The Jaguars will have a major decision to make at its receiver position following the season. Not only will star receiver DJ Chark Jr. be up for an extension, Keelan Cole, the team’s fourth-year undrafted standout from Kentucky-Wesleyan has emerged as a major playmaker with the team once again.
In 2017, Cole had a breakout rookie season, hauling in 42 passes for 748 yards and three touchdowns. He had the makings of a sure-fire hit in undrafted free agency, a rarity in the NFL, especially at the receiver position. Over the last two seasons, however, Cole saw his production and snaps decrease, leading to uncertainty heading into restricted free agency in 2020.
While the team could have allowed Cole to simply walk, the team knew the potential he had, and tendered him with a second-round option, giving him a pay raise by way of $3,259,000. Their investment thus far this season, has paid off. On the year, Cole has caught 34 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns, while also returning a punt 91 yards for a touchdown in last week’s contest against the Green Bay Packers.
Staying patient with his opportunities has paid off, Cole said shortly following the game on Sunday. “It feels good to know that your turn was going to come eventually and know that you prepped yourself for this time. [I’m] just glad that it didn’t come to waste,” he said.
“It’s easy to go hard and everything just not go your way, but it’s good that everything is falling into place and I’m making the best of my opportunities and the coaches trust me to do that.”
Things are falling into place for the team’s second-leading receiver behind Chark, however, the Jaguars will have to decide following the season whether or not they’ll be allowing Cole to simply walk in free agency, no longer a restricted free agent, or if they’ll be giving him a contract extension, locking him in Jacksonville for at least the next couple of seasons.
Cole, however, isn’t worrying about a contract extension, instead allowing the cards to fall how they may when it’s time to figure everything out.
“Honestly, you can’t give me a specific number, so I’m ain’t really hyped about nothing. I’m going to keep going until that number [is] written down right there in my face.”
While it has been a national narrative for players not to want to stay in Jacksonville, especially after the losing the team has done over the past few seasons, Cole sees it another way. Playing in Jacksonville his entire career thus far, he doesn’t really know anything else, and the weather, he says, is nice enough.
“I’m down,” Cole said frankly when asked if he would like to remain in Jacksonville following the season. “There’s 32 teams. I’ve been on this one team for three and three fourths of a year and, like I said, it hasn’t been the greatest thing but it’s football and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to play football. We’re obviously here to get paid.
“Like I said, you asked about the money, I can’t give you the money. I can’t really hope for it to come honestly. I just have to do my part and let everything play its role.”
For some, playing in a big party city full of fun like Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta or New York would be enticing, but not for Cole. For the receiver’s best interests and for right now, Jacksonville will do just fine.
“When it comes to being in Jacksonville, I’m not really a party guy or anything and apparently Jacksonville doesn’t have that, so I feel really good here. I like the warm weather, hate the cold, shoutout to Green Bay. I like the warm weather. I like being here, I like being a Jaguar. I’d rather be a Jaguar than a Falcon or a bird or some shit like that.”