With Super Bowl LV now over and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the title, the NFL has now truly entered offseason mode, which means roster decisions for current players, free agency and the NFL Draft are all things on the horizon. The Jacksonville Jaguars have of course already been in offseason mode for a while, hiring Urban Meyer as head coach and building a whole new staff and culture.
Jacksonville could be a big spender in free agency if it wants to be, as the Jaguars have the most salary cap available in the league in 2021 with almost $80 million at the franchise’s disposal as things currently stand, according to Spotrac.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler recently published an article looking at best team fits for each of the top-50 available free agents in 2021 (ESPN+ access required). Of those 50 players, Fowler thinks three of them make the most sense to end up in Jacksonville, including his second-ranked free agent, offensive tackle Trent Williams.
2. Trent Williams, OT
Best fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
San Francisco tried to re-sign Williams before the regular season but might have missed the window. After a stellar year in the Bay, Williams is eyeing top-shelf tackle money. If he goes to the highest bidder, Jacksonville needs just about everything and has $74 million in cap space. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is a start, though Williams might want to sign with a contender.
This move would make sense if the Jaguars choose not to re-sign (or franchise tag) left tackle Cam Robinson. Williams is much older than Robinson, and would turn 33-years-old before the 2021 season begins. However, age hasn’t seemed to hold Williams back. After being traded from the Washington Football Team to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2020 NFL Draft, Williams started 14 games for the 49ers this past season, and registered an overall grade of 91.9, according to Pro Football Focus, which is considered “elite.”
Williams is an eight-time Pro Bowler, including being selected as a “starter” in this past season’s “virtual” Pro Bowl, and was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2015. Despite his age, Williams will likely demand a heavy price tag in the free agent market. As Fowler points out (although Jacksonville has over $79 million in cap space available according to Spotrac, and over $77 million available according to Over the Cap, so I think his $74 million projection is a bit low), Jacksonville has the funds to sign Williams if the Jaguars truly want to pursue him. Keep an eye on what happens between the Jaguars and Cam Robinson prior to free agency starting.
27. Curtis Samuel, WR
Best fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
Urban Meyer recruited Samuel to Ohio State and once considered him his best playmaker since Percy Harvin. A reunion seems natural, as Meyer could use Samuel — more playmaker than elite route runner — all over the field. Samuel will be coveted as a slightly cheaper alternative to the top of the market. Also watch for the 49ers here. They love this style of player.
As Fowler mentioned, Samuel played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, so having interest in playing in Jacksonville could make a ton of sense for him. Wide receiver is one of the better positional groups for the Jaguars, but with Chris Conley’s contract expiring, as well as Keelan Cole’s and Dede Westbrook’s contracts expiring (I expect the team to try to re-sign Cole, but let Conley and Westbrook walk) look for the Jags to add another play-maker or two there for Trevor Lawrence or whoever the team’s new quarterback is going to be. This also is shaping up to be a good wide receiver free agency class with Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Marvin Jones Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster and, of course, former Jaguar Allen Robinson, so the Jaguars could look to make a bigger splash. Still, Samuel could be a good fit for the team at a cheaper cost.
Samuel has great speed and could be used in a variety of ways, similar to Laviska Shenault Jr. — whether or not the Jaguars want two of the same type of player at the same position is a question that will need to be answered. Samuel had 77 catches for 851 yards and three touchdowns, as well as 41 carries for 200 yards and two more scores, for the Carolina Panthers last season.
49. Cam Newton, QB
Best fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
Look, Newton’s cold market last year clearly outlined where the NFL stood with him. He then threw eight touchdowns in 15 games and ranked 30th in ESPN QBR (47.0) while playing on a one-year, $1.75 million contract. Expecting a robust starter’s market for Newton at this stage, after all the injuries, isn’t realistic, and there’s not a clear-cut home if New England doesn’t bring him back. Maybe Washington or someone with familiarity will take a chance.
Otherwise, reuniting with Urban Meyer, his Florida coach, for a season as Trevor Lawrence’s backup isn’t the worst thing.
OK, here is the real wild card. Obviously the Jaguars are drafting a quarterback at No. 1 overall, and that player will almost certainly be Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. But having an experienced veteran backing him up to help him learn the ropes of the NFL is not a bad idea. Personally, I think the Jaguars should keep Gardner Minshew II on board, as a player who is still on a cheap rookie deal and somebody who you know has starting experience and can help you out in a pinch if your starter gets hurt or is struggling. That said, somebody like Newtown, a former league MVP, is obviously more experienced and has of course had more success, even if his best days are behind him.
Newton is another player who has a connection with Meyer. Newton played under Meyer at Florida in 2007 and 2008, so a reunion isn’t out of the question. If the Jaguars do sign Newton, it will obviously be as a backup/mentor role and would come on a cheap deal. Newton really struggled in 2020 in New England, throwing for just 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games, with 10 interceptions. ESPN gave him just a 47.0 total QBR score, and he had a pedestrian regular quarterback rating of 82.9. On the ground, Newton did add 592 rushing yards and 12 additional touchdowns.
What do you think? Would you like to see these three players come to Jacksonville? What other free agents should the Jaguars target? Let us know in the comments section.