by Mario Granata
One season after playing in the AFC Championship, the Jacksonville Jaguars have fallen on hard times...and back into the Top-10 of the NFL Draft. A team that, on paper, seems poised to make a run again with a punishing ground attack and an even tougher defense, when you have Blake Bortles as your quarterback, there is only so much a team can do. Now that one problem is solved, is 2019 the year where the Jaguars get back to their winning formula?
Most teams that are "clearing room" for their cap space tend to go all-in as we have seen with the Raiders and Bills, however, the Jags are caught somewhere in the middle. After cutting Blake Bortles and Malik Jackson, along with Tashaun Gipson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, those four account for nearly 28 million dollars in dead cap this season. While the writing was on the wall for Bortles, Jackson and Gipson leave holes in the front line and the secondary that Jacksonville has to fill to compete in 2019.
Nick Foles is the big splash quarterback that the Jags signed to the tune of 88 million dollars for four years, which is a big amount to pay a player when you are already up against the salary cap. Foles has 50 million in guarantees and a very reasonable cap number for 2019 (12 million) which will allow the Jags to play the numbers game to sign talent to surround him.
Jacksonville will have to get creative in the 2019 NFL Draft if they wish to gain players that can make an impact or else they are doomed to repeat their 5-11 season from 2018.
While the Jaguars find themselves in an all too familiar place in the NFL Draft (selecting in the Top-10) they would actually be wise to shop the number 7th pick to the highest bidder given their cap situation. Jacksonville holds 7 total picks (two in the third round) totaling 8.7 million dollars in 2019 if they keep all of them. With only 15 million dollars in cap space to work with, trading out of the first round to acquire more picks in later rounds would help keep them under the cap and get more bodies in camp. While they are not prone to trading out of the Top-10, they would be wise to do so.
If the Jags elect to hold onto the pick, a number of outlets are saying that they will select either Rashan Gary (Edge-Michigan), Jawaan Taylor (OT-Florida) or D.K. Metcalf (WR-Ole Miss). Any of these players would be an upgrade from the current roster.
Gary would be a perfect compliment to Calais Campbell, who is north of 30 and holds a 17.5 million dollar cap hit for 2020 if the Jags choose to clear some space for next season. (They would save 15 million with the release of Campbell on the last year of his deal.) Gary could also be a force in a division who has the likes of Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck to contend with.
Taylor could fill in for the recently departed Jeremy Parnell and would play opposite Cam Robinson to give Foles and the Jaguars offense some stability at the tackle position. He can play either Right or Left tackle if asked and has the athleticism to be a difference maker for both Foles and Leonard Fournette, who will look to bounce back in 2019.
Metcalf could be a monster if the scouts are right about him. Currently, the Jags have precision route runners in Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook and the recent acquisition of Chris Conley from Kansas City gives Jacksonville some weapons and the addition of Metcalf would (no pun intended) put that Jacksonville offense over the top.