The 2022 season has just ended, and as of March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In one year, the Jaguars went from the worst franchise in the league to participants in the Divisional Round. A turnaround that owes a lot to the change of coach and the meteoric progression of a young workforce. Symbol of this revival, Trevor Lawrence has passed a huge milestone for his sophomore year.
We now have to confirm this rise with another great season. For this, we will have to refine a workforce that already has solid foundations.
1. Trevor Lawrence (QB)
2. Travis Etienne (RB)
3. Josh Allen (Edge)
Difficult in this category to miss the quarterback. Selected with the 1st choice in 2021, the former Clemson did not convince during his first season. Since then, he has set the record straight, carrying his team to victory in the playoffs. This time for sure, Jacksonville has found its quarterback for the next few years. He’s going to be the centerpiece of this attack for a long time.
Alongside him in the attacking backfield, Travis Etienne has also proven his worth this season. The running back is already one of the most explosive players in the league and will be a major offensive weapon again this season. On the other side of the field, Josh Allen acts as the figurehead of a young defensive squad. The pass-rusher has already established himself as a leader in this workforce and will have to bring his partners in his wake.
The big maneuvers have already started in Florida. While the Jaguars began the offseason with several million extra in payroll, the leaders have already made sure to get back in the nails. They even did better. By restructuring the contracts of Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Brandon Scherff, the Jaguars have already freed up more than $26 million in salary cap. As a result, Floridians now find themselves with $13 million available. It would even seem that the leaders are still exploring other options to continue in this direction. In this context, the franchise does not have the absolute necessity to part with players under contract. That’s good, there are few elements that really disappointed.
If one had to be found, it might be Shaquill Griffin. Two years ago, the cornerback signed a three-year contract for 40 million. If he was not good in 2021, he was injured last year, only participating in 5 meetings. Doug Pederson then replaced Darious Williams on the outside. If we add the fact that Griffin is therefore no longer really essential (provided we find a replacement for Williams in the slot) and that cutting him would free up 13 million dollars, his future in Florida darkens (a little). It is in any case the only cut that would make sense sportingly AND financially for the Jaguars.
The summer man
Calvin Ridley (WR)
With the good performances of Jacksonville, we would almost tend to forget that the Jaguars did not wait for the offseason to strengthen for 2023. Indeed, a few months ago, the Floridians set up a trade to recover the receiver of the Falcons Calvin Ridley. When he’s on the field, the former Alabama is a constant threat that would bring a different dimension to Doug Pederson’s offense.
Only problem (and not the least), Ridley is currently suspended by the league. And if he has already made the request, after a full season, for reinstatement, he is still awaiting the response from the NFL. After that, he will have to find the rhythm of the competition and above all adapt to a new environment, a new quarterback and a new system. But if all of that is done before Week 1, then Calvin Ridley could be a boon for Trevor Lawrence.
The main free agents
1. Evan Engram (TE)
2.Jawan Taylor (OT)
3. Arden Key (DL)
4. Marvin Jones (WR)
5. Dawuane Smoot (DL)
Others : Andrew Wingard (S), Chris Manhertz (TE), Adam Gotsis (DL), Corey Peters (DL), Dan Arnold (TE), Tre Herndon (CB)…
Last year, the Jaguars signed Evan Engram to a one-year contract. As if the leaders were waiting to be convinced to offer him to stay for several seasons. After 17 games, 766 yards and 4 TDs, the tight end has proven its value. Almost a little too much, since you’ll have to take out the checkbook to keep it. Despite a dense draft at this position, players such as Engram are not running around. Jacksonville could even use the franchise tag to keep the former Giant.
For the rest, Jawan Taylor should also claim a big contract. Not sure the Jaguars can afford to retain both. Regarding the other free agents, few big names or incumbents are on the way out. Managers therefore have no obligation to retain one of these names if prices rise too much.
Top 5 Needs
1. Tight end
3. defensive line
As we said, apart from two or three names, the Jaguars will probably not have many starters to replace during this offseason. They can therefore focus on adding depth to certain positions. That of tight end for example will need change. Regardless of whether Evan Engram stays or not, we’ll probably have to find other tight receivers because Chris Manhertz and Dan Arnold are free.
On the other side of the ball, the back lines as well as the defensive line need a refresh. There is no doubt that Trent Baalke will be able to find solutions to improve this workforce.
Andre Dillard (OT, Eagles)
We should not expect a huge coup in a month on the Jaguars side. Trent Baalke warned, now is the time to turn away from free agency to fill the holes in Florida:
We have a lot of young players who are on their first contract. As they go on, they will go into their second contract and it will be more and more difficult to use free agency as the main way to improve our team. We have to look at the draft, develop the players who are already there and retain as many of them as possible.
Unless there is a bluff, Jacksonville will therefore not target the large free agents available. Which doesn’t mean they can’t do good business. Like Andre Dillard, substitute tackle in Philadelphia, he might want to look for a starting place. Doug Pederson, his former coach in Pennsylvania, could make him one of the pillars of his line to guard against a possible departure of Jawan Taylor.
The new blood
Bryan Bresee (DL, Clemson)
With the 24th pick this season, Jacksonville can go in a lot of different directions. If we imagine that the Jaguars manage to keep Evan Engram and that the hole on the offensive line is plugged thanks to free agency, the leaders could then decide to use it on the defensive line.
For this, Bryan Bresee could be the ideal target. The Clemson defender was announced earlier in this draft a few weeks ago, but could well be outside the top 20. At that point, the Jaguars would be in ambush.
Alternative : Darnell Washington (TE, Georgia), Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame), Jaelyn Duncan (OT, Maryland)…