By: Hays Carlyon
Quarterback Nick Foles is here to save the offense and keep the Jaguars’ Super Bowl dreams alive with the defense still loaded with talent at every level.
That’s the plan at least.
The Jaguars made one of the boldest moves in free agency, signing the 30-year-old Foles to a deal that locks him in as the starter for at least the next two years. The Jaguars were able to sign Foles to the four-year, $88-million contract with $50 million guaranteed after a massive salary purge to create cap space.
Here’s a recap of the roster transition.
Who’s out: QB Blake Bortles, DT Malik Jackson, FS Tashaun Gipson, RT Jermey Parnell, RB Carlos Hyde, and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Who’s in: Foles, RG A.J. Cann (re-signed), WR Chris Conley, TE Geoff Swaim, OT Cedric Ogbuehi and LB Jake Ryan.
So, what now?
Jaguars personnel chief Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone have upgraded the quarterback position and added veteran depth at key spots, but still face massive deficiencies. Here’s how the Jaguars should attack the upcoming draft to maximize their chances at turning last season’s 5-11 disaster back into the squad that made the 2017 AFC Championship Game run.
The best move would be to trade back and acquire an extra second-or-third round pick. For now, we’ll project the Jaguars won’t have any trade partners wanting to move up.
7th pick: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Why: You want a special player in the top 10 and Hockenson qualifies. All-around tight ends like Hockenson have become a rarity. Hockenson (6-5, 251) is a great receiver, but an amazing blocker. He won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end this past season after catching 49 passes for 760 yards (a 15.5-yard average) with six touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore. Coughlin has been searching for an all-around tight end that doesn’t tip off the defense to what the offense is doing when he’s on the field. Hockenson ends that search, giving Foles a playmaker at tight end while boosting the run blocking.
38th pick: RT Kaleb McGary, Washington
Why: McGary (6-7, 317) started over 40 games at right tackle for the Huskies. He would fill Parnell’s vacated spot, leaving last year’s fourth-round pick Will Richardson and Ogbuehi to compete to be the swing tackle. The starting offensive line left to right would be: Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, Cann and McGary.
69th pick: DE Joe Jackson, Miami
Why: The Jaguars need depth behind veteran Calais Campbell at the strong-side end spot. Jackson (6-4, 275) had 24 career sacks and would be groomed to replace Campbell as early as the 2020 season. He could also battle to be the end in nickel opposite Yannick Ngakoue when Campbell moves inside.
98th pick (from the Rams): RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
Why: The Jaguars are going to factor heart in this pick. Snell has an incredible heart. After dealing with Leonard Fournette’s immaturity issues and the insubordinate Hyde, look for the Jaguars to put an emphasis on character with this selection. Snell (5-10, 224) lacks elite athleticism, but plays with a fire that is rare. He ran for 3,873 yards (with a 5.3 average) and 48 rushing touchdowns before leaving early for the draft. He would be an ideal backup for Fournette.
109th pick: TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
Why: Sweeney was a three-year starter for the Eagles, catching 99 passes for 1,281 yards with 10 touchdowns in his career. Sweeney (6-4, 251) would be a good compliment for Hockenson, completely revamping what is currently the worst position on the Jaguars roster. Sweeney would compete with Swaim for snaps behind Hockenson and in two tight-end looks.
178th pick: S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
Why: The Jaguars need depth behind young starters Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson. Johnson is undersized (5-10, 191) and ran a disappointing 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.69). However, he’s a fantastic leader and plays with an aggressive mindset. He made 92 tackles last season for the Hurricanes.
236th pick: LB Robert Okereke, Stanford
Why: The Eagle Scout was productive last season with 96 tackles (7 1/2 for loss) with 3 ½ sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s undersized (6-1, 239) but runs well (4.58 in the 40) and would be a good addition to build depth at the position.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)