By: Hays Carlyon
The Jaguars are going to have significant competition to draft Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Nick Foles, Joe Flacco or another veteran free agent? Not so much.
The Jaguars benefit from a lack of quarterback need around the NFL compared to most years.
Tampa Bay, the New York Giants, Denver, Miami and Washington are the biggest threats on the draft front. However, the Jaguars are alone on another front. That is the free-agent option.
The Buccaneers, Giants, Broncos, Dolphins and Washington are not signing an expensive veteran quarterback. Tampa Bay has said it isn’t cutting Jameis Winston. Washington can’t cut injured Alex Smith without taking on a huge financial penalty so it can’t invest the money on another lucrative veteran quarterback. The other three teams could cut their starter, but would increase the available talent pool by releasing Eli Manning, Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill.
The much more likely scenario for these five franchises is drafting a quarterback early in April.
The Jaguars are in a different situation. They are likely cutting their veteran quarterback in Blake Bortles.
That creates the biggest void at the position in the NFL, leaving just subpar veteran Cody Kessler and Tanner Lee, who didn’t take a snap in his rookie season.
The front office led by personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell are under a direct mandate from Jaguars owner Shad Khan to win in 2019 after this season’s 5-11 flop. Experience at quarterback will matter.
The Jaguars could find themselves bidding against no one, but themselves when free agency opens. The only competition could arise if aging quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers decide to retire. That seems unlikely in each case. Those teams could draft a quarterback, but they aren’t signing an expensive one.
So, the Jaguars could and should be the only team at the bargaining table.
These teams have significant investments in proven starters: Green Bay, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Carolina, Seattle, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland, Cincinnati, Washington and San Francisco. Then, we include the four teams mentioned above with great but aging starters in New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers.
These teams have locked-in starters on rookie contracts: Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Chicago, the New York Jets, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Arizona and Baltimore.
The two categories cover 28 teams. I left out the Jaguars, Giants, Dolphins and Broncos.
Foles is expected to be the biggest prize on the market. Foles carries a $20.6 million salary-cap charge next season and the Eagles are a projected $13 million over the cap. The Eagles will release Foles.
Baltimore is also expected to release Joe Flacco, who lost his job this season to rookie Lamar Jackson.
Both have traits Coughlin will covet. Each has been named Super Bowl MVP.
Flacco will be 34 next season and has 163 starts and 15 playoff starts. He’s been durable, starting all 16 games nine times in his career. However, his last four seasons have been unimpressive. He’s thrown for 64 touchdowns with 46 interceptions in that span, averaging 16 touchdowns and 11 picks per season. That won’t get it done.
The 30-year-old Foles has considerably less experience, with 48 career starts including playoff games. However, Foles has played his best football in the last year with his dramatic performance stepping in for the injured Carson Wentz last season in leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Foles is thriving again with Wentz out as Philadelphia is back in the playoffs.
Foles will be the 72-year-old Coughlin’s choice. Coughlin was 0-2 against Foles when he coached the New York Giants, losing to the Eagles in both 2013 and 2014. Foles completed 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 36-21 win at the Giants in 2013. The next year, Foles beat New York 27-0 throwing for 248 yards on 21 of 34 passes with two touchdowns and two picks.
Last year, Foles could’ve commanded a contract around $25 million a season. The market just won’t be there this year and the Jaguars know it.
Foles might have to settle for a deal that averages $18 million a season. The Jaguars could make that happen even with Bortles’ dead money charge of $16.5 million. The Foles contract could be back-loaded to give the Jaguars more cap relief in 2019.
Foles will be the Jaguars starting quarterback when the season begins in September. The Jaguars will use their four draft picks in the first three rounds (two in the third) to boost the offense around Foles.
Welcome to Jacksonville, Nick Foles.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)