5 Moves the Jacksonville Jaguars Should Have Made This Offseason
There’s an awful lot of buzz surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars after general manager Dave Caldwell executed a strong offseason plan. The Jaguars were able to add a young franchise-caliber quarterback in Blake Bortles, two young receivers in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson and strengthen up their defensive depth.
Generally speaking, it was a strong offseason for a franchise looking to build a winning culture.
Nevertheless, “strong” doesn’t mean perfect. The Jaguars did miss some opportunities that could have expedited their competitive development while they continued to work to rebuild the organization’s reputation.
While it is a little nitpicky, let’s take a look at which moves the Jaguars should have made this offseason.
Pursued Cornerback Brandon Flowers
The release of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers came as a bit of a surprise. Despite struggling a bit in 2013, Flowers was ranked as a top-10 cornerback by Pro Football Focus in 2012 (subscription required).
The Jaguars could have benefited from adding a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. At age 28, Flowers would immediately assume a starting role. While Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz were solid in pass coverage, 2013 served as Ball’s only productive season.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive coach who seemingly would like to establish a strong defensive identity on this team. Adding a physical defensive back that excels in coverage to an aggressive multi-scheme defense would be a huge step forward in the evolution of this unit.
Signed Free Safety Mike Mitchell
It might be an understatement to say that Jaguars starting free safety Josh Evans was awful in 2013. Evans surrendered 243 yards and three touchdowns while allowing opponents to complete 85 percent of their targets according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Needless to say, the Jaguars could use a serious upgrade at the free safety position alongside Johnathan Cyprien.
Former Carolina Panther Mike Mitchell would have been a perfect acquisition for the team. Mitchell has great size, speed and instincts. His versatility to play both safety positions makes him extremely valuable, and he seems to always be in the position to make plays.
The addition of Mitchell, who is 27 years old, would have strengthened the back end of a defense that ranked 22nd against the pass.
Signed Free Agent Michael Johnson
The Jaguars added defensive end Chris Clemons to their roster this offseason as part of a defensive overhaul. Clemons (58 career sacks) will make an immediate impact at the LEO position, but former Cincinnati Bengal Michael Johnson may have been an even better choice.
Johnson is a long-bodied defensive end with a propensity for pressuring the quarterback. In the last two seasons, Johnson has 15 sacks to go along with 70 tackles.
Johnson fits the mold as a prototypical LEO in Gus Bradley’s defense. His explosiveness and strength make him a dual-threat that would give opposing offensive tackles fits. Johnson is still young and could have evolved into the leader of what promises to be a young, energetic, up-and-coming defense.
Released Tight End Marcedes Lewis
It is no secret that the Jaguars and their leadership have decided to rebuild this team. The way to accomplish that is through acquiring young players that can develop and eventually form a contending core.
When examining the formula for a rebuilding franchise, it’s hard to see how 30-year-old Marcedes Lewis fits.
Lewis is fresh off a bad season that saw him amass only 25 receptions, 359 yards and four touchdowns. These totals mark the lowest season totals for Lewis in his career since his rookie year in 2006.
It seems that Lewis’ skills are on the decline. While there is no doubt he can still be a serviceable tight end, I believe the Jaguars are best letting some of their younger guys (I'm looking at you, Clay Harbor) get some experience and development.
Lewis has a $8.2 million cap hit over the next two seasons according to Spotrac—a high number for a statistically average tight end.
Cut Ties with Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon is currently the black stormy cloud over otherwise sunny skies in Duval County. With the team seemingly making all the right moves, the ghost of the indefinitely suspended wide receiver seems to still linger.
It’s apparent that owner Shad Khan, Caldwell and Bradley are working hard to restore a franchise and a city. They are working to change the culture, the image and the organizational outlook. It’s hard to do that when you keep distractions around.
There is no question that Blackmon is a talented receiver (93 receptions, 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons), but he has struggled to obey the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It seems likely to me that the Jaguars are holding on to him in hopes of getting him the help he needs. Regardless, you can’t move forward when you’re still clinging to the past.
It is my genuine hope that Blackmon finds the help and growth that he needs. However, his focus needs to be on himself and not football. For that reason, I think it’s beneficial for both the team and Blackmon to part ways.
* All stats courtesy Pro Football Focus, subscription required.