By: Hays Carlyon
The Jaguars face arguably their most challenging off-season in team history over the next few months.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan elected to retain eighth-year general manager Dave Caldwell and fourth-year coach Doug Marrone, despite their poor results.
Caldwell is 38-77 overall (including the playoffs). Marrone is 8-20 in his last 28 games with an overall record of 24-29 counting the playoffs.
This screamed for new leadership across the board, but Khan took the easy way out.
That forces the Jaguars into a win-now mentality when the subpar roster and limited salary-cap space would indicate a quick tear-down and rebuild under new leadership would be in the best long-term interests of the franchise.
I have to work with what I’m given.
I’m going to present my plan for the Jaguars off-season based on what Khan wants – win now. All decisions will be made in that regard. So, while I believe the nuclear option of massive cuts and hording salary-cap space for a run in 2021 should be in play, I won’t entertain it.
This series will be focused on what I would do if I were Caldwell and Marrone under the win-now mandate.
Today, I’ll start by examining what the Jaguars should do with veteran quarterback Nick Foles. I’ll then get to cuts/extensions, free-agent acquisitions and the plan for the draft in the coming days.
Foles, who turned 31 on Monday, played 185 snaps (17 percent) last season. He broke his collarbone 11 snaps into the opener, returned after an eight-game stint on injured reserve and was benched in his third start for promising sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew.
Foles signed a four-year, $88-million contract with a 25-million signing bonus and $50.1 million in guaranteed money last March.
There are three ways to play this and none are attractive.
-The Jaguars can cut Foles and take on a $34 million dead-money charge. That’s double the penalty they paid for releasing quarterback Blake Bortles last year.
-They could try to trade Foles, but the savings on the cap would be minimal around $2 million and they might have to throw in a draft pick to entice a team to take Foles.
-Lastly, Caldwell and Marrone could simply keep Foles.
The third option is the lesser of the three evils.
Foles threw 117 passes last season. That ranked 40th in the NFL. The Jaguars simply haven’t seen enough of Foles to warrant taking on a gargantuan dead-cap charge to cut him or parting with a draft pick to trade him.
Should Minshew be allowed to develop as the starter in his second season? Absolutely. But there is a place for Foles on the Jaguars.
Foles’ cap hit for the Jaguars in 2020 is $22.1 million. Yes, that’s extreme for a backup even if you believe he’s the best backup in the NFL.
However, look at the money being devoted to the quarterback room in its entirety.
Minshew carries a ridiculously cheap $633,000 cap hit, while Josh Dobbs has a $735,000 cap charge. For now, let’s assume Dobbs is in their 2020 plans since they gave up a fifth-round pick to get him last year.
The Jaguars’ quarterbacks room costs roughly $23.5 million for three players. There are 11 starting quarterbacks that average more per year on their current deals. That group doesn’t include the following quarterbacks who could add to that total this off-season: Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston.
Chances are high that once Week 1 arrives, the Jaguars will be spending a below-average amount on their quarterbacks compared to the rest of the NFL.
Foles is also an asset in keeping with the win-now mentality. Minshew played well, but there has to be some trepidation in making him the unquestioned starter with no real threat to push him if he falters. Foles is a fantastic insurance policy. It’s not hard to imagine Foles stepping in if needed for injury or ineffectiveness and winning games.
The Jaguars can move on from Foles at a reasonable price after the 2020 season. If he hasn’t earned his contract by that point, the Jaguars can cut him and save $14 million heading into the 2021 campaign.
That should be the plan.
The Jaguars can stomach overpaying for Foles because of the massive bargain they have in Minshew.
Caldwell and Marrone get no closer to winning now by cutting Foles or trading him because both options drain more resources than keeping him will.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)