As Gus Bradley and David Caldwell evaluate a two-win team, it is certain cuts, some that may surprise, and alterations to the roster will be aplenty.
The question was raised by a BCC commenter recently, who exactly will be safe during the Jaguars overhaul? Who are ‘the untouchables’?
Bryan Anger – Punter
Gene Smith did one thing right in his four years in Jacksonville, and that was draft the Jaguars one hell of a punter. Yeah, we could have gone after Russell Wilson, who ended up being drafted five picks after Anger, but where’s the fun in being competitive? What about Bernard Peirce who was taken with the 21st pick in the third round by the Ravens, becoming Ray Rice’s spell back down the stretch of Baltimore’s Super Bowl run? Could you imagine how awkward of a situation we’d have on our hands with third round pick Nick Foles and Blaine Gabbert, competing for starting quarterback and prettiest hair? God forbid they mix up their brushes.
Either way, Bryan Anger averaged 47.8 yards, which was sixth in the league, on 91 punts this past season. He’s being paid pennies on the dollar compared to the athletes surrounding him in the locker room. As anti-climactic as my first untouchable may be for you, the Banger will be at it again as he enters his second season and looks to become the franchises punter for the next ten plus years.
Maurice Jones-Drew – Running Back
This practically goes without saying, but to leave Drew off of this list just wouldn’t feel right. He’s owed roughly $4.55 million in base salary alone this year and has said openly that he will not be missing any offseason activities. When you take in to consideration that he’s not only second in franchise history in rushing yards, but also fourth in receiving yards, his salary does seem unfair. Toss in the fact that his workhorse style of play accounts for more than 75 percent of the Jaguars offense, and it looks like an even better deal.
The real issue with Jones-Drew is obviously the concern with his health and age, as is with every NFL running back. Drew turns 28 early this March and is still recovering from surgery on his injured foot, which he claims to be no more than a mid-foot fracture. Time will only tell if MoJo can earn another handsome contract before hanging up the cleats, but for now he will play a vital role in any success the Jaguars could possibly see in the 2013 season.
Montell Owens – Running Back/Fullback
Probably the most underappreciated player on the roster, Owens became the first ever Jaguar to make the pro bowl as a special teamer in 2010. The seven year vet is regarded around the league as one of the best at what he does when the ball is kicked up in the air. This year, Owens took a leap in a different direction however; as he played clean up duty during week 13 through 16, running the ball 42 times for 209 yards, a touchdown and a rushing average of five yards a carry.
Montell’s base salary over the last three years will see him collect roughly $6 million dollars, which would cut fullback salaries substantially if the Jaguars decide to let fullback Greg Jones walk, whose average salary over the past five years was around $3.5 million.
Daryl Smith - Linebacker
Daryl Smith is a model of consistency at the linebacker position and the unsung leader of the Jacksonville Jaguar’s defense. While Smith’s contract does expire this offseason, it is imperative the Jaguars resign Smith, even at the age of 30. Linebackers of this caliber can easily play in to their late 30’s, such as London Fletcher of the Redskins who just finished his 15th season.
Smith recently took over as the all-time tackle leader in Jacksonville Jaguars history with 923, yet when on the field still displays a relentless style. Once Smith finally made his way back on to the field in 2012, the defense did seem to gel a bit better, but it was much too late. Actually, up until last year, Smith had posted 100-plus tackle seasons for six straight year, another Jaguars franchise record.
Justin Blackmon – Wide Receiver
Blackmon came on hot late in the season, even with inconsistent play from the quarterback position, showing exactly why the Jaguars traded up to draft this talented weapon. Blackmon averaged 13.5 yards a catch in his rookie season, amassing 865 yards and five touchdowns grabs. The two-time All-American and Bilentnikoff award winner burst on to the scene in week 11 against the Houston, abusing the Texan’s secondary for 236 yards and a touchdown as the cherry on top.
Blackmon’s upside alone is enough to keep the kid on the Jaguars roster, but it also helps that he’s bound to an extremely affordable contract. As long as he can keep himself from running his mouth to strangers at a bar, this guy should be able to afford all of the snuff and reconstructive jaw surgery he’ll need one day from the dollar signs he’s about to see.
Cecil Shorts III – Wide Receiver
When a player launches themself from completely irrelevant to extreme team asset in one year like Shorts did this past season, it is a beautiful and rare thing, especially for Jaguars fans recently. Shorts went from two catches in 2011 to 55 catches for 979 yards and seven touchdowns, becoming the down-the-field receiving threat the Jaguars have been missing since the days of Thunder and Lightning. Short’s also had four 100 yard games and would have been the first Jaguars receiver since Jimmy Smith in 2005 to surpass 1,000 yards on the season.
The former fourth round pick out of Mount Union is due approximately $1.36 million dollars over the next two years of his contract, and will hopefully play it out in full while beginning to look for a new one in 2015. Hopefully this situation will jolt the memory of any front office member(s) who may still be around from the Mike Thomas contract debacle a few years back.
These six players are either the most important ingredients to the Jaguars future success or will hopefully continue to grow and develop past their own accomplishments this season, in turn becoming consistent playmakers. The Jaguars are in desperate need of a leader on the defensive side of the ball, consistency from the special teams and continued growth and development from the offensive side of the ball, most specifically in the quarterback and offensive line department. With a total of 22.1 million dollars in cap space, the Jaguars will have to make some decisions, but certainly have the means to not only take care of their own, but add depth and potential starters through free agency.