Since their first season in 1995 in the NFL expansion, the 2021 free agency period and offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the most important in franchise history. The Jaguars are making critical decisions on upcoming free agents in 2021 and plotting their draft capital usage. New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer will need to build a team around his quarterback of the future.
The Jacksonville Jaguars must be careful in their free agency approach in 2021
Anyone who has ever played a poker game or with friends in a tournament knows that you can’t get foolish once you have the largest chip count. Appropriate and timely spending is the key to building sustained success when given the opportunity.
The Jaguars come to the offseason table with the biggest chip stack in 2021. According to Over the Cap, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a projected cap space of $73.369 million — the highest total in the NFL. Not only do they have the cash, but they have the picks to go along with it.
What Jacksonville can’t do is spend like drunken sailors and price themselves out of depth when shooting for a few elite players. Yes, they will have to be on the higher end of negotiations. Due to their lack of success, players aren’t going to take a discount to play for them that they might do for a team knocking on the Super Bowl’s door. An example of this is when free agents flocked to Tampa Bay after signing Tom Brady.
Jacksonville has the draft capital to aid in their rebuild
Thanks to a 1-15 record, Jacksonville has an additional ace up their sleeve, the number one overall selection in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. In total, the Jaguars have four picks inside the first two rounds of the draft.
Structuring the roster around the QB of the future
Most of the football world and the 31 other teams believe that pick will be QB Trevor Lawrence. Touted as the best prospect since Peyton Manning by some pundits, it seems as if the selection has already been turned in.
However, newly acquired head coach Urban Meyer started the smokescreens already. When asked in his opening press conference, he described the difficulty of the decision and its importance. He also stated that Ohio State QB Justin Fields, BYU QB Zach Wilson, and Lawrence are all in play.
Even if, somehow, it is not Trevor Lawrence under center come 2021’s opening week, the Jaguars need to get the roster set and make decisions on several players as they enter free agency.
While not big free agency names, the offensive depth needs tweaked by the Jacksonville Jaguars
When you go 1-15, you don’t usually have some massive names on your roster; that goes the same for the Jaguars.
RB Chris Thompson is not a household name but is one Jacksonville might not want to let go in free agency. Thompson might have been the most exciting signings in the Jaguars’ 2020 free agency period. It seemed Thompson would get the passing work after seeing the deterioration of the relationship with Leonard Fournette. He also brought a familiarity with Jay Gruden from his time in Washington.
No one knew the role James Robinson was going to play and ended up having one of the best rookie seasons of all time for an undrafted free agent.
Thompson was the Jaguars’ primary backup running back early in the season before he was placed on the Injured Reserve list with a back injury. Anytime Robinson was off the field, it highlighted the lack of positional depth. While guys like Dare Ogunbowale (2021 UFA) and Devine Ozigbo were able to fill in, the team likely isn’t comfortable relying on them as key contributors.
Chris Thompson was signed for a one-year deal, and another prove-it deal could be enough to bring him back.
Numerous pass catchers for Jacksonville are going to be free agents in 2021
Bring in a QB is one thing, but who will he throw to during the game? Yes, they have D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault, but it’s murky at best beyond them.
Hitting free agency is WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, WR Dede Westbrook, TE Tyler Eifert, and TE James O’Shaughnessy. Together, this group combined for 250 targets, 160 receptions, 1,742 yards, and 9 touchdowns. If you combine them along with Thompson and Ogunbowale, who are free agents in 2021, Jacksonville has 50% of its targets, 49% of its receptions and yards, and 40% of its scoring offense leaving.
The likeliest candidate to come back is Keelan Cole. He was second on the team in targets and yards in 2020 and, given his age (28), still has several productive years ahead as the team’s WR3/4.
DE Dawuane Smoot leads the defensive free agents the Jacksonville Jaguars need to bring back
The Jaguars’ defense, and especially the defensive line, was abysmal last season. Routinely getting beat off the ball, teams were able to do about anything they wanted. The Jaguars gave up 6.3 yards per play (tied for 32nd), last in QB hurry percentage (6.9%), and allowed 4.83 yards per carry to running backs (28th). Josh Allen, who dealt with injuries in 2020, exacerbated K’Lavon Chaisson’s inability to make a difference play in and play out.
If there is one player who played at a level worthy of a new contract, it’s DE Dawuane Smoot. Now 25 years old, Smoot played on 59% of the defensive snaps in 2020 and, over the past two seasons, has served as a solid depth piece for Jacksonville. He has posted 11.5 sacks, 66 total tackles, and two forced fumbles in the last two seasons.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 offensive free agents
WR Keelan Cole, 28
WR Chris Conley, 29
TE Tyler Eifert, 31
QB Mike Glennon, 32
T Derwin Gray, 26
T K.C. McDermott, 25
TE James O’Shaughnessy, 29
RB Dare Ogunbowale, 27
T Cam Robinson, 26
TE Eric Saubert, 27
C Tyler Shatley, 30
RB Chris Thompson, 31
WR Dede Westbrook, 28
Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
LB Dakota Allen, 26
P Dustin Colquitt, 39
LB Mamalei Correa, 27
DT Daniel Ekuale, 27
DE Adam Gotsis, 29
CB D.J. Hayden, 31
CB Tre Herndon, 25
DT Abry Jones, 27
S Josh Jones, 27
CB Sidney Jones, 25
LB Aaron Lynch, 28
CB Greg Mabin, 27
DT Daniel Ross, 28
DE Dawuane Smoot, 26
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