Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer met with the media for the first time since he named his coaching staff. The team’s head coach touched on several topics, including the team’s current roster and its future.
The Jaguars will head into free agency with the most cap space in the NFL, a number yet to be finalized by the NFL as of today. The team will also head into the offseason with the No. 1-overall pick in this year’s draft, likely to select former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Meyer feels there are plenty of holes to fill for the team to become competition, noting that they finished at poor 1-15 just a year ago.
Here are five takeaways from Meyer’s pre-free agency press conference today:
1. The decision to franchise tag Cam Robinson easy and Meyer has long-term aspirations for the young left tackle
The Jaguars were heading into the offseason with a few unknowns on the offensive side of the football. Two of the greatest of those unknowns came from perhaps the most important positions on the field - quarterback and left tackle.
Today, the team officially made a major move in fixing one of the unknowns by franchise tagging impending free-agent left tackle, Cam Robinson.
In speaking with the media earlier today, Meyer made it clear that the team, including offensive line coach George Warhop, feels strongly about the direction Robinson is heading. That, paired with slim pickings in the free-agent market, made the decision to retain Robinson that much easier.
“George Warhop feels very strong about his future in the development,” Meyer said earlier today.
“We realized that he has a great future. His ceiling is very high. I’ve studied him very much; I’ve spent some time with him. We feel that the way this free agency is moving is that left tackle position - as always, but even more now this year, from hearing from the guys that’ve been in the NFL -, this is a tough year for that left tackle position.”
Meyer also made sure to mention that the culture fit, development and the talent Robinson has made it a clear decision for the team to continue forward with the left tackle as a future member of the organization.
While a player such as San Francisco left tackle Trent Williams is set to become a free agent, the prospect of relying on signing a player of his caliber certainty wasn’t in the cards for Meyer and the Jaguars’ organization.
At the time of the press conference, Meyer had yet to speak with Robinson, but it is clear he views him as a long-term option at left tackle.
“That’s our intent is to have Cam Robinson play for the Jaguars for a while.”
2. Meyer wants to make Jacksonville a “destination” for great players
Speaking with Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser last week, Meyer made mention of new facilities he wants to implement in Jacksonville, something that would upgrade the team as a whole, and could potentially attract free agents to the city and the franchise. Meyer elaborated on the subject earlier today, mentioning that his goal is to make Jacksonville a “destination” for free agents.
“When I look at Jacksonville, or a big reason I took this job, I just believe ... because I love the city of Jacksonville, I love the state of Florida, the fact that there’s the tax issue ... It’s a place you can live very comfortably 12 months a year and raise a family here,” said Meyer. “I refuse to believe that this cannot become a destination for a free agent, or for a great player. And we need to make sure that everything’s in place to have that player want to be here.”
In recruiting prep players to college, Meyer never had the ability to pitch the fact that Florida has no sales income tax. Now, when dealing with free agents, that has clearly become a major talking point, along with the family, culture and viability of Jacksonville as a whole.
With new facilities, and a sports complex in an ever-growing market, there is a chance to Meyer to see his dream of Jacksonville becoming the place to be, come true.
“I’m not just talking about from August to December or January. I just … once again, maybe it’s a dream, but that’s a dream (I’m going to) hold onto. I just someday see our players living here, training, getting the best training possible and enjoying the life in Jacksonville, Florida.”
Meyer has already begun pushing hard in that direction, something he says owner Shad Khan agrees with.
“My job, and I push really hard especially when you talk about health and safety of players, I expect it to be the very best,” he said. “So, we’re pushing hard, and our owner, Shad, has been fantastic to listen and to learn about what we expect. He expects the best of the best, so we’re right in the middle of that conversation.”
3. Andrew Norwell appears to have a future in Jacksonville after all
Earlier this week, it was reported that the Jaguars asked veteran left guard Andrew Norwell to take a pay cut, or to restructure his contract. It was also implied that the team could attempt to deal the 29-year-old at some point because of his refusal to do so. That doesn’t appear to be the direction Jacksonville is headed, however, not if Meyer has anything to say about it.
“He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached,” Meyer began. “He’s a guy that was an underdog when I got there at Ohio State. The offensive line at Ohio State was one of the worst in the Big Ten, it became the best in the Big Ten [and] he was a big part of it. I was not surprised to see him get a high free agency contract, because he’s a grinder, he’s a worker, he’s a team guy, he’s a locker room guy.”
Meyer coached Norwell from 2011-13. Norwell originally joined the program a year before Meyer came on board with the Buckeyes in 2010, but he didn’t start his freshman season. Norwell would go on to start 39 out of 50 games in his collegiate career before going undrafted, signed by the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.
Now, Norwell is set to make $12M in base salary with the Jaguars this season and count $15M against this year’s salary cap. But, none of that appears to matter to Meyer, who wants Norwell to be a part of the franchise.
“So, I see him being a part of the Jaguars and I want him to be a part of the Jaguars. He’s a … for me, personally, I love the guy because I know him better than most.”
4. Repairing the defensive line will be a focus, Meyer infatuated with Josh Allen
The Jaguars are entering a season with many needs. Meyer spoke about the many holes the team has, stating that the current team was 1-15 last year, so there will be plenty of work to do. One of the primary focuses for the franchise moving forward will be to rebuild its defensive line.
While there are certainly holes when taking a quick glance, Meyer does feel the team does have at least a couple of strong players, especially one in third-year defensive end Josh Allen.
“We have a lot of work to do, but there’s some great pieces,” commented Meyer when asked about the team’s defensive line.
“Josh Allen... I mean, my gosh. You’re talking about, his first year was a little better than last year. But as far as a person, as far as a - I’ve met his family -, I mean, my gosh,” Meyer said of the team’s former No. 7 overall pick. “I want that guy around her as long as we can have him.”
Allen will not be eligible for a contract extension until the end of this season, his third with the team. Last year, he contributed just 2.5 sacks through eight games last season, dealing with multiple injuries. In his rookie season, Allen tallied 10.5 sacks, a more accurate portrayal of what he could bring to the team.
Another player Meyer made sure to make mention of is defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, a player he coached during his time at Ohio State.
“I’ve coached him at Ohio State. Our coaches, (defensive line coach) Tosh Lupoi and (defensive coordinator) Joe (Cullen) feel he has a very strong future,” he said.
Hamilton is entering his second season with the team after being selected in the third round of last year’s draft. He was able to play in 11 games, starting six. He contributed with 30 tackles (14 solos), two tackles-for-loss and one sack.
Beyond those two, and perhaps a couple of others Meyer hasn’t had a full discussion on as of yet, the team has some work to do.
“The other guys - those are just two names I know very well-, the other guys I don’t know that well yet, I’m getting to know them. There’s one commonality of great teams, they have great defensive lines. You can’t avoid that. There’s ways to hide other things, but you cannot hide ... you [have to] have a strong defensive line. And We’re committed to do that here.”
5. There’s a need for speed in Jacksonville
Meyer has spoken about the team’s need for speed for all levels of the team before. Particularly when mentioning his mantra, “4-to-6, A-to-B,” something that has more to do with the player’s effort more so than 40-time speed, but it appears field-stretching speed at the receiver position is something the team is seeking after all.
“Offensively, I think we have some really good receivers. We’re not done with that room, however,” Meyer explained when asked to evaluate some of the team’s position groups. “If you’ve covered our teams over the years, I just, the need for speed, the big-play opportunity was not with the Jaguars last year. And we’re searching for the big-play hit at the receiver position.”
The Jaguars have some players at the receiver position that possess the ability to stretch the field such as DJ Chark Jr., who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine. However, the team has never used Chark in that regard, and the Jaguars could certainly use some other players who provide some of the field-stretching ability.
While he does not have the world-class speed that some other free agent receivers have, Detroit Lions receiver, and an impending free agent this year, Kenny Golladay fits the mold as a big-play receiver, averaging 18.3 yards-per-reception in 2019. A couple of other players such as Will Fuller V, via the Houston Texans and Curtis Samuel (Carolina Panthers).
The team will be smart to add a player via free agency if at all possible.