The Jaguars and the rest of the NFL will be participating in one of the more intriguing free agency offseasons in NFL history. With the salary cap officially set at $182.5M, tens of millions less than what it would have been without the coronavirus pandemic shake-up, teams will be very aggressive in targeting its needs.
We’ve taken a look at the quarterback position, and now it’s time to take a look at the wide receiver room for Jacksonville to see who could be added.
Who is staying?
The Jaguars will currently enter the 2021 season with DJ Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Terry Godwin and Josh Hammond. Those are the only players that will remain under contract, at least for now.
Who is leaving?
Jacksonville currently has three players heading into free agency when the new league opens on March 17 at 4 pm ET: Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook.
Both Cole and Westbrook have spent their entire careers with Jacksonville. Cole originally signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and Westbrook was drafted by the Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Conely was originally signed by the team in 2019 after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has spent the past two seasons with the Jaguars and doesn’t appear likely to re-sign with the team.
The Jaguars could opt to re-sign Cole, who has shown the most promise out of the three currently set to depart. In 2020, Cole became one of the team’s primary receivers, hauling in 55 receptions for 642 yards and five touchdowns, his best season since his rookie year in 2017.
Who could be added?
The Jaguars and head coach Urban Meyer have made it clear that they’d like to make additions to the receiving room.
The team is looking to add speed to its room, something it has lacked in the past, though Chark and Shenault both have demonstrated an ability to catch passes downfield, the former ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL combine.
“Offensively, I think we have some really good receivers. We’re not done with that room, however,” Meyer said at his press conference last week. “If you’ve covered our teams over the years, the need for speed, the big play opportunity was not the Jaguars last year and we’re searching for the big play hit at the receiver position.
There are plenty of options on the open market for the Jaguars to explore in both the speed and the big-play category.
A couple of names that would make sense to monitor would be former Ohio State receiver and Carolina Panther, Curtis Samuel. Samuel ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine and is currently set to enter free agency. He played for Meyer as a member of the Buckeyes during his collegiate years, and is a clear big-play weapon on offense.
Another player to keep an eye on is former Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay. Golladay has knowledge of the team’s offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who was the Lions’ offensive coordinator over the past two seasons.
During his best season in the NFL, 2019, Golladay hauled in 65 receptions for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had a yards-per-reception of 18.3. While he is not a burner, Golladay has a knack for the big play that Meyer was alluding to during his press conference.
What makes sense?
The Jaguars need to make moves at the receiver position. While the team has some promising players, there aren’t very many established within the group. The team also has a youth issue at the position which may hurt the team in the short-term with rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence likely coming to town on draft day.
Signing a player like Samuel would fit the team perfectly in the big-play and speed department, however, the Jaguars should also look to add a player via the 2021 NFL Draft.
It also is not out of the realm of possibility that the team re-signs Cole, who has demonstrated great abilities in the past. While he may not come cheaply, Cole would be good to bring back within the established group of receivers.