By Mario Granata
Making strides to become competitive in the NFL is sometimes a painful process. Having a Top-10 pick in the NFL draft can help to aid in the growth of a team. Having a Top-10 pick every year since 2008, is something that no team wants to endure, however the Jacksonville Jaguars find that is exactly where they are. When you compound that with the fact that your 3rd overall selection in 2015 (Dante Fowler) doesn’t play a down, then you are forced to make adjustments and a young offense has to try to overcome some shortcomings of the defense. The Jaguars aren’t in a very bad place currently, and with the division that they are in, they could make a run at a playoff birth in 2016.
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
Career Record: 12-36
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Greg Olson
18th YPG, 10th Pass, 27th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Todd Walsh
24th YPG, 29th Pass, 15th Rush
The Jacksonville Jaguars showed the NFL in 2015 that they can be a very dangerous team offensively. This is not the norm for OC Greg Olson. 2016 will mark Olson’s 10th season as an OC, and if someone were to be held accountable for the shortcomings of the offense, the first place they should look is at Olson. In 9 years an as OC, Olson’s teams average 22nd in yards, 18th in the pass and 22nd in the run, only finishing in the Top 10 of those categories 3 times (Pass-2, Run-1) and one of those Top-10’s came this past season. With young promising players like Blake Bortles, TJ Yeldon, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas there will be no excuses for Olson in 2016.
The Jaguars are currently 74.8 million dollars under the cap. Yes, you read that correctly. Nearly 75 million dollars are available to the Jaguars to play with during the 2016 off-season. Now GM Dave Caldwell, who took the reigns in 2013, finds himself in a great spot heading into free agency, but there still could be moves within the team that could be made if he would want to add more depth and talent. He doesn’t have to, but if he wants to, he could look to DE Jared Odrick. The Jaguars picked up Odrick from the Dolphins as a former 1st round pick, but has been anything but since joining the Jaguars. He is currently the 7th highest DE in the NFL and his 8 million dollar cap figure is a lot to pay for a guy who managed 5.5 sacks last season. Maybe with the addition of Fowler playing behind him, he might make some more plays in 2016, but if Caldwell wants to cut his losses, and hit the 80 million dollar mark this off-season, he could cut ties with Odrick and not take any money in the form of dead money. His contract details are below:
Yes, Odrick has played 4 positions since entering the league (DE, NT, DT, LB) and that might be the reason for his ineffectiveness, but that is not how things work in the NFL.
Jacksonville has 3 names they should “look at” when free agency hits. WR Justin Blackmon, QB Chad Henne and TE Marcedes Lewis.
Now the book on Blackmon is pretty much written. He follows fellow receivers such as Titus Young and Devone Bess as promising players who’s off the field problems signaled the demise of their careers. Caldwell wasn’t very high on Blackmon (being drafted before he became GM) and Blackmon’s recent DUI in December of 2015 sealed his fate in Jacksonville.
Henne has proven to be a serviceable backup to Bortles and if he is on the “Matt Hasselback Road to Success” he would be wise to take the first offer that the Jags send him, if they decide to do so.
Due to Julius Thomas missing some time at the start of the season, hanging on to Lewis who has been in the system and can come in and draw coverage away from Robinson, Hurns and Marqise Lee is a plus for Jacksonville. He should come cheap as well. Clay Harbour is not a viable TE2 for the Jags.
Taking a look at both sides of the coin is the usual approach when it comes to the On the Clock articles, however, if the Jaguars spend their 5th overall pick on offense, Jacksonville might blow up. Unless there are some radical moves this off-season done by Caldwell, is pretty much a guarantee that the Jaguars will select a defensive player with the 5th pick. (Also, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the last time they had the 5th pick they selected Blackmon. Whoops)
The top names that Jacksonville is targeting are CB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and DE DeForest Buckner from Oregon. I guess you could throw DE Joey Bosa in the mix, however Bosa has been compared to Ryan Kerrigan who is a 3-4 LB and this contrasts DC Todd Walsh’s 4-3 scheme. Keep that in mind.
Ramsey immediately helps the Jaguars simply with his presence on the field. He will force quarterbacks to hold onto the ball a bit longer to give Fowler (who is coming off an injury) and others time to generate some pressure. Smart money is on Ramsey, but if Caldwell decides to raid free agency, they could look to Buckner, if he’s available.
Buckner is being targeted by San Diego as well, and San Diego’s DC John Pagano also runs a 3-4, so they might have other options for Buckner or try to move him around a bit. With Jacksonville, Buckner will play with his hand in the dirt and set the edge for Walsh. If the Jaguars decide to select Buckner, look for them to restructure Odrick or even cut ties with Chris Clemons.
Where does one start here? When you are a team who has 74.8 million dollars of cap space to work with, and have been the perennial doormat of the NFL, you start throwing money at players left a right. That’s not saying that Caldwell has to. In the two seasons that he had been the GM he has drafted Bortles, Lee, Robinson, Yeldon, Fowler, Luke Joeckel, Denard Robinson, Aaron Colvin, A.J. Cann and Telvin Smith. He has also added Hurns and picked up Devon House and Thomas last season.
If he is not sure he wants to draft Ramsey and wants to have more of a veteran presence back in the secondary, he could take Leon Hall from the Bengals, Morris Claiborne from the Cowboys. If he doesn’t want to take a DE in the draft or hang onto Odrick and Clemons, he could take a shot on Jason Pierre-Paul. I am not even going to mention Greg Hardy or Aldon Smith, because even though they are great players, he has learned something from the Justin Blackmon situation.
Paul Posluszny will be entering his 6 season with the Jaguars and has a 16 game average of 105 tackles. He also has amassed 10 interceptions during that span. Although he is locked up until 2017, the Jaguars would be remiss not to take a look at some other players who could fill his role. The only notable player on the market is Derrick Johnson from the Chiefs, but at 33-years old, he would be a lateral move for the Jaguars.
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