With nothing left to play for but pride and draft position, our minds are already starting to shift toward the offseason. While it is unclear what will happen to the current regime, the Jaguars will have some important things to address when it comes to the future of their roster. The 2014 draft class will be eligible for extensions, and for the first time in awhile, the Jaguars have several players worth discussing whether to extend or not.
Up until the Allen Hurns extension, it felt like forever since the Jaguars had extended a decent size contract to a draft pick. While a Tyson Alualu would be an example, they only invested about 6 million in him, no where near a big size investment.
Good teams retain their own players, and hopefully the Jaguars start to be able to do so, and dipping less into the free agency pool, where things can be hit and miss, and prices are sky high. Brandon Linder, Telvin Smith, and Allen Robinson are all players who will absolutely be worth extending, and should be spending the prime of their careers in Jacksonville.
I'll focus on Linder and Smith in this article, because I feel Robinson's case has so many levels on its own.
Lets start off with Brandon Linder, who has been the Jaguars most consistent offensive lineman since he was drafted. Many thought he was picked a little early, but Linder was able to step in right away and become an impact player on an otherwise below average offensive line.
Linder's 2015 season was taken away for the most part to injury, and a change of position from guard to center left a lot of questions about him going into his third year. Linder has answered those questions though, as he has been the Jaguars best offensive lineman this season, and a top 5 center according to Pro Football Focus.
Now, I know PFF is not the word of god when it comes to football, and a lot of their evaluations can be flawed, but I find they grade offensive lineman pretty well, and they are in love with Linder. And why not? Linder is excellent in pass protection, and while his run blocking isn't elite, he does well compared to other centers in the league.
So what kind of contract would Linder demand? I tried to find comparisons of guards or centers extended before the hit the open market, because as we all know, the open market can inflate prices a lot. Players after their third season are looking for security, and are sometimes wiling to give up potential money for the guarantee of a life changing contract.
Jason Kelce's contract extension is the best comparison I can come up with, as Kelce landed a 7 year, $37 million dollar extension. While the years might not be as long the 5-6 annual average value of the deal is around the ballpark range it could take to sign Linder. You also have to account for the fact that the cap has rose over 20 million dollars since then, as the projected cap for 2017 would be $166 million, with room to go even higher if the revenue is higher than expected. Considering all of the economics of it, and a slightly raised AAV, would a 5 year, $33 million dollar deal with 14 million guaranteed get it done? That is where i'd start, and see where I can get.
In a league where good offensive lineman are hard to find, keeping your own, especially when you struggle to find them, is essential. Especially if Dave Caldwell remains the GM, I'd be shocked if Linder didn't get an extension this offseason.
Now we move onto Telvin Smith, who is the most fun player to watch on the whole team. The energy he brings game in, and game out is unmatched. Smith is constantly in almost every play, and his tenaciousness makes you forget he is an undersized linebacker. Smith ranks first this year among NFL linebackers with 13 tackles for loss, showing now only can he collect tackles, but he makes big plays for loss, forcing the other team into tough circumstances.
What is a comparable contract for Telvin Smith? This one is a little bit harder, because of Smith position as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Over half the teams in the league don't run 4-3 defenses, so the comparables are harder to find. However, look no further than to KJ Wright's extension in Seattle, who received a 4 year, $28 million dollar deal. DeAndre Levy of the Detroit Lions had a similar extension, signing for 4 years, 33 million a year later than Wright.
Again, accounting for inflation for the cap and prices, a 4 year, $34 million dollar deal would be around the range Smith might demand. I would say that would be a good deal for the Jaguars, as it locks up their best defender for the 4 prime years of his career.
Again to note, both players would probably get more if they were on the open market, so it is hard to compare their contracts to those who signed in free agency.
So what do you guys think? Would you want to extend Linder and Smith? Are these deals good deals? Are the too high? Too low? What would your limit be? These will be important discussions the Jaguars will have to have if they want to keep some of this core in tact.