First and foremost: Besides any reports that are out there, I have no additional information on the entire Branden Albert fiasco the Jaguars have faced all offseason. Any takes I have produced on the situation are simply that: Takes — My personal opinion.
On a second note: This is so Jaguars, right?
Before I really dive into my takes on the situation, let’s recall exactly what all has happened between Albert and the Jaguars during the 2017 offseason.
- Prior to the Miami Dolphins initial plan of releasing him, the Jaguars swooped in and traded a conditional 2018 seventh round pick to the Dolphins for the 32 year old left tackle.
- Once a member of the Jaguars, Albert held out of team meetings and OTA’s while looking for a new contract. Considering there is no guaranteed money on Albert’s contract, it’s safe to assume Albert was looking for a percentage of guaranteed money in case he were to be released by the teams.
- The Jaguars drafted their “left tackle of the future” in Cam Robinson in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, The team has been adamant in saying that they wanted him to strictly play left tackle.
- Albert returned to the team for mini-camp in June, without a re-negotiated deal. It appeared that all of the drama was over and that the competition for the left tackle job was set to begin.
- Albert had a poor start to training camp, and announced his retirement on Monday, July 31st.
- Last night, Albert announced his intentions to return to the Jaguars just seven days after retiring.
The Jaguars traded for Albert to be Kelvin Beachum’s replacement at left tackle, when they could have waited for Albert to have been cut by the Dolphins — The Dolphins initial intention — and not have had to give up a draft pick for him. In return, they likely could have signed him to a deal that was friendly to both the team’s and Albert’s desires.
Instead, here we are. If the Jaguars accept Albert back from his retirement, they will inherit a giant P.R. disaster that goes against their new “toughness” M.O.; Going against their entire stance on Albert that they played before he returned to the team for mini-camp.
Essentially, the Jaguars banked on one of an aging, injury prone player or a rookie to immediately replace Beachum. However, Beachum was never a huge liability to the team in his one year as a Jaguar — Whereas the left guard position was.
I have a hunch, and I’m sure many Jaguars fans will agree with me at my hunch’s base: The loser of the left tackle battle was going to start the season at left guard, even though Albert stated he would only play guard if “compensated properly” for it, and even though the team has been stern about Robinson being a left tackle.
My hunch goes a step further than the above broad assumption, however: I think the Jaguars were going to “force” Albert to be the winner of the left tackle position, and plug Robinson in at left guard — Going against their “Robinson is a left tackle” campaign.
I believe this for a couple reasons: One being that the team seems too focused on a 32 year old left tackle with a relatively small dead cap hit of $3.4 million, who hasn’t played a full season since 2011, to not value him at his natural position — The other being that the Jaguars aren’t willing to “hand” Robinson the starting gig, when he is clearly the best option at left tackle going forward.
This sounds crazy, because Robinson hasn’t played a snap at guard during Jaguars training camp. But, as fans of this team know, crazier things have happened.
The bottom line is: This entire situation is a mess for the Jaguars, and it could have been avoided in different ways. As I stated before, Albert could have been a Jaguar under cleaner, friendlier circumstances.
The Jaguars also had at least three solid opportunities this offseason to fix their hole at left guard without relying on Albert or Robinson to potentially slide to the position. The 2017 free agency class was top-heavy with offensive guards, such as Kevin Zeitler, T.J. Lang, Larry Warford, and Ronald Leary. The Jaguars reportedly were interested in Zeitler, but balked during the free agency period, apparently to focus on Calais Campbell.
Sure, Campbell was an awesome signing, but considering the Jaguars mountain of cap space, the team could have afforded both players, even after signing A.J. Bouye and Barry Church. I don’t buy “focusing on Campbell” as an excuse.
When the draft came along, the Jaguars had several chances to draft a capable guard to start on the left side, specifically in the third and fourth rounds. Selecting Cam Robinson over a guard in the second round was fine, as they added their left tackle of the future. However, selecting a backup defensive end over Dan Feeney in the third round and a No. 4 receiver in Dede Westbrook over Dorian Johnson in the fourth round were both head-shaking moves.
Now, I’m not saying Smoot and Westbrook aren’t valuable players. They are more than likely going to be contributors to this team. But, considering the left guard position was, and is, a major position of need for this Jaguars team, drafting backups and role players over a capable starter at guard when given two opportunities to do so was dumb.
All in all, the Jaguars have put themselves into this sticky situation when there were several opportunities they passed on that would avoided the drama. Now, none of this drama could have been projected in the first place, but even at its base: The Jaguars needed to upgrade their offensive line, specifically left guard, and instead they added two left tackles and decided to let the situation heal itself.
Instead of healing itself, however, it appears that the situation’s wound is getting deeper.