As Jacksonville Jaguars fans, we are all feeling good right about now, after the Jaguars dismantled the New England Patriots in gate-to-wire fashion. However, there is bad news following the game. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson has been lost for the season with a torn ACL. This is most unfortunate for a second-year player looking to ascend at one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL. I wish him a speedy recovery.
What will the Jaguars do in Robinson’s absence, though? Josh Wells stepped in for Robinson, and was serviceable — the offensive line didn’t allow a single sack. However, is he the long term solution? We’ve seen his struggles, but he may have to be based on who is available in the free agent market. Of course, the Jaguars can make a trade, but that’s a different conversation.
Consequently, the left tackle free agent market doesn’t look very strong, as expected. According to Spotrac, the available left tackles are the following players:
Hairston is a veteran who has played in 74 career games with 31 starts. He offers versatility as a swing tackle and has even played guard. However, he has medical concerns and that is the reason he has not been signed to any team. Hairston has dealt with what is believed to be blood clots and was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list for the San Diego Chargers last season.
Barnes, a former second-round pick for the Jaguars in 2005, is 36-years-old. He has played in 154 career games, with 117 starts — including 57 starts for Jacksonville. In 2016, Barnes was off-and-on the New Orleans Saints roster, but didn’t play in any contests. He appeared in three games for the Arizona Cardinals last season with zero starts. Bringing in an old player with very limited playing time over the past two seasons wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
Beatty is another player well over the age of 30 (33), but has plenty of playing experience (89 games, 63 starts). That said, also similar to Barnes, Beatty has not seen a lot of action lately, with just seven game appearances in 2016-2017 combined and zero starts in that span. Beatty is a member of two Super Bowl championship teams: last year’s Philadelphia Eagles and the 2011-2012 New York Giants. He did not start either game, however.
I am not going to pretend to know a whole lot about Becton, but he came into the league as an undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech in 2013 and latched onto the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad. He has spent the majority of his career bouncing from one team’s practice squad to the next ever since. He’s played in just six games in his career, five of which with the Chicago Bears in 2015. He is not a viable option.
Battle may be an intriguing option as a developmental project, but just like Becton, he is more than likely not going to be somebody the Jaguars look to bring in. Battle was drafted in the 2015 Supplemental Draft by the St. Louis Rams. He has also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. Battle has never appeared in an NFL game. Not going to happen in Jacksonville, folks.
I’ve also heard people throwing out the idea of moving Jermey Parnell to the left side and starting the rookie Will Richardson on the right side. I don’t see this happening at all. While Parnell spent a short amount of time at left tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, he has played exclusively at right tackle for the majority of his career, including each of the past five seasons. He has done well there with Jacksonville. It is a much more difficult task going from the right side to the left side— different technique, different footwork, usually playing against better pass rushers, etc. — than the average fan may think. Plus, is Richardson even ready to face NFL competition as a starter? That is not yet determined.
If the Jaguars are thinking about moving Parnell, which once again is doubtful, there are a few more available options at right tackle, but still, these guys are free agents for a reason. There are guards on the market who have experience playing tackle as well — and yes that includes Luke Joeckel, but I seriously doubt he’ll be returning to Duval.
So, the pickings are slim at one of the most important positions on the field. Whether the Jaguars stick with Wells, move Parnell over, make a trade or sign a free agent, things may be bleak here. It will be an area to monitor throughout the season.