The biggest dilemma facing the Jacksonville Jaguars entering free agency was what they were going to do with Allen Robinson.
Had Robinson played in 2017, he undoubtedly would have been extended a multi-year, multi-million dollar offer and built the passing attack around him. But the torn ACL injury in the first game of 2017 left the Jaguars wondering if Robinson will ever be able to return to his elite status that he showcased in 2015 when he caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
They elected to take a pass on Robinson and when they released Allen Hurns, also a 1,000-yard receiver in 2015, it left a gaping hole at the receiver position. They moved quickly to add Indianapolis receiver Donte Moncrief and then re-signed Marqise Lee.
The Jaguars also had concerns with the offensive line. In the second half of the season, the running game had too many subpar efforts and much of that was because the line wasn’t opening holes. The Jaguars took a major step to correcting that problem with the signing of guard Andrew Norwell to a deal that is worth a whopping $66.5 million over five years, including $30 million guaranteed. That should solidify the running game that features last year’s prize rookie in Leonard Fournette.
The defense took a pair of hits with nickel back Aaron Colvin signing with division rival Houston and linebacker Paul Posluszny electing to retire rather than accept a backup role. That left two key positions to be filled, one of which the Jaguars feel they handled by the signing DJ Hayden to play the nickel spot. But Hayden hasn’t exactly been a shining star in his first four seasons in the league, starting just 26 games with Oakland and Detroit. Half of those starts came in 2015 with the Raiders. He also has a history of injuries.
The other concern entering free agency was who would complement tight end Marcedes Lewis after the team exercised its 2018 contract option. But they no sooner did that when they released Lewis a month later. They did acquire Austin Seferian-Jenkins in a free agency pickup from the Jets and he should help the passing game. But they need more at this position, someone who will be a force in lending support to the team’s running game.
Here is a closer look at where the Jaguars are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 1st AFC South (10-6)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 365.9 (6th)
RUSHING: 141.4 (1st)
PASSING: 224.6 (17th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 286.1 (2nd)
RUSHING: 116.3 (21st)
PASSING: 169.9 (1st)
- Wide receiver: This should be first priority as the Jaguars do not have an elite receiver on the roster. It’s probably too much to ask a rookie to be the team’s No. 1 receiver but if he’s talented enough, he could be that guy. Neither of the team’s two best receivers — fifth-year player Marqise Lee nor newcomer Donte Moncrief have shown they can be a No. 1 guy. In their combined eight seasons in the league, only three times has one of them caught more than 40 passes in a season. Both have also been injury-prone with Lee missing nine games his first two seasons and Moncrief sitting out 11 contests the last two years due to injuries.
- Tight end: Even though the Jaguars signed Jenkins, securing another tight end will be a priority after the team departed ways with Lewis. Seferian-Jenkins will help the passing game in that he’s versatile and can line up at various spots. But the Jaguars also need a big blocking tight end who can be an equal boost to the passing attack. The Jaguars will continue to put a heavy emphasis on the running game and that will necessitate a strong blocking tight end like Lewis was. The good news is that this is a deep draft at the position which means the Jaguars can probably find their man on the second, maybe even the third day of the draft.
- Right tackle: Jermey Parnell will be in his eighth year in the league but will be 32 years old this season. He’s only missed four games in the last three years, but the Jaguars need to start developing his replacement. There is not a solid backup that looks ready enough to step in when Parnell retires or is let go so the Jaguars need to bring in someone that can get a solid year of practice and be ready to move into the lineup as early as 2019. While this isn’t a strong year for right tackles, the right find on Day 2 or 3 could result in the right fit in the future for the Jaguars.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–WR Marqise Lee: Potential UFA; $34M/4 yrs, $16.5M fully guaranteed/$7M SB.
–LB Lerentee McCray: UFA; $5.5M/2 yrs, $1.5M fully guaranteed/$500 RB (second year is team option that must be exercised on or before 22nd day prior to first day of league year).
–WR Shane Wynn: Potential UFA; $555K/1 yr.
–S Cody Davis: UFA Rams; $5M/2 yrs, $2.5M fully guaranteed/$1M SB.
–CB DJ Hayden: UFA Lions; $19M/3 yrs, $9.45M fully guaranteed/$5M SB.
–QB Cody Kessler (trade Browns).
–DT Kapron Lewis-Moore: FA; $1.2M/2 yrs.
–CB Dexter McDougle: FA; $705K/1 yr.
–WR Donte Moncrief: UFA Colts; $9.6M/1 yr fully guaranteed; $4M SB.
–G Andrew Norwell: UFA Panthers; $66.5M/5 yrs, $30M fully guaranteed/$15M SB.
–TE Niles Paul: UFA Redskins; $4.75M/2 yrs, $1.5M fully guaranteed/$500K SB.
–TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: UFA Jets; $10M/2 yrs, $4M fully guaranteed/$3.21M SB.
–CB Aaron Colvin: UFA Texans; $34M/4 yrs, $18M fully guaranteed/$4M SB.
–QB Chad Henne: UFA Chiefs; $6.7M/2 yrs, $5.115M guaranteed/$3.1M SB.
–WR Allen Hurns (released).
–RB Chris Ivory (released).
–TE Marcedes Lewis (released).
–G Patrick Omameh: UFA Giants; $15M/3 yrs, $5.5M fully guaranteed/$4.5M SB.
–LB Paul Posluszny (UFA/retired).
–WR Allen Robinson: UFA Bears: $42M/3 yrs, $25M guaranteed.
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 29 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Moving on from Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julian Thomas and Marcedes Lewis means that pass-catcher jobs in Jacksonville are literally up for grabs. Built more like a running back than a traditional receiver at 6-0, 210 pounds, Moore could be the perfect slant and screen game weapon to penalize defenses loading the box against the run.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Connor Williams, OT, Texas. With Jermey Parnell entering his age 32 season (and coming off a knee injury), the Jaguars might look for his eventual replacement. Williams offers immediate depth at all five offensive line positions.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.