He continues to get better each year in his pass blocking sets but has struggled against talented edge rushers. Jaguars should consider signing Robinson to a one or two-year deal where the team can either draft a replacement or see if he improves. Overall, the transition tag should be used, which will allow the Jaguars to retain Robinson, but they can also rescind the tag if they find a better player in free agency.
Sidney Jones, Cornerback
Jones had a long-awaited breakout year, as he’s always had the talent, but multiple major injuries kept him off the field. Worse, all the injuries hindered his development, ultimately making it fair to wonder if he could have been a top corner if not for the injuries. This year, he showed flashes of talent and the potential to be a full-time starter, but he hasn’t played consistently enough to re-sign to a long-term deal. The injury history is still concerning, and overall, Jones deserves a one-year prove-it deal where the team can determine if he’s going to be a viable long-term option.
Keelan Cole, Wide Receiver
Cole is a good route runner with decent hands but isn’t elite at any one thing. He flashes in specific plays but isn’t consistent enough to be a full-time starter. Cole is just fine and would be great in terms of having quality depth. However, he should command more on the open market than what the Jaguars will offer him.
Adam Gotsis, Defensive Tackle
Gotsis had a few impact reps and provided excellent depth on the defensive line all year. If he stays healthy, Gotsis could be a quality rotational run defender who contributes semi-decent pass rush skill. If the Jaguars can get a cheap contract with him and allow him rotational snaps, he will add quality and depth to the defensive line.
Dawuane Smoot, Defensive End
Smoot had an excellent year and stepped into a larger role, playing 59 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s not a starter, but as a backup, he provides values. He had five and a half sacks this past year but was exceptional against the run. In the switch to a 3-4 defense, Smoot might be the odd man out, as he aligns better in a 4-3 base defense end. Overall, it isn’t likely the Jaguars re-sign him, as there are better options in free agency.
Potential Cap Casualties
The Jaguars are a young and inexperienced team, who needs to add veterans, not release them. They have the cap space and holes to keep everyone who is under contract. Besides the odd restructuring, the team is in good shape with its current contracts. Realistically, there wouldn’t be any cuts to the young roster as a majority of players are still on their first contract.
A.J. Cann, G ($6 Million Saved)
The Jaguars shouldn’t cut Cann, as he started to play very well down the stretch last year. However, there are better and cheaper options in the draft and free agency. With that said, the offensive line is a tricky and volatile position, and continuity is significant. Keeping Cann might be the best option for protecting Lawrence this year.
Al Woods, DT ($1.4 Million Saved)
Woods is a fine player and should be kept for his veteran presence. He opted out of the 2020 season, but the only problem is he may not be a starter. If the Jaguars bring in more defensive linemen it may be difficult for him to find a permanent starting spot in the 3-4 defense.
Andrew Norwell, G ($9 Million Saved)
Norwell is currently the highest-paid Jaguar and has not lived up to being one of the top paid guards in the league. While the team will likely keep Norwell, it’s worth noting his large contract could be restructured. Rumors from Jason La Canfora suggest the Jaguars are activity shopping Norwell, but it is not likely he gets moved.
Open Market Free Agent Targets
The Jaguars are consistently active in free agency, but this may be a year that rivals the 2017 offseason when the team signed star defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. With the most cap space in the NFL, the Jaguars are a team who will make moves.
Alex Smith, QB, Washington Football Team
Smith has a rapport with Meyer, but it goes further than that. Rookie quarterbacks need leadership to show them the ropes and improve the offseason elements to their game. Smith could very well be the third quarterback behind Gardner Minshew, but he would serve as a mentor to both young quarterbacks.
Marcus Williams, SAF, New Orleans Saints
The play of Jarrod Wilson should not stop the team from signing Williams who is an absolute stud. Williams is infamously known for the Minneapolis Miracle, where he missed the tackle on Stefon Diggs. Aside from that play, he’s been an elite safety capable of making a difference for his cornerbacks. Moreover, he’s improved his angles and tackling over the past few years and is a stellar piece in the last line of defense.
Malik Hooker, SAF, Indianapolis Colts
If the Jaguars don’t get Williams, Hooker is the second option who may be cheaper but comes with more risk. He’s a former Buckeye and was recruited by Meyer, however, he’s suffered two significant injuries in the past four years. Hooker’s potential isn’t what it once was, but he may worth the risk.
Mike Hilton, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Hilton can fill in as a nickel defender, a position the Jaguars will need after the departure of D.J. Hayden. Hilton is a solid all-around player, who can fill in the run, and has played well in man coverage. He’s young and has improved significantly over the past two years, overall making him a candidate for a long-term contract.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
Jaguars should not sign a big-name free agent, largely due to the fact that DJ Chark is up for an extension, and there are other positions of need. However, a coming home party for Robinson would be a sight to see. He’s exceptional and would be the best player on the offense. He’s a chain-mover and is one of the best receivers in the league.
DaQuan Jones, DT, Tennessee Titans
Leonard Williams is the favorite to go to Jacksonville, however, he will command a king’s ransom coming off a career season. Jones is serviceable and will come at a much lower price. He’s got experience in a 3-4 defense and makes plays against the run. When matched up in one on ones, he’s able to win and put pressure on the passer.
Trent Williams, OT, San Francisco 49ers
Williams is a tier above Robinson and could be a staple of the offensive line for a year or two. While he’s missed a few games this year, the question was if he could return to his Pro Bowl form after a season off with contract holdout and grievances with Washington. In short, Williams did return to form and was one of the best players on the 49ers last year. Overall, Williams might be the best player to hit free agency and should be the Jaguars’ top priority.
Previewing the Draft
Jaguars have a bevy of picks which can make them competitive for this year but also set the team up for success long term. Using the draft, they will be able to give the support needed to help Lawrence develop to his full potential. The object of this draft should be drafting pieces that can have a top-five passing attack and top offensive line. Secondary objectives involve finding a cornerback that can play opposite to C.J. Henderson.
Round 1, Pick 1: Trevor Lawrence
It is no secret Meyer came to Jacksonville for Lawrence, thus there isn’t a need to talk about any other quarterback. Lawrence is hyped as the best quarterback to come out of College since Andrew Luck. Jaguar fans deserve this pick, as the perpetual despair of having Blake Bortles, Blaine Gabbert, and Chad Henne may have caused trust issues.
Round 1, Pick 25: Offensive Tackle
In this draft, there are several targets in the late first including Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State, Jalen Mayfield out of Michigan, and Dillon Radunz out of North Dakota State. All of the tackles in the late first could benefit from sitting for a year and developing behind the current starters.
Round 2, Pick 33: Cornerback
The Jaguars need to get another cornerback who can make plays and line up across from Henderson. He struggled mightily against larger receivers last year and would do well to be paired with a larger corner. There are a few cornerbacks in this year’s draft the Jaguars should consider, but the best fit would be a heavy press man defender where he can take on other larger wide receivers. The target here is Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse, however, Asante Samuel Jr. out of Florida State is also a great option. Melifonwu is a freak athletic and might be the top press-man corner in the end. Samuel might not fit the ideal profile, but he’s a great ballplayer, and his mentality while playing cornerback is relentless.
Round 2, Pick 45: Tight End
Tight end is maybe the biggest hole after the quarterback, and there are some viable options out in free agency, but the draft might be the best place. There are two players who should be considered, Brevin Jordan out of Miami and Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State. Both players have high potential to be great tight ends in this draft and fill a void at the position. New Jaguars tight end coach Tyler Bowen was a Penn State coach, where he coached Freiermuth. Freiermuth is much more athletic than people give him credit for, his quickness isn’t something you see often in such a large player.
Round 3, Pick 66: Slot Wide Receiver
There are two receivers Jaguars should be looking at here, Jaelon Darden out of North Texas and Amari Rodgers out of Clemson. Getting a slot receiver should be one of the priorities for a Lawrence-led offense. The main thing that is important is getting a player who can develop a rapport with Lawrence and develop alongside him as well.
Early 2021 Expectations
Jaguars should be competitive in almost every game they play. If Lawrence is everything he’s billed to be, the team could make a push for a wildcard spot. Regardless of Lawrence, the roster is young and could see a jump from several players such as K’Lavon Chaisson, Henderson, Jawaan Taylor, Laviska Shenault Jr., and James Robinson. Overall, the 2021 season will be interesting as it will test three questions that will define the season and the team going forward. One, how good of a coach can Meyer be? Second, how much better can the team get this offseason, and will the team develop chemistry? Finally, can this team threaten a playoff spot and win the difficult games? All to be answered.