New GM, new coach, new quarterback? No problem.
This team needs a full refresh. Heck, this CITY needs a full refresh. Despite amazing fan support, the Jaguars have reached a new low in 2013, and it's time to hit the detonator. Blow it up. Hire a new general manager. Hire a new head coach. Start all over. Shad Khan seems like a smart businessman, and this will be his first real test as owner of the Jaguars: does he know when to let people go and bring in new blood?
There are so many changes that need to be made that it's hard to know where to start. I will start with more sweeping organizational changes, and then get more specific with free agent and draft recommendations. Let's get to it!
For FAR too long, the Jaguars have embraced the "old school" philosophy. Run the ball, stop the run, and play "smash-mouth" football. Win the battle of field position and don't make mistakes on defense. Do what you want to do (establish your will) as opposed to looking for matchups.
It's time for that to end.
Granted, parts of that philosophy have a place in today's NFL, but the run-first mentality absolutely does not. This is a passing league. Instead of lining up in power formation and running the ball down teams' throats, the most effective offenses look for matchups they can consistently win. Aaron Hernandez lining up in the slot is a matchup the Patriots can exploit over and over again. Randall Cobb out of the backfield. Danny Amendola beating corners in space with his quickness. It's all about finding battles you can win and getting the ball to those spots.
The team's philosophy should be to look for the best possible matchups and exploit them consistently. When the defense finds a way to limit that matchup's potential, another mismatch should appear. Ignoring mismatches is the equivalent to eschewing calculators in favor of pencil and paper; the best possible case is that you get the same answer as you would if you used the calculator.
Another thing the Jaguars should look into is the possibility of switching to a 3-4 defense. I believe a 3-4 better plays to the strengths of Tyson Alualu, Austen Lane, and Andre Branch, three of the defensive front seven under contract for next year. It may not be ideal for Paul Posluszny and Jeremy Mincey, but those aren't players you should build a defensive scheme around. There seems to be a lot more talent available for the 3-4 than the 4-3.
In order, my top three candidates are:
- Tom Gamble, San Francisco 49ers Director of Player Personnel
- John Dorsey, Green Bay Packers Director of Football Operations
- Marc Ross, New York Giants Director of College Scouting
I don't want to go into detail on these candidates, especially when Adam Caplan did such a great job of it. That said, Tom Gamble would be my guy. Open the bank vault and let him name his price. It's time for a GM with a good track record, and Gamble's is stellar.
In order, my top candidates are:
- Chip Kelly, Oregon Ducks Head Coach
- Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator
- Kyle Shanahan, Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator
- Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator
Kelly is the golden goose, but I'd love any of these guys. They seem more interested in exploiting matchups than lining it up and running it down the opposition's throat, and though Kelly's offenses at Oregon have been more run-oriented, I fully believe he could make a seamless transition to the NFL's pass-first style.
I would make the switch to the 3-4 defense. First, I would re-sign the following unrestricted free agents:
- Daryl Smith, OLB - 5 years, $30 million, $12 million guaranteed. I think Smith fits in any defense; in a 3-4, he could be an outstanding inside linebacker or even move outside and rush the passer more often.
That's it. Unrestricted free agents I would allow to leave:
- Terrance Knighton, DT - Cost will exceed likely level of performance
- Derek Cox, CB - Cost is too high for injury history
- Rashad Jennings, RB - Performance wasn't worth it
- Eben Britton, OG/OT - Performance wasn't worth it
- Greg Jones, FB - Fullbacks just aren't worth that much anymore and aren't hard to find
- Rashean Mathis, CB - Injury risk, getting older. Wouldn't be opposed to a one-year deal again
- Brad Meester, C - Performance wasn't worth it
Next comes roster moves. I would cut the following players:
- Aaron Ross, CB - Terrible performance, too much money. Get a young guy instead.
- Jeremy Mincey, DE - Hasn't really played well and doesn't really fit in a 3-4 at all. It would be worth trying to trade him, but he probably wouldn't bring any sort of return.
- Jason Babin, DE - Doesn't fit in a 3-4 at all.
I would then try to trade Maurice Jones-Drew for 3rd and 5th-round picks. I love the guy, but he's not getting a new deal and it's time to move on while he still has value.
After the cuts, I would sign the following players in free agency:
- Sebastian Vollmer, OT, New England Patriots: 5 years, $35 million, $12 million guaranteed - Vollmer would solidify the right side of the Jaguars' line for years, and if Eugene Monroe's play dropped off Vollmer could likely move over to left tackle. Contract terms based on the contract of Eric Winston.
- James Casey, FB/TE, Houston Texans: 5 years, $20 million, $7 million guaranteed - Casey is a move tight end/fullback that would fit well in any offense designed to create mismatches. Also, stealing him would hurt a division rival, so that's a bonus. Contract terms based on the contracts of John Carlson and Vonta Leach combined.
- Greg Toler, CB, Arizona Cardinals: 4 years, $16 million, $6 million guaranteed - Toler has played well in limited time, and could blossom in a bigger role. Contract terms based on the contract of Richard Marshall.
- Mike DeVito, DE, New York Jets: 3 years, $12 million, $5 million guaranteed - DeVito is a solid 3-4 defensive end who would help keep the position warm for a young player to potentially take over. Think Rob Meier. Contract terms based on the contract of Randy Starks.
- Justin Forsett, RB, Houston Texans: 2 years, $5 million, $1.5 million guaranteed - Forsett would give the Jaguars a solid running back option for relatively cheap. He's an underrated player who is an underrated runner, can catch the ball, and can even return kicks. Contract terms based on the contract of Brandon Jackson.
With the second overall pick, the Jaguars select...
1st - Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
2nd - Zac Dysert, QB, Miami of Ohio
I haven't done enough draft work to go further than that, but those are the only ones that would really have any shot to start anyway.
The new roster
RB - Justin Forsett, Montell Owens, Draft Pick
FB - James Casey, Montell Owens
WR - Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Draft Pick
TE - Marcedes Lewis, James Casey
OT - Eugene Monroe, Sebastian Vollmer
OC - Mike Brewster
DE - Mike DeVito, Tyson Alualu, Austen Lane
NT - C. J. Mosley, Draft Pick
OLB - Dion Jordan, Andre Branch, Draft Pick, John Chick, Draft Pick
ILB - Daryl Smith, Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen
CB - Greg Toler, Draft Pick, Mike Harris, Kevin Rutland
And that's it. The Jaguars would have three extra picks to work with: the 3rd and 5th-rounders from the MJD deal, and the 5th from the Mike Thomas deal. With ten picks, Gamble would be able to address many positions on the roster, possibly even trading down at some point to accumulate more picks. An infusion of young players coupled with a new philosophy should be a step in the right direction. The pass rush still isn't very good, and the secondary stinks, but it's time for some new blood in both spots. All in all, this is what I would do.
What do you think?