by Mario Granata
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in an all too familiar place as they head into the 2017 season. Once again picking in the Top-5 of the NFL draft after a disappointing 3-13 season, they are making roster moves that seem to be raising the eyebrows of not only their AFC South Division rivals, but around the league. The Jaguars, on paper, look to be the favorite to take over a typically weak division, but as people know in this league, success comes from the top down, and this staff has a wealth of talent, but do they have what it takes to progress to the next step?
Head Coach: Doug Marrone
Career Record: 16-18
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Greg Olson (New: Nathaniel Hackett)
23rd YPG, 20th Pass, 22th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Todd Wash
6th YPG, 5th Pass, 19th Rush
As highlighted in On the Clock: 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars if the Jags faltered in 2016, the blame would fall upon Greg Olson, and it did. It also fell upon Gus Bradley as he was fired before season’s end, capping a very disappointing and unfulfilled season for the Jags. They come in with some new, but not unfamiliar faces in the form of Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett. During their time in Buffalo, Marrone and Hackett improved the team from 6-10 to 7-9 in their two years there, but will have more pressure put on them as they have more talent, again on paper, then they did when they were in the 716.
Prior to the 2016 season, the Jags were over 70 million under the cap and aside from a few free agent signings, they were still on top of that list going into 2016. However, a light bulb went off in General Manager Dave Caldwell’s head, and he decided that with all this space, spend it on quality players that could help your team win. Even with the moves that the Jaguars have made, they are still a comfortable 49 million dollars under the cap, and as they don’t really need to restructure anyone, they could take a look at their veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. Posluszny has been the Jaguars leading tackler since Wash took over, but entering his 11th season, middle linebackers don’t get any younger. While Pos is a throwback, his fellow linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack are a new breed of linebacker that the NFL is shifting to. Aside from that, the Jaguars stand to save nearly 6 million dollars by releasing him. Contract details are below:
With the Jaguars electing to secure talent that was not on the roster in 2016, and with Luke Joeckel headed to the Pacific Northwest, Prince Amukamara signing in Chicago and Davon House headed back to Green Bay, there isn’t much left on the roster for Jacksonville to deem as a need to sign. With a new coach comes a new vision, and as Marrone cleans house on some of the players and brings in new ones, the Jaguars will look to build the rest of their team through the draft.
While historically the Jaguars were bad, so that any pick that they had in the Top 5 or Top 10, rather, would be an asset to their team, the have some options here to either select a specific player or they could trade out of the #4 pick and set themselves up for a few years down the road.
Most of the experts have the Jaguars taking Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama or Jamal Adams, S, LSU. Now, while all of these players could be selected to improve the roster of the Jags, Fournette is the most enticing, seeing as TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory both failed to reach 500 yards last season, and given Marrone’s track record, he seems like the sure pick.
As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Fournette has a lot of miles on the tires already having amassed 657 touches in 3 years at LSU. Then again, Ezekiel Elliot amassed 650 in three years as well and was an animal in 2016.
With Dante Fowler and Calias Campbell serving as the bookends it is unlikely they will take Allen with their first pick.
Tashaun Gipson if cut would set off a 8 million dollar dead money bomb, and while the Jaguars can take that hit, it is unlikely they will draft his replacement this year.
If you take a closer look at the moves that have been made by the Jaguars this off-season, you can see that they are filling in those spots already, except for the running back position. Fournette has a lot of miles on the tires already from his college career, and while the Jags might eventually take him, there are two other names to consider: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama and OJ Howard, TE, Alabama.
If the Jaguars do decide to move on from Posluszny, Foster could be a perfect fit for the Jags at the #4 pick, and assume full command of that defense. He is a run stuffer first and foremost, and with Jack and Smith next to him, he, like Posluszny wouldn’t be asked to do much in the pass game.
With Joeckel going to Seattle, the Jags looked to fill that spot by trading for Branden Albert, in the process trading away Julius Thomas. While the Jaguars have recently acquired Mychal Rivera, he is not a sure fire #1 tight end in the NFL. With the quartet of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Howard, there will be more than enough running lanes for whoever they decide to pick up in the 3rd or 4th round.
While the Free Agency period has cooled off, many of the moves that Jacksonville has made has their team set up for the foreseeable future. Along with trading for Albert, the Jaguars have signed Barry Church to a 4-year contract, Campbell for 4 years, and A.J. Bouye to a 5-year deal. Those are some bold moves for Caldwell, and as it stands the really only ‘vacancies’ that the Jaguars have are in the backfield of the offense and in the backend of the defense. They also signed Jermey Parnell to play opposite of Albert. The sky is truly the limit for the Jaguars, that is, if the coaching staff doesn’t get in the way.
A Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale 2017
On the Clock: 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars
On the Clock: 2015 Jacksonville Jaguars