When the Jaguars started 0-8 with all 8 losses coming by double digits, it looked like they were on their way to all-time bad status and maybe a 0-16 season. They didn’t finish quite that bad, as they went 4-4 after the bye to finish 4-12, but I still think this was the worst team in the NFL. They finished dead last in DVOA and point differential, with 10 of their 12 losses coming by double digits and their 4-12 record was buoyed by a 4-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Their 4 wins came against teams that finished a combined 15-49.
All those wins really did was play them out of the #1 pick when they’re the team that probably needed it the most because of their desperate need for a franchise quarterback. They’ll still be able to get a top level quarterback prospect at #3, but you obviously prefer to have the #1 pick. If they were to hit a homerun on a quarterback at 3 and get a young franchise quarterback, it would obviously go a long way towards repairing this franchise, as that’s the quickest way to turn around a team.
However, that’s far from their only problem. They need help on the offensive line and on defense. Gus Bradley did a solid job in his first year on the job coaching up some replacement level starters on defense like Sen’Derrick Marks, Alan Ball, and Will Blackmon, but he wasn’t working with much as this cupboard was left pretty bare by ex-GM Gene Smith. The good news is they’ll have among the most cap space in the league and can have even more if they cut a few underperforming veterans. The problem is that Jacksonville has never been a prime destination for free agents and with the team in shambles, that won’t change.
Blaine Gabbert was a JaMarcus Russell/Ryan Leaf level bust as the 10th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s made 27 starts in 3 years, won 5 of them, while completing 53.3% of his passes for 5.61 YPA, 22 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions, a quarterback rating of 66.4. He doesn’t even resemble an NFL backup at this point. Chad Henne was the starter for the majority of the 2013 season, leading one of the NFL’s worst offenses and completing 60.6% of his passes for an average of 6.44 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He could be a solid backup somewhere, but he has more career interceptions (62) than touchdowns (55). The Jaguars have reportedly been scouting quarterbacks all season and that’s almost certainly where they’re going at the top of the draft. There might not be a team that needs one more.
The Jaguars had a league worst 31 sacks this season and sack leader Jason Babin is unlikely to be back next season, owed 6 million in his age 34 season. That would leave Andre Branch and Tyson Alualu on the outside, both of whom are solid run stoppers that can’t do anything as pass rushers. They need a dominant edge rusher.
Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent heading into his age 29 season. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back. The Jaguars want to get younger at the position and MJD will want to go to a contender and somewhere where he’ll have more help. He averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2013 and has scored just 6 times in the last 2 seasons as a result of the lack of talent around him.
Will Rackley at left guard is a disgrace. The 2011 3rd round pick was Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked guard in 2011, missed the entire 2012 season, and was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked guard in 2013. Mike Brewster filled in for him from time to time this season and wasn’t terrible, but he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst guard in more significant action in 2012, so I don’t know how much you can trust him.
The Jaguars drafted Luke Joeckel 2nd overall in 2013 to build around the quarterback position. He and Eugene Monroe appeared to make offensive tackle the strength of the team. However, Monroe was traded mid-season in his contract year, while Joeckel struggled before breaking his ankle and going on injured reserve. Joeckel will be back at left tackle next season, but they need someone to bookend him. Cameron Bradfield, who played both right and left tackle this season, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked offensive tackle. He’s a free agent anyway. Austin Pasztor filled in at right tackle and he wasn’t much better. It’s part of the reason why they allowed 50 sacks, 2nd worst in the NFL.
Brad Meester has retired so the Jaguars will need a new center. Mike Brewster and Will Rackley are both internal options, but they’ve both struggled mightily thus far in their career. Either one of them could be better at center, but they should probably bring someone else in this off-season.
Gus Bradley did a good job of coaching up Sen’Derrick Marks this season and the Jaguars extended him. They need help next to him at defensive tackle though. Roy Miller and Brandon Deaderick both struggled mightily and the latter is a free agent. The former could be a cap casualty if they’re unhappy with his performance and either way they need another defensive tackle in the mix.
The Jaguars cornerback trio of Alan Ball, Will Blackmon, and Dwayne Gratz actually impressed this season. All three of them graded out above average on Pro Football Focus. However, Blackmon is a free agent, while Alan Ball has been very inconsistent in the past so I don’t know how much you can trust him going forward. They could add another cornerback in the later rounds.
Paul Posluszny had a bunch of tackles last season, but don’t let that mislead you. Almost every play ends in a tackle so somehow had to have a bunch of tackles on the Jaguars. That doesn’t mean he’s good. He was Pro Football Focus’ 42nd ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. He’s owed 7.45 million in 2014, which will make him one of the highest paid middle linebackers in the NFL and the Jaguars can save 5.5 million in the cap by letting him go. In normal circumstances, they let him go. However, the Jaguars aren’t exactly pressed for cap space so they might shy away from cutting a veteran leader. If they do cut him, they’ll need a replacement.
Marcedes Lewis is one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL. He’ll make 6.7 million in 2014 and the Jaguars can save on the cap 5.45 million by cutting him. He hasn’t lived up to his 58/700/10 season in 2010, which got him the contract. In the last 3 seasons, he’s averaged 39 catches for 453 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s a solid blocker and his receiving numbers are affected by the quarterback situation. Like with Posluszny, in normal circumstances, he’s probably gets cut, but the Jaguars aren’t pressed for cap space and might not want to cut one of the few solid starters they have. If they do, they’ll need to replace him.
The Jaguars had a pair of rookie safeties in 2013, John Cyprien and Josh Evans. Both of them graded out as among Pro Football Focus’ worst safeties, ranking 84th and 78th respectively out of 86 eligible. The Jaguars like both of them and they’ll probably return in 2014 as starters, especially Cyprien, a 2nd round pick who played much better in the 2nd half of the season, but Evans was just a 6th round pick and the Jaguars could add some competition.
Geno Hayes was Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker out of 35 eligible and the Jaguars can save a little bit of cap space by cutting him, but the Jaguars have other needs so this one might go unaddressed. If they do cut Hayes, he probably wouldn’t be hard to upgrade though.
Key Free Agents
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew has seen a sharp fall from the 2011 season in which he led the NFL in rushing, with 1606 yards and 8 touchdowns on 343 carries. He missed 10 games in 2012 and only had 86 carries, which he took for 484 yards and a touchdown. This past year was even worse, as he rushed for 803 yards and 5 touchdowns on 234 carries, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. He could be better with more talent around him, but he’s also going into his age 29 season with 1804 career carries and a recent history of significant injury so it’s not like he’ll be a hot commodity on the open market. He’ll probably be looking to sign with a contender and could get a one or two year deal. There’s almost no chance he returns to Jacksonville at this point in his career.
CB Will Blackmon
Will Blackmon played a total of 31 snaps from 2009-2012 and didn’t play at all in 2012. There’s a reason the Jaguars were able to sign him right before the season started for the veteran’s minimum. However, he somehow played pretty solid this season, a testament to Gus Bradley’s ability to coach up defensive backs. He was Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked cornerback and played 682 snaps. Much of that was run grade as he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked run stopping cornerback, but he also had an average grade in coverage. The Jaguars should be able to bring him back cheap.
QB Chad Henne
A 2nd round pick in 2008, Chad Henne has never been able to establish himself as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He’s completed 59.5% of his passes for an average of 6.63 YPA, 55 touchdowns, and 62 interceptions, a 75.3 QB rating. He’s a solid backup though so he could get a decent amount of money somewhere. He should be looking for contracts in the 2-3 million dollar range this off-season.
OT Cameron Bradfield
A swing tackle pressed into action this season, first at right tackle and then at the blindside, Cameron Bradfield was one of the worst offensive tackles in the league this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked player at his position. He was a little bit better in 2012 as the starting right tackle, but the Jaguars still drafted Luke Joeckel to replace him. It’s clear they don’t view him as a starting caliber player and that’s probably an accurate assessment. He should try to find swing tackle work somewhere.
RB Jordan Todman
Jordan Todman was given an opportunity to establish himself as a lead back type player when Maurice Jones-Drew missed time with injury down the stretch, rushing for 109 yards on 25 carries in one game. The 2011 6th round pick only averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the season though. Part of that was the lack of talent around him, but the Jaguars shouldn’t feel comfortable bringing him back as the lead back.
C Brad Meester
A 2000 2nd round pick, Brad Meester played 14 seasons and made 209 starts at center for the Jaguars. However, he’s expected to retire this off-season. It’s coming at a good time. He’ll be 37 in March and struggled in each of the last two seasons, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd and 6th worst ranked center in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Cap Casualty Candidates
DE Jason Babin
The Jaguars can save 6.175 million by cutting Jason Babin and there would be no cap hit. They shouldn’t hesitate. He did have 8 sacks last season and graded out above average as a pass rusher, but he struggled mightily against the run and also committed 11 penalties. He’s also going into his age 34 season. Babin also has the option to make himself a free agent so the Jaguars might not even have to do anything to get him and his cap number off the books.
RB Justin Forsett
The Jaguars will only save 1.15 million on the cap by cutting Justin Forsett, but considering the 3rd string running back played just 100 snaps and had 6 carries this year, there’s not much use in keeping him when they can get some savings by letting him go. Reports already say he’s as good as gone.
TE Marcedes Lewis
I already mentioned Marcedes Lewis. He’ll make 6.7 million in 2014 and the Jaguars can cap 5.45 million by cutting him. He hasn’t lived up to his 58/700/10 season in 2010, which got him the contract. In the last 3 seasons, he’s averaged 39 catches for 453 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s a solid blocker and his receiving numbers are affected by the quarterback situation. In normal circumstances, he’s probably gets cut, but the Jaguars aren’t pressed for cap space and might not want to cut one of the few solid starters they have.
MLB Paul Posluszny
I already mentioned Paul Posluszny. Paul Posluszny had a bunch of tackles last season, but don’t let that mislead you. Almost every play ends in a tackle so somehow had to have a bunch of tackles on the Jaguars. That doesn’t mean he’s good. He was Pro Football Focus’ 42nd ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. He’s owed 7.45 million in 2014, which will make him one of the highest paid middle linebackers in the NFL and the Jaguars can save 5.5 million in the cap by letting him go. In normal circumstances, they let him go. However, the Jaguars aren’t exactly pressed for cap space so they might shy away from cutting a veteran leader.