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NFL Roundtable: Jaguars free agency update with Big Cat Country

New York Jets v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

To check in on the state of the Jacksonville Jaguars following the heat of free agency, I caught up with Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country.

1. What was the Jags’ thought process behind the Calais Campbell trade? How much of a surprise was it when the news broke and are you a fan of the move?

The general thought process here is the Jaguars needed to clear cap space for the 2020 offseason, while also moving toward getting younger — the Jaguars also traded away A.J. Bouye and Nick Foles in similar moves, and cut Marcell Dareus. However, if you’re asking me why Jacksonville gave Campbell away for a mere fifth round pick, well then I can’t answer that. Even though Campbell will be 33 during the 2020 season, he was still performing at a high level. He was a Pro Bowler every season with the Jags, including 2019. He was also first team All-Pro in 2017.

Campbell was beloved by Jaguars fans. Not only for his play on the field, but also his work off of it, which earned him the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He was a locker room leader and team captain. So, as a fan, this move hurts, but from a football perspective, I totally understand it (but again don’t quite understand how they weren’t able to get more for Campbell).

2. Joe Schobert was by far the most expensive addition made by Jacksonville, earning a $53.8 million deal with $21.5 guaranteed. What role will Schobert play in the defense, and was linebacker a need heading into free agency?

Linebacker was one of Jacksonville’s biggest needs this offseason — the position was a revolving door last season. This signing, at least on paper, is a two-fold improvement for the Jags — Schobert will man the middle as the MIKE, which also allows Myles Jack to move to the WILL position. Jack hasn’t played on the weak-side before, but he is a more natural fit on the outside, and thrived as a strong-side linebacker in 2017. Jack moved to middle linebacker in 2018 and it just never really worked out. Schobert is also a tremendous coverage linebacker, which bolsters the unit there as well. If he can help Jacksonville stop the run — which the team was pitiful at last season — this could prove to be a home run signing. At the very least, it should prove to be a solid signing.

3. Jacksonville made a pair of additions on the defensive front in veterans Al Woods and Rodney Gunter. What does each player bring to the table and where do they fit into the defense?

Both players were brought in to help shore up the run defense, which ranked 28th in the NFL last season (139.3 yards per game). Woods is entering his 11th season and is a big presence who can plug some holes at 330 pounds and take on blocks in the interior of the defensive line. But even with Dareus gone, I expect his role to be more of a rotational one and I do expect the Jaguars to target defensive tackle early in the NFL Draft.

Gunter is a player I wasn’t too familiar with prior to his signing, but he had a nice run with the Arizona Cardinals — 126 total tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. I expect to him to play the “big end” role like Campbell did. While Gunter certainly isn’t the same caliber player as Campbell, he has the opportunity to start and be the replacement at the strong-side defensive end position, and also has the ability to kick inside on pass-rushing downs. Campbell actually mentored Gunter during his first couple of seasons with the Cardinals.

At the very least both players provide solid depth and will be in the rotation, but I expect Gunter to have the bigger impact.

4. The Jaguars allowed tight ends Seth Devalve and Nick O’Leary to walk while they signed Tyler Eifert to a two-year deal. What was their approach at this position going into free agency and how is the depth chart shaking out going into the season?

Tight end has been one of the least productive positions for the Jaguars for the past couple of seasons. Eifert made sense for the Jaguars to bring in because he had a prior relationship with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who was the Eifert’s OC with the Cincinnati Bengals during his rookie year in 2013. Eifert has shown he can be the receiving threat the Jaguars need, such as when he caught 13 touchdowns in 2015. However, Eifert has a highly questionable injury history, although he did stay healthy all of 2019. If he is able to be on the field, he should be a difference-maker in Jay Gruden’s west coast system.

Outside of Eifert, second-year tight end Josh Oliver, fifth-year veteran James O’Shaughnessy and second-year end tight end Charles Jones will compete for playing time. The Jaguars may draft another player at the position, too.

5. Nick Foles’ Jaguars tenure is already over, ushering in the Gardner Minshew era. How much is the franchise committed to him? Could they use a late-round selection on a quarterback this year? If Minshew struggles in 2020, could you see the Jags getting back in the market for a franchise quarterback in 2021 (be it through FA, trade, or the draft)?

The Jaguars being able to ship off Nick Foles’ contract and get a fourth rounder for him was a coup. Minshew was going to be the starter, so the move made sense, even if it cost the Jaguars an $18.5 million dead cap hit. To answer your question, I think it is undoubtedly Minshw’s team for the 2020 season. All of this talk about signing Cam Newtown or Jameis Winston is just hearsay and probably isn’t happening. The Jaguars could look to bring in a veteran backup such as Andy Dalton (if the Bengals cut him), but the Jaguars are operating as if Minshew is the starter, and need to use the Draft build around him. While I don’t see the Jaguars drafting a quarterback early, I certainly could see them selecting one in in later rounds. I don’t expect the Jaguars to win many games in 2020. So, regardless of win-loss record, if Minshew plays well, he is the future. If not I could see the Jaguars “tanking” for Trevor Lawrence in 2021 or looking at another rookie next year. But we’re all rooting for Minshew to be the man. Time will tell.

6. How, if at all, has free agency reshaped the Jaguars’ needs/plans going into the draft?

The 2020 Jaguars are going to look severely different. The team used free agency to fill needs and improve the depth of the team, while also trading away or cutting several veterans. Outside of Schobert there weren’t too many impact signings (Gunter could be a difference-maker). The Jaguars are going to be a young, inexperienced team next year and like I said, may not when too many games. But if the team is able to build a solid foundation — the Jaguars also have 12 picks in the Draft — then this free agency class will prove to be useful. I think the Schobert signing alters the feeling that the Jaguars were going to go linebacker early, which was a common mock draft selection prior to his signing. Cornerback and defensive tackle are still a big need. The Jaguars also didn’t sign any receivers, so I expect them to target a playmaker there in the first few rounds. Offensive line should also be addressed.

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