It feels like every year we ask the question what is next for the Jaguars. The Jags are one of the unique franchises in the NFL that sits in a beautiful city on the coast and is in a tax free state. If the right head coach and general manager ever got their hands on that franchise, they could possibly make magic.
If you take out the two Super Bowls won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the turn of the century, the Jags actually might have the best record among the Florida NFL teams. The Jags every 6 or 7 years become competitive with a balanced run first and play action next offense to go along with a top rated NFL defense. But, since 2017, the Jags have taken apart the entire nucleus of the team that was one play away from a Super Bowl birth. The decision to restart began last year when they drafted quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the 1st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The first year for Lawrence went terrible under first year NFL head coach Urban Myer. Myer did not finish the year due to his conduct being detrimental to the team. Now the Jags are starting over again but with a solidified quarterback under center. The Jags hired Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson to change things around. So, what’s next for the Jaguars?
the Jaguars had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2021. Going into the NFL League year, the Jaguars will need to focus on solidifying that offensive lines with a few key veteran pieces. The Jaguars also had one of the weakest defenses in the NFL in 2021. The secondary was rated the lowest and the D-line didn’t get much push to create sacks.
With that being said, the Jags have the third most cap space in the NFL with just over $70 million. Here are a few options the Jags should consider this off-season.
Terron Armstead OT, New Orleans Saints
It’s very rare for great offensive tackles to be available when free agency opens. Most of the times players of Armsteads caliber are resigned almost immediately after the season is over. Unfortunately, Armstead has had an injury history, but that opens up the opportunity for the Jaguars to take advantage.
In my time covering sports, great teams are built with a good mixture of young and veteran players. The youth have the energy to play at 100 miles per hour while the veterans have the knowledge. I see this as an opportunity for the Jags to get an excellent veteran to pair with a good offensive tackle in the upcoming draft.
J.C. Jackson CB, New England Patriots
In the four years J.C. Jackson has been in the league he has developed into one of the best cover corners. What was expected did not happen; the Patriots were expected to either resign or franchise tag Jackson, but that did not happen. Jackson is on the market and is looking for a solid payday. The Jags cap space and relative closeness to his home town would make since.
Jackson would provide the Jags with a solid lock down corner on one side of the field, while allowing for Tyson Campbell to further develop. This one two punch would become a foundation the Jags can build on in the later rounds of the draft.
Arden Key DE, San Francisco 49ers
This might be a stretch, but the Jaguars could make a push for a young edge rusher with a ton of upside. In 17 games played, Key was credited for 6.5 sacks and 21 tackles in 2021. For a team needing help getting to the quarterback, Key would become the anchor. Like Jackson, Key would be closer to his hometown if he were to sign with the Jaguars. That would be great leverage for the Jags to go into negotiations with.
NFL Draft Diamonds
Fortunately, the Jags have the first pick in the draft again this year. Last year the Jags got their franchise quarterback, and this year the Jags should be aiming to get a stud at the tackle position. There are a few options at the tackle spot the Jags could go with for the first pick. But, the NFL is made up of mostly guys picked after day 1, so here are some diamonds the Jags should truly consider after Day 1.
Justyn Ross WR, Clemson
Some may have forgotten but I have not. Justyn Ross for a time was the most dominating up and coming wide receiver in college football. The game versus Alabama his freshman year showed the world how high his potential was. Since that National Championship game, Ross has dealt with neck and foot injuries that hindered us from seeing him at his best every single game. Even with Ross missing the entire 2020 season, Ross will leave Clemson 5th all-time in touchdowns, 10th all-time in receiving yards, and 11th all-time in receptions for the school.
The reason Ross would be a great fit for the Jags is because he would reunite with his college quarterback Trevor Lawrence. They made magic happen their first year in college together, and they can do the same in the NFL. If what we saw with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati as any indication of what the possibilities could be then this is a smart move. The Jaguars need to add weapons for their young quarterback, and Ross might fall far enough in the draft for him to be a reasonable pick for the Jags to take advantage of.
Trevor Penning OL, Northern Illinois
Penning has been moving up the draft boards ever since the Senior Bowl back in January. The offensive tackle has dominated in every outing to show his talents against some of the best in one on ones. Penning has been making noise for about a year now after recording a 99.9 run blocking grade in the 2021 season. Penning is coming from the FCS level, but that should make him even hungrier to dominate at the next level. When it comes to drafting linemen, you want a guy who plays with a “Nasty Edge.”
Penning would be a great pick up for the Jags if they decide to trade the down in the 1st-round of the draft. Trading back would give the Jags more picks to work with. This would give them a chance to draft Penning at a reasonable spot. Again, this would onlybe possible if the Jags trade back. Because the Jags are in rebuild mode, this strategy is very much in play.
Bubba Bolden S, Miami
Bolden is a project at the next level that could turn out to be one of the best selected in this draft. Bolden did not play much in 2021 due to injuries sidelining him throughout the season. Although the tape leaves much to be desired, Bolden has the size and speed to be a dominant safety in the NFL. Bolden’s most productive year was in 2020 when he recorded 74 total tackles, 1 interception, and 4 force fumbles. Again, when healthy he matches what other elite talents have.
Bolden would be a great 4th-6th round pick for the Jags. Like I mentioned before, the Jags desperately need help in the secondary. Bolden can cover and give run support which makes him a versatile choice. The issue with Bolden is the angles he takes when going in for tackles. If we Bolden was able to remain healthy for majority of his career, we might be seeing him be the top safety prospect in this draft.