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2019 NFL Free Agency: Which free agents should the Jaguars target?

Demetrius Harvey

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Feb 27, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell speaks to media during the 2019 NFL Combine at Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is quickly approaching, and while the Jaguars may not be major players this year in terms of signing several big-money free agents, there still are a few positions the Jaguars would like to upgrade.

After missing the postseason in 2018, the Jaguars have holes to fill. This is not only due to the injuries along the offensive line but also due to a total lack of talent at certain positions, particularly at quarterback, tight end, and the OL.

The Jaguars, currently, are set to enter the 2019 season with Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler as the two primary quarterbacks. However, that can change quickly depending on what occurs during free agency and the draft. Blake Bortles will likely be released, although general manager Dave Caldwell has suggested otherwise recently. Either way, the Jaguars will be addressing this position at some point and it very well might come via free agency.

The Jaguars struggled to get anything out of the tight end position after Austin Seferian-Jenkins landed on injured reserve and was recently released earlier this month. The Jaguars will enter 2019 with receiver-turned tight end Pharoah McKever, and Ben Koyack at the tight end position. This position needs fresh bodies, to say the least.

As for the offensive line concerns for the Jaguars, they recently released long-time right tackle Jermey Parnell. During the season they lost three out of five starting offensive linemen due to injury, including Cam Robinson (week 2 — ACL), Brandon Linder (week 10 — knee), and Andrew Norwell (week 12 — foot).

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the offensive line, and in particular at right tackle and right guard. After the release of Jermey Parnell on Friday, the Jaguars have only Will Richardson — 2018 4th round pick — as an option.  Richardson played a whopping 0 snaps last year in the regular season and will be looking to compete this summer for the position.

The other completely uncertain position along the offensive line is at right guard. With guard A.J. Cann likely moving on from the team, the Jaguars are completely baren at right guard making it one of the most important positions the Jaguars have to fill. Whether it be via draft or free agency, they will have to figure this out.

There are several players that may fit the Jaguars criteria in free agency, and although there may only be one or two big signings this time around, I still expect the Jaguars to be active as they have always been active in free agency during the Dave Caldwell era. Although there may only be offensive players listed here, that is for a reason. The Jaguars may address a couple of depth positions on defense this offseason, however, they are unlikely to be major players in that area. The offense will be, and should be, the priority for the Jaguars.


Quarterback

Nick Foles — Eagles

The Jaguars will be searching far and wide for a quarterback this offseason and one quarterback who continuously is brought up is former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

Foles began his career in 2012 as a 4th round pick out of Arizona to the Philidelphia Eagles. In his career, Foles has completed 61% of his passes for 11,165 yards, 68 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions. He has had success in the past two seasons winning the Superbowl for the Eagles in 2017 and taking them to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2018 after multiple injuries to starting quarterback Carson Wentz.

For the Jaguars this signing makes sense. Not only due to the connection to new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo but with his success and leadership ability the Jaguars desperately need to regain control of the huddle. Foles *should* be able to do this.

What makes this move less than ideal is absolutely the price tag. The Jaguars recently cleared ~$30M in cap space by releasing Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Carlos Hyde, Jermey Parnell, and Carson Tinker. Although that will be enough to sign the quarterback, considerations need to be made for the rest of the team.

Projected salary: 3 years, $56M, $20M guaranteed

Teddy Bridgewater — New Orleans Saints

Teddy Bridgewater is another quarterback the Jaguars have been reportedly interested in. Bridgewater was originally the 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL draft to the Minnesota Vikings. During his two seasons with the Vikings, he compiled a completion percentage of 64.4% with 6,268 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.

Before Bridgewater could enter his third year with the team, he suffered a devastating knee injury which set him back for the next two years of his deal until he was eventually allowed to walk in free agency.

Last season, Bridgewater made his first start since prior to his injury completing 63.6% of his passes for 118 yards with one touchdown and one interception. One of the major reasons why the Jaguars may be interested in Bridgewater is his potential. Although he has not played long in the league due to his knee injury, he has still been efficient enough to become a bridge-type (no pun intended) quarterback while the Jaguars draft someone to eventually take over the starting role.

The biggest issue is with Bridgewater is his durability. Although he has yet to be injured since his catastrophic knee injury during the 2016 offseason, he has also yet to be able to play much at all regardless. The Jaguars will likely still have the issues they had with him that they have always had.

Projected salary: 2 years, $10M, $5M guaranteed

Honorable mentions: Josh McCown (Jets), Tyrod Taylor (Browns)

Offensive Line

Andy Levitre — Atlanta Falcons

Levitre is an impending free agent who last played with the Atlanta Falcons after being traded to the team from the Tennesee Titans in 2015. He was not able to stay healthy with the Falcons incurring a triceps injury in both 2017 and 2018. While he was injury-prone during his time there, the Falcons were still able to have success with him as a major contributor to an otherwise average offensive line.

The issue with Levitre is his injury history as well as his regression of his play in the past couple of years. However, with A.J. Cann likely departing in free agency the Jaguars need to address the right guard position in any way they possibly can. Levitre would be an experienced guard on a team lacking serious depth or experience.

Projected salary: 1 year, $2.5M

T.J. Lang — Detroit Lions

Lang was recently released by the Detroit Lions due to cap ramifications as well as his injury history. Lang has suffered multiple concussions throughout his career as well as a neck injury. If Lang can come to the Jaguars and stay healthy he would make for a very reliable and consistent guard in an effort to replace A.J. Cann. The Jaguars will surely be signing some sort of offensive lineman. Lang has the added benefit of being versatile. He can play tackle as well as guard.

Projected salary: 1 year, $3.5M

Honorable mentions: Billy Turner (Broncos), James Carpenter (Jets)

Running Back

Latavius Murray — Vikings

Latavius Murray may be one of the most obvious players for the Jaguars to sign. The Jaguars currently have Leonard Fournette, David Williams, and Thomas Rawls. Williams carried the football 8 total times for 36 yards, and Rawls has played 0 snaps for the Jaguars.

Murray also has strong ties to the Jaguars with their new offensive coordinator being John DeFilippo who coached Murray in Oakland (2013-2014) and in Minnesota during last season before Defillippo was fired as offensive coordinator.

Murray would bring more of a supplement to Leonard Fournette in the same way the Jaguars hoped Carlos Hyde would during last season. He has accumulated 3,698 yards for 4.1 yards-per-carry and 34 touchdowns. He also had 128 receptions and 883 yards.

Projected salary: 2 years, $8M

Mark Ingram — Saints

Mark Ingram is more of a longshot for the Jaguars, however, he would also be a great compliment to Leonard Fournette. Ingram has had a sort of resurgence to his career with the addition of Alvin Kamara in New Orleans accounting for over 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons. If the Jaguars are searching for a good mentor for Fournette, Ingram would be a fantastic fit.

Projected salary: 3 years, $18M

Honorable mentions: Frank Gore (Dolphins), Bilal Powell (Jets), Alfred Blue (Texans)

Tight End

Jesse James — Steelers

As stated before, the Jaguars are in desperate need for a tight end this offseason. Jesse James has been an above average blocker for the Steelers the past few seasons and has had some success in the receiving game accounting for 120 receptions for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns thus far in his career.

James makes the most sense for the Jaguars, and there are some rumors the Jaguars may be interested as well.

Projected salary: 5 years, $30M

Tyler Eifert — Bengals

Eifert is a player the Jaguars may have a little bit of interest in as he would come cheap due to his injury history. Eifert entered the NFL in 2014 with the Cincinnati Bengals but has been snake-bit with injuries throughout his career. If the Jaguars were to sign him he would be cheap.

Eifert has a ton of upside with his best season coming in 2015 accumulating 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. If the Jaguars can muster some amount of success with him, it would be a major win for them and Eifert himself.

Projected salary: 1 year, $2M

Honorable mentions: Demetrius Harris (Chiefs), Jared Cook (Oakland), Luke Wilson (Detroit)

Wide Receiver

Golden Tate — Lions

Although it may seem like a reach, the Jaguars will likely want to target a wide receiver or two during the offseason. With Marqise Lee coming back from a devastating knee injury, and Keelan Cole regressing a bit last season the Jaguars need to add something there. Golden Tate would be an ideal fit at receiver in my opinion. Tate last played with the Philadelphia Eagles after being traded midseason by the Detriot Lions.

Tate has accumulated 611 receptions for 7,214 yards and 42 touchdowns over his 10-year career. Tate is more known for his aggressive nature at receiver playing similarly to a running back at receiver like Anquan Boldin. If the Jaguars want to add a veteran presence to their receiver room, Tate would make the most sense.

There is a connection here. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey:

Projected salary: 3 years, $27M

John Brown — Ravens

Brown began his career with the Arizona Cardinals. He had a breakout year in 2015 accumulating 65 catches for 1,003 yards and 7 touchdowns. Due to injuries, Brown’s play tapered off after that until his resurgence in Baltimore just last year. Brown had 42 receptions for 715 yards and five touchdowns. If the Jaguars would like some depth in the same vein as Donte Moncrief was last season they could turn to Brown. Brown at the very least is a much better route runner than Moncrief with similar speed on the outside.

projected salary: 2 years, $10M

Honorable mentions: Adam Humpries (Buccaneers), Randall Cobb (Packers), Pierre Garcon (49ers), Jermaine Kearse (Jets)

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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