News broke the other day that the Jacksonville Jaguars are attempting to trade defensive tackle Malik Jackson and running back Carlos Hyde, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Jaguars are attempting to trade DT Malik Jackson and RB Carlos Hyde, per league sources, two players that some believe could be productive with the right opportunities. Jacksonville aiming to strike agreements that can be processed when the league year opens March 13.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2019
It’s hard to assume Hyde will have much of a trade market whatsoever. Jacksonville sent the Cleveland Browns a 2019 5th round pick for Hyde’s services, and in return the Jaguars got 3.3 yards per carry – 189 yards on 58 carries – and zero touchdowns in eight games. Hyde was made inactive in the Jaguars’ Week 15 game against Washington, and speculation from the media would indicate it was due to Hyde refusing to dress for the game after expressing frustration with his role.
If a team trades anything other than a 2020 conditional late-round pick for Hyde, consider it a win.
However, Malik Jackson is another story.
Jackson, who signed a six year, $85.5 million contract with Jacksonville in 2016, is quietly still one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson finished the 2018 season with 53 QB pressures, which ranks 9th amongst NFL defensive tackles. What makes that more impressive is that he did that on 388 pass snaps, which ranks 28th among all defensive tackles. On the right side of 30 (he turned 29 in January), and considering his production level, Jackson is a player with a lot of juice left who can contribute to a team’s pass rush for another couple of years.
While Jackson’s cap hit for the three remaining years on his contract look scary at first – $11 million in 2019, $13.75 million in 2020 and 2021 – his remaining guarantees (a whopping $4 million in total) would not transfer in a trade. Jacksonville is left with those guarantees as a “dead cap” hit. If the trade is made before June 1st, the Jaguars would have a dead cap hit of $4 million on the 2019 cap table. After June 1st – $2 million in 2019, $2 million in 2020. And the team that receives Jackson would owe him $0 in guarantees. Zero. Zilch. Nothing.
Considering how contract restructures work in the modern NFL, it’s crazy to assume Jackson wouldn’t be willing to do just that. Often, a percentage of the player’s yearly salary (the cap hit) is converted into a signing bonus that is guaranteed, and is prorated over the length of the deal to limit cap space implications. It benefits both sides: The player gets guaranteed money, and the team creates cap space.
It’s safe to assume Jackson would like to add some guarantees to his deal, since he’d have none with a new team and would still have three years remaining on his contract. Sure, he’d have to take a bit of a yearly paycut, but in return he guarantees himself millions of dollars over the next three years. Hypothetically, if he was hurt in his first game with a new team, said team could release him and he’d only ever receive that one game check. So, any team that trades for Jackson would most likely be able to restructure Jackson’s deal to prorate a signing bonus guarantee over the remainder of his contract, and lower his cap hit each year.
And if Jackson decided that he didn’t want to take a paycut? He would simply get cut and receive nothing more than the $4 million Jacksonville owes him, and hope that a team would give him comparable money on the open market. Despite the interest he should receive on the trade market, it’s hard to assume teams would drive up his price in a bidding war for his third contract. It’d be in his best interest to restructure.
With all of this in mind, what could Jackson’s market look like? Who needs interior pass rush help, and has enough cap space to bring Jackson in, restructure or not?
2019 cap space: $106,411,235
The Colts have the most cap in the NFL, a huge need for interior pass rush, and nine draft picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Their leading interior defensive lineman in terms of pass rush production was Denico Autry, who recorded eight sacks and 34 pressures when playing inside in 2018 according to PFF. While those numbers are nice, there’s a serious drop off after Autry, and considering Autry was used as a chesspiece across the line, the Colts could use a true 3-technique tackle like Jackson for constant interior pressure.
At pick #26 in the 1st round, the Colts are far out of reach from top defensive tackle prospects such as Alabama’s Quinnen Williams and Michigan’s Rashan Gary, and have plenty of needs across the roster they could utlize that pick on. With two 4th round picks and an abundance of cap space, Indianapolis are an easy fit for Jackson’s services. Odds are, the Colts won’t find an interior pass rusher of Jackson’s caliber with the 136th pick in the draft, so shipping their 4th round compensatory pick to Jacksonville would be a good deal for both sides.
2019 cap space: $79,149,465
The Browns, much like the Colts, have money to burn. On top of their nearly $80 million in cap space, the Browns also have 10 draft picks, and a roster that is talented enough to compete with Baker Mayfield entering his first full season as the starting quarterback. Given all of this offseason arsenal, it’s easy to peg the Browns as playoff contenders in 2019 (woah, that feels weird to type), so long as they utilize their assets correctly this offseason.
While their primary edge rusher position is filled by 2017 first overall pick Myles Garrett who has 20.5 sacks in his first two seasons, only one defensive lineman had double digit pressures for the Browns in 2018, that being second year defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with 36. There’s been discussions of the Browns using their 17th overall pick to help boost their pass rush, but mocks have typically pointed towards them going with an edge rusher to create a tandem with Garrett on the outside.
If Cleveland is set on creating a dynamic edge tandem, then sliding Malik Jackson in at defensive tackle in a rotation with Ogunjobi, as well as creating packages with both players on the field, would create pure havoc against opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. As Cleveland is a pretty young team, an experienced veteran such as Jackson, who has a Super Bowl and multiple playoff appearances under his belt during his career, would be a nice bonus on top of his production.
In hindsight, the Browns fleeced the Jaguars in trading Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville for a 5th round pick. It would honestly be a win for Jacksonville if they could get that pick (#145) back in return for Jackson. As the Browns currently own three 5th round picks, this should be doable.
Los Angeles Chargers
2019 cap space: $22,523,868
Unlike the teams mentioned above, the Chargers don’t have an abundance of cash to spend or a ton of draft picks to ship away. However, they still should be a top candidate for Malik Jackson’s services.
The Chargers are in win-now mode. Philip Rivers is 37 years old, and while he’s still playing good football at this stage in his career, he isn’t getting any younger – and he’s currently playing on one of the most talented Chargers teams he’s ever had. Coming off of a 12-4 season and making it to the Divisional round of the 2018-19 NFL playoffs, the Chargers need to nail their upcoming offseason in order to keep competitive in the AFC before age starts to catch up with Rivers.
The Chargers could opt to bring back defensive tackles Darius Philon (26 pressures in 2018) and 34 year old Brandon Mebane (eight pressures in 13 games), who are both set to be free agents, but why not totally upgrade the defensive tackle position? Both players are solid in their roles, but neither offer the pass rush production that Jackson does. Pairing Jackson with defensive ends Joey Bosa (six sacks and 28 pressures in only seven games) and Melvin Ingram (nine sacks and 64 pressures) would be deadly.
Oh, and Bosa is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal. The Chargers will likely pick up his fifth year option to postpone paying him top-pass rusher money and spend that money to win in a short window of opportunity, but that clock is really ticking.
Jackson’s fit with the Chargers and his ability to help them win now should be enough for the Chargers to engage in trade talks. And the cherry on top? The Chargers defensive coordinator is none other than former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who helped recruit Jackson to Jacksonville in 2016. So there’s dots to connect.
Los Angeles’ 4th round pick (#131) is the sweet spot, as it’s a late pick in the round and the Chargers won’t find a defensive tackle who can produce as much as Jackson does in their window of opportunity that late in the draft.
Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee officially taken off PUP list
The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially taken wide receiver Marqise Lee off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list today. Head coach Doug Marrone announced the development at his pre-practice press conference today. Marrone says Lee will be practicing today.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Lee has not practiced or played since his preseason knee injury almost a year ago today. With this progression, the Jaguars will go into the season — at least for now — with their top receivers active and relatively healthy. If Lee is able to make any sort of contribution during the start of the season it will be a major success for the Jaguars.
Currently, the Jaguars have relied on newcomer Chris Conley along with veterans Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark along with other newcomers to make up for Lee’s absence. It is not yet known how this will affect the Jaguars roster come the cut-down day.
The Jaguars have not announced a corresponding move as of right now. The roster stands at 91 until they do so.
REPORT: Jaguars sign RB Elijah Hood, release QB Tanner Lee
Earlier today the Jacksonville Jaguars announced the signing of running back Elijah Hood. As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released quarterback Tanner Lee.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Hood, 5’11” 230 pounds, was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders. After bouncing around on the Raiders practice squad for the year, he was eventually waived following the 2017 season.
Hood most recently played the Carolina Panthers, however, his time with the Panthers was cut short in 2018 due to a torn ACL. He will get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jaguars and potentially live up to his collegiate career where he accumulated 2,580 yards and 29 touchdowns while at UNC.
With the injury to running back Alfred Blue (ankle) this past Thursday along with other running backs on the roster, the Jaguars needed to add depth at the position. Hood will get every opportunity to make the team, but his chances are rather slim.
Lee, a 2018 6th-round pick by the Jaguars was finally released as a corresponding move to signing Hood. Releasing Lee will not come to much of a shock for Jaguars fans. Lee has struggled throughout the offseason and in the preseason during both of his seasons with the Jaguars. This leaves backup quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Alex McGough to battle it out in the Jaguars last two preseason games — although it looks like Minshew has the upper hand as of right now.
Jaguars defensive end Datone Jones has inside track on backup job
Earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to sign seven-year veteran Datone Jones as a means to create more competition and depth behind defensive end Calais Campbell. At the time, this was seen as more of a roster-filler type move, essentially to make sure the Jaguars have enough bodies during training camp. However, the situation has completely changed due to the way Jones has played during the offseason and into training camp.
Jones, 6’4″ 285 pounds, was originally drafted 26th overall in the 2013 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. Coming out of UCLA he was expected to make a major impact along the defensive line after accumulating a respectable 62 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks during his senior season. Since being drafted, Jones has bounced around the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys.
Jones was not able to make as much of an impact on the Packers’ 3-4 defensive front after bouncing around from the defensive line to — surprisingly — linebacker.
For a short time, Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after his contract with the Packers ended and expressed the concern of a position switch during an interview with the Vikings update stating, “They didn’t tell me. I found out on NFL Network that they had moved me to outside linebacker, I kind of knew that I would have to make the adjustment or I wasn’t going to be there anymore. I wanted to come into a place where I felt most natural, where I could really showcase my ability, what I could really do.”
Having to make such a drastic change in his career path after being mildly successful — 73 tackles and nine sacks with the Packers — at another position impacted Jones. While Jones did accumulate the most pressures for the Packers during the 2016 season while playing outside linebacker, it still was not the appropriate position for him to play given his natural ability.
Now with the Jaguars, Jones is back along the defensive line and is thriving. With the backup strong-side defensive end position for the Jaguars being completely wide open, Jones has taken the opportunity afforded to him and could be apart of the first group of players coming onto the field for the normal starters.
The Jaguars have tried for a couple of years now to find a good backup behind Campbell. They drafted defensive tackle/end Taven Bryan in the first round just a year ago, however, he has switched to more of a fulltime role on the interior of the defense. Mostly a disappointment his first two seasons, defensive end Dawuane Smoot has also taken a backseat with the arrival of Jones, giving Jones the inside track to win the primary backup job.
Jones has taken that opportunity and has thrived. Able to come off the ball with speed and power, he has the ability to adequately stop the run along with getting to the quarterback. During the game on Thursday, Jones completely took over the Eagles offensive line. One play in particular from Thursday’s game stands out.
Jones lines up on the defensive edge and is unblocked, getting to the quarterback and knocking him (Cody Kessler) out of the game. These are the type of plays which illustrate why he has earned a spot on the Jaguars 53-man roster.
— Datone Jones AKA TONE_LOCC (@IAM_Dat_One) August 16, 2019
A rotation from normal starters Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, and Campbell to Josh Allen, Bryan, Eli Ankou, and Jones illustrates just how deep the Jaguars are along the defensive line.
This past week head coach Jaguars Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the defensive end spot behind Campbell.
“I feel good about where we are with our D-Line, I do. In other words, I feel like we have good starters, and I feel like we have good depth. I think we have a lot of players there, guys that will probably be, if you look at the roster, I think that can potentially be the toughest. Who is nine, who is 10 if we keep 10, wherever that goes,” Marrone stated.
“Yan obviously looks great out there, but then all of a sudden [Dontavius] Russell, [Michael] Hughes, Datone Jones, I mean you have guys now, big V [Kalani Vakameilalo] is a big body in there. We have guys now that are in there that are pretty good that it’s going to be a tough call.”
A “tough call” that might have gotten tougher — or easier depending on how you look at it — with the performance Jones put on Thursday and throughout the offseason. Against the Eagles, Jones was credited with three tackles and a quarterback hit, however, it was his persistent pressure and pocket collapsing plays that set him apart from everyone else.
Shortly after the game, reporters spoke to Jones about his strong play against the Eagles. “I just wanted to go out there and execute and compete. I felt like I started off really slow the first preseason game and I felt like I owed it to my teammates to go out there today, execute and put my abilities on film,” Jones said.
“[I wanted to] let guys like Calais [Campbell], Marcell [Dareus] and Yannick [Ngakoue] know that I’m here to compete and I want to be in the lineup with those guys. I want to be here in Sacksonville, sacking quarterbacks. Preseason is all about coming out here and displaying and competing and just having fun with your brothers. Executing, you know.”
It is clear playing behind the Jaguars starting defensive line, and seeing the culture within that group has lit a fire under Jones for the better. If he can provide the same production he has done in the past, the Jaguars may have one of the deepest defensive line groups in the entire league.
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