By: Hays Carlyon
So long, Mr. Mayor.
The Jaguars parted ways with popular defensive end Calais Campbell, a three-time Pro-Bowl selection with the team and the NFL’s reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year. Campbell, dubbed “The Mayor of Sacksonville” in the good times of 2017, was traded to Baltimore for a fifth-round pick in this draft. The deal won’t be official until the new league year begins.
Campbell leaves Jacksonville as the most successful free-agent signing in team history, joining the Jaguars in 2017 on a four-year, $60-million deal.
The trade enables the 33-year-old Campbell to join a legitimate Super Bowl contender. For the Jaguars, trading Campbell clears $15 million in salary-cap space and further entrenches them in a needed rebuild.
The Jaguars (6-10) are set to have 11 picks in the draft. Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell, 38-77 in seven seasons counting the playoffs, has already agreed to trade cornerback A.J. Bouye to Denver for a late fourth-round selection in another move that can’t be made official yet.
Campbell never missed a game for the Jaguars, starting all 51 counting three playoff games following the 2017 regular season. He recorded 31 ½ sacks with six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
The Jaguars defense finished 21st last season in points allowed. They were 24th in yards allowed and 28th against the run. In addition to Campbell and Bouye, the Jaguars have already declined the option on defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. So, three veterans that combined to play 1,954 snaps last season are gone from what was already a bad defense.
The following key pieces of the spectacular 2017 defense are gone: Campbell, tackle Malik Jackson (cut), end Dante Fowler (traded), Dareus, linebacker Telvin Smith (retired), linebacker Paul Posluszny (retired), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (traded), Bouye, safety Barry Church (cut), safety Tashaun Gipson (cut) and nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin (free agency).
Only defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Abry Jones and linebacker Myles Jack remain. Ngakoue’s future remains in doubt. The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him at a cost of roughly $17.8 million this season, but could elect to trade him as well.
The Jaguars currently have roughly $30 million in cap space, according to spotrac.com.
In addition to Ngakoue, the Jaguars also face a decision regarding quarterback Nick Foles. Caldwell should go ahead and either trade or cut Foles. There’s no point in paying him his $15.1 million in base salary to be part of the disaster that awaits the Jaguars this fall.
The Jaguars should be quiet in free agency, roll over as much money as they can into the 2021 salary cap and build through the draft. Caldwell has amassed 20 picks in the next two drafts. The Jaguars hold four first-round choices in the next two drafts, the two extras coming from the Ramsey trade to the Los Angeles Rams.
If done right, the Jaguars rebuild could be quick and have them back in Super Bowl contention by 2022, especially if Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the centerpiece of the rebuild when he likely enters the 2021 draft.
If done right.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)