If you told me that the Jacksonville Jaguars would finish in the cellar of the AFC South and the Colts would be the only divisional team standing during the divisional round of the playoffs, I would have called you a lunatic.
The Jaguars have arguably had their most disappointing season in franchise history, and many would blame their shortcomings on a rash of injuries that especially decimated the offensive side of the football. While injuries certainly were a big factor, if you really read between the lines and put any stock in the whispers from local media, injuries may not be as much to blame as a crack in the culture.
The decisions by ownership to retain Tom Coughlin, Dave Caldwell, Doug Marrone, and what appears to be Todd Wash while simultaneously releasing respected position coaches such as Pat Flaherty, Perry Fewell, Marion Hobby and Tyrone Wheatley suggests (to me, anyway) that the Jaguars feel the issue is with the players in the locker room and not the coaches in charge, which means we can see a purge in the offseason in an attempt to reset the culture.
We’ve already heard rumblings alluding to the movement of some key players.
Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman have said that they would move Leonard Fournette for a Day 3 draft pick.
Rick Ballou has insinuated on the radio that Telvin Smith is likely to be moved.
John Oehser listed Tashaun Gipson’s odds to be on the team in 2019 as 50-50.
Ian Rapoport has already reported that Malik Jackson and Jermey Parnell are both likely to be released if they can’t be moved.
The Jaguars will need to make some moves just to get under the cap and erase some of the sins of their Blake Bortles debacle, but moving all those players mentioned above is less about cap viability and more about setting a tone in the locker room and making a statement that dissent from discipline will not be tolerated. With the Jaguars likely making a move up in the draft to get their franchise quarterback who may or may not be nicknamed after a fictional Disney lion cub, they will need all the ammunition they can get to move up.
So where could some of these players end up and what could they get for them?
Proposed Trade: San Francisco 49ers for 4th Round Pick (105th overall)
After signing a 4 year, $45 million contract with the Jaguars, Smith’s level of play has not matched his compensation this year. There has been some conjecture about Myles Jack possibly moving over to the weak side linebacker position (his more natural position and what he played at UCLA) and the Jaguars looking for a more traditional middle linebacker.
The 49ers are looking for a quick fix to solve their Reuben Foster swing and miss, and with rookie Fred Warner looking like he could be a solution in the middle, Smith would be a perfect weak side linebacker in their scheme. Flush with ~$58 million in cap space for 2019, Smith would re-unite with former Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh, whom he has a close relationship with. Although compensation is a 4th rounder on paper, it’s close to a 3rd rounder with San Francisco picking near the top, and the pick could be later used to package and move up for a quarterback.
Proposed Trade: Dallas Cowboys for 4th Round Pick (136th overall)
Gipson has been an above-average starter for the Jaguars, but if they can get some decent value for him, they should listen. Jarrod Wilson has quietly been very good filling in as a starter over the last few weeks of the season, and while Gipson is a better player, I’m not sure that he is $8.5 million better, if that makes sense (Gipson has a $9 million cap hit next year while Wilson’s cap hit is $631,000).
Dallas is slated to receive an extra fourth round compensatory pick and the Cowboys defense is really just a free safety away from being a top five unit. The free safety crop in this draft class is relatively weak, and while they can try to throw huge money at an Earl Thomas in free agency with their ~$50 million in projected cap space before a Demarcus Lawrence re-signing, Gipson might be a better value. Another team to consider is the Green Bay Packers, as Gipson had a Pro Bowl season under Mike Pettine in Cleveland. The Packers also have two fourth rounders and they have a hole at the position after trading away Haha Clinton-Dix before the deadline.
Proposed Trade: Cleveland Browns for 5th Round Pick (145th overall)
Give us our Carlos Hyde pick back! Jackson has been listed as a player that is likely to be released if the Jaguars can’t find a buyer, but there is no reason they can’t get some kind of compensation for a player who is just one year removed from a Pro Bowl appearance and a memorable Week 17 performance to go out on.
The Browns have some studs on the defensive line with Myles Garrett on the edge and Larry Ogunjobi inside, but Malik Jackson would give them another interior penetrator that could collapse the pocket and take some of the double teams away from Ogunjobi. Jackson’s contract doesn’t have much dead money on it after this year, and with ~$80 million in projected cap room for the Browns, this would be a drop in the bucket for 2019. Factor in that the Browns have three fifth round picks, and this deal makes a lot of sense for them. Another landing spot to keep an eye on – re-uniting with Gus Bradley in Los Angeles.
Proposed Trade: Denver Broncos for 7th Round Pick (226th overall)
I’m not a huge proponent of trading away quality depth players for throw away draft picks, but as the longest-tenured player on the Jaguars, I can see Abry Jones asking for an opportunity to start for another team. Jones has a $4 million cap hit and could be another player they can sacrifice to trim up some of the fat.
The Broncos have zero nose tackles under contract for 2019. None. Jones could essentially slide right in to a starting role in their 3-4 defense immediately, and if they end up hiring Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as head coach, Jones could be a huge benefactor.
Proposed Trade: Part of trade bundle to Oakland Raiders for 1st Round Pick (4th overall)
John Oehser recently commented on the 1010XL that the Jaguars may essentially be stuck with Fournette because the sense he was getting is that the value teams would offer for him would be too low to make it worth parting with him. While this is valid and I tend to agree, I do believe the Jaguars have reached the point of no return with Fournette after taking away his guarantees. Fournette even unfollowed the Jaguars on his social media accounts, and I don’t think even the offered help from Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew can fix that level of petty.
Rather than trying to trade Fournette at a severe discount, my belief is the best route would be using him as a bargaining chip as part of the bundle in a trade up for the quarterback. The team that makes the most sense is Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders, as Gruden loves coaching reclamation projects and new general manager Mike Mayock was a big fan of Fournette before the 2017 draft.
The Raiders are lacking a starting-caliber power back on the roster next year with only Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III under contract and Fournette would certainly help as a short yardage/red zone back. The trade would certainly need to also include draft picks, likely the 2020 first rounder, but if the Jaguars can reload some picks with some of the moves above, that would certainly help.
So what do you think? Would you take the proposed compensation for the players above? Are there any other players you would move? Let us know in the comments below!