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Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars should pursue running back Le’Veon Bell in free agency

Zach Goodall

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Jan 14, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) carries the ball past Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) during the second half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars enter the 2019 offseason needing to address virtually every position along the offensive side of their roster. Not every position necessarily needs a new starter, but after what was an abysmal offensive showing during the entirety of the 2018 season, nothing should be ruled out.

In which case, how about totally canning the Leonard Fournette experiment at running back and making a huge, unexpected free agency splash in targeting former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell?

It sounds really crazy at first, and many fans would hate the idea of giving up on the former 4th overall pick so quickly, but when you connect some dots and really think about the idea, it can make sense.

With the quarterback position being the biggest need this offseason, the idea of chasing Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles in either free agency or via trade is popular amongst Jaguars fans and media alike. He’s a former Super Bowl MVP who has filled in and won games when starter Carson Wentz went out with injuries. As former Jaguars and current Eagles beat writer Mike Kaye wrote on the Foles/Jaguars rumors the other day, “Foles would be the biggest celebrity in the city once he put pen to paper, even with All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the roster”.

However, acquiring Foles will not be cheap, and comes with a lot of risks. Sure, he played some of his best football under new Jaguars offensive coordinator and former Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, but he’s a bit of a journeyman who’s had an up-and-down career as a whole. His first three years in Philadelphia provided flashes, including a 27 touchdown and two interception sophomore season, with 2891 passing yards and a 64% completion percentage in 13 games. However, he was traded to the St. Louis Rams after his third year with the Eagles after throwing 10 interceptions in eight games and going on the injured reserve with a broken collarbone in Week 9.

Foles looked no better in one season with the Rams than he did the year prior, throwing only seven TDs and 10 INTs in 11 games, then requesting to be released after the Rams traded up and selected QB Jared Goff with the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent the 2016 season as Alex Smith’s backup with the Kansas City Chiefs, starting one game against the Jaguars where he threw for 187 yards and a TD. Foles made his way back to Philadelphia as Wentz’s backup, and the rest is history: He’s thrown for 1950 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in 12 games filling in for Wentz, and won the Super Bowl 52 MVP Award.

While recency bias would say Foles is a prime candidate for the Jaguars starting QB job, his shaky career history should keep Jacksonville from breaking the bank on the 30 year old signal-caller. And as mentioned previously, he’s going to be expensive. Reports broke after he bought out his team-option that the Eagles were planning on franchise tagging Foles in order to trade him away before free agency. That provides a ton of risk for Philadelphia if no team is willing to pay his franchise tag price plus trade away assets for Foles, as the tag is projected at $25 million in 2019 for quarterbacks and the Eagles reportedly are asking for a third round pick in return for Foles services.

Considering the Jaguars are currently projected to be $4,316,311 under the cap, and have so many needs on offense, it doesn’t make much sense to spend that much on a 30 year old quarterback who’s never consistently played well as a starter in the NFL.

However, the Jaguars are going to be trimming fat anyway this offseason to get into a better position with cap space. Whether it’s to go after Foles or not, the team is expected to release players such as defensive tackle Malik Jackson (clearing $11 million in cap space), right tackle Jermey Parnell ($6 million), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,328,125), running back Carlos Hyde ($4.7 million) and possibly more to get back “into the green” and be able to sign/extend players.

So, if the Jaguars are to create a bunch of cap space, chances are they’ll spend some to improve the team. But instead of going after a somewhat inconsistent and expensive quarterback, why not utilize that money on other positions and draft a young franchise quarterback instead?

Why not go after running back Le’Veon Bell?

The Jaguars are in limbo at running back, more than fans are willing to admit. Starting running back Leonard Fournette has missed 11 games in his first two seasons from a mix of lower body injuries (which were a red flag for the LSU product before he was drafted) and suspensions. When he was actually on the field, he averaged a mere 3.7 yards per carry and only 740 rushing ards per season. The team waived his guarantees in his contract following the 2018 season for his behavior – he now has to earn every penny on his originally fully-guaranteed rookie deal. In all honesty, his situation has become a real headache, and the team has the ability to move on from his deal easier now than before his guarantees were waived.

The No. 2 RB T.J. Yeldon, who played well in place of Fournette during the 11 games he has missed, won’t be returning to the team as things stand. His rookie contract is up, and he will likely cash in on the free agency market beyond what the Jaguars would be able to pay him for his No. 2 role. A team will pay him to be their starter after he averaged 5.7 yards per touch and scored five total touchdowns in a reserve role in 2018. Also, his “liked” tweets on Twitter are pretty damning:

The Jaguars could easily shake up their RB room this offseason, and Le’Veon Bell could come in and provide elite ability not only as a runner but as a receiver and pass blocker – he’s arguably the best all-around running back the NFL has seen in recent history. He sat out the entire 2018 season due to contract issues, but he had back-to-back 1200 rushing yard seasons in 2016-17, with 16 rushing touchdowns and averaging 4.45 yards per carry. On top of that, Bell caught 160 passes for 1271 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He literally had the 10th most receptions in the NFL in 2018 (85), among wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs. That’s insane.

Le’Veon Bell would walk into Jacksonville as one of the team’s best running backs in franchise history. Obviously, he’d be behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, but he’s far ahead of the team’s third all-time leading rusher James Stewart by almost 3000 rushing yards. In only two more career games.

Let’s get down to the money: Bell sat out during the 2018 season because he demanded high guarantees in his next long-term contract, as well as being the highest-paid RB in the league – but the Steelers wouldn’t give him what he wanted. Here’s a quote from his agent that makes Bell’s demands appear well-thought out:

“The Steelers have a unique way of structuring deals,” Bakari said. “These contracts are not fully guaranteed. Le’Veon plays a position that has one of the shortest lifespans in the league. We have to focus on the guarantee. It’s safe to say he’ll get a guarantee [as a free agent] that is more traditional, and he’ll be protected for the balance of his career.”

Based on these statements and how running backs are currently paid, Bell is in line to make a boat-load this offseason. Todd Gurley, the NFL’s highest paid RB, averages $14.3 million a year on his new deal with $45 million in guarantees, including a $21 million signing bonus.

So, one should expect Bell to come in around $14.5 million a year with frontloaded guarantees. My personal projection: Five years, $72.5 million, with $50 million in guarantees spread out over the first three years of the deal, and a large signing bonus around $20 million to knock out 40% of the guarantees. And if the Jaguars release the players stated above, and perhaps a couple of others, they could afford this – in fact, he’d be cheaper than Nick Foles on a year-to-year basis from all angles.

This type of move would be an earthquake across the NFL, but while it seems crazy, it could reap benefits. The Jaguars would hold onto the draft pick they’d have to send to the Eagles for Foles, and save an average of about $10 million in contract value per year (before guarantees factor in). In doing so, the Jaguars would land one of the leagues best running backs and a player who puts up top-20 production as a receiver, all in one, while holding onto funds to pay players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue down the line.

In this situation, it would become clear the Jaguars would want to draft their own quarterback, and Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins would make sense. The Jaguars would likely have to trade up for Haskins, with the 4th overall pick being the sweet spot in order to not give up many assets and still solidify themselves above other quarterback-needy teams, but trading up in the draft to land a quarterback on the slotted-rookie contract (which would be around $7-8 million a year) makes a lot more sense than trading away assets to pay an inconsistent QB $25 million a year.

And for Fournette, it’s safe to assume he’d be traded away in this situation. While he could net the Jaguars something like a late third round/early fourth round pick, it’d be interesting to see if they could package him into the draft-day trade up for a quarterback. But if not, at least they can regain some draft day value by shipping him away and continue to address the offense.

Imagine a Jaguars offense with Dwayne Haskins under center, and Le’Veon Bell handling not only running back duties, but providing a legitimate receiving option for the young quarterback? Plus whoever else they draft, as well  as in-house weapons such as Dede Westbrook and second-year WR D.J. Chark.

It’s far-fetched, and these moves would take the entire NFL by storm, but this would be a fantastic way to fix the Jaguars offensive woes heading into the 2019 season, while also saving more money than what it would take to pay Nick Foles.

Zach Goodall covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Locked On Jaguars podcast and website. Follow him on Twitter @zach_goodall.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Matt Crosson

    February 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    This would be completely crazy, but I think it is the type of thing that needs to happen. It seems our history is one to never take big chances, but sometimes taking big risks net big results. The real question is would Bell be able to produce since he took a year off?

  2. Eric

    February 16, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    This would be a painfully Jaguars thing to do…. pay a guy who is a little bit better than the guy you already have more than twice the money? Makes zero sense….. spend the money on guys who could make an average quarterback capable of advancing in the playoffs

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars re-sign tight end James O’Shaughnessy

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 11, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end James O'Shaughnessy (80) runs past Indianapolis Colts linebacker Anthony Walker (50) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have re-signed tight end James O’Shaughnessy according to a report released by the team. O’Shaughnessy now re-joins a group that includes newly signed tight end Geoff Swaim, Ben Koyack, and Pharoah McKever.

This is great news for the Jaguars tight end group. O’Shaughnessy was a reliable receiving threat for the Jaguars last season, although he was horribly underutilized.

This adds some continuity into the room with Ben Koyack as the only Jaguars tight end with in-game experience with the team. O’Shaughnessy accounted for 24 receptions for 214 yards last season. O’Shaughnessy’s only other reported interest in free agency has been with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Look for the Jaguars to continue to upgrade the tight end position during the draft later this offseason.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 Jaguars NFL Draft Profile: Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson

Zach Goodall

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Oct 13, 2018; Bloomington, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown against Indiana Hoosiers linebacker Dameon Willis Jr. (43) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After months of quarterback scouting that have all become relatively moot, it’s time to start going in-depth at other positions of need for the Jacksonville Jaguars here at Locked On Jaguars.

With quarterback Nick Foles in the fold after signing a four year, $88 million deal with the Jaguars last week, it’s safe to assume quarterback is just about out of the picture for the team’s seventh overall selection in next month’s NFL Draft. Sure, the Jaguars could elect to draft a QB to backup Foles and eventually utilize the two-year “out” to usher in his heir, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. Jacksonville paid Foles to be their franchise quarterback, and they must build around him immediately to get things back on track.

In which case, the Jaguars need to add weapons on offense. During his time in Philadelphia over the past two years, Foles has targeted tight ends on 33% of his 296 passing attempts. It helps that the Eagles had multiple talented TEs on their roster during that time in Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek, and Dallas Goedert, but the Jaguars must attempt to replicate the tight end production Foles had that helped him find so much success.

T.J. Hockenson from the University of Iowa can immediately provide a spark at the tight end position and replicate that formula.

The redshirt sophomore burst onto the scene during the 2018 season, hauling in 49 receptions for 760 yards and six touchdowns in Iowa’s 52.9%-to-47.1% run-to-pass offense. Iowa ran a ton of multiple tight end sets, mainly 12-personnel (1 RB/2 TE), in order to add bodies to the tackle box for the run game and best utilize both Hockenson and fellow Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant – who, like Hockenson, is a projected first round pick. The two tight ends combined for 88 receptions, 1279 yards, and 13 touchdowns in 2018.

The differences between Hockenson and Fant, which were drawn out well by my friend Ryan Keiran of PatsPulpit.com, are their playstyles at the same general position. Fant is going to be a dynamic receiving tight end on a bit of an NFL learning curve as he is far from a polished blocker, who is best utilized as the new “big-slot” TE that the NFL is beginning to transition towards.

I’ll do a full film review on Fant at another time here at Locked On Jaguars, but my early take is he’s an Evan Engram-style of tight end who would benefit from a pass-happy, vertical offense. Not all of these teams need a tight end, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be great fits for Fant who could move him around and play him vertically.

Hockenson is much more universal in terms of scheme fit. He’s athletic enough to play vertically, like Fant, fluid and explosive enough to win in the underneath game, and is the best run-blocking tight end prospect I’ve ever evaluated. And that last nugget is something that will undoubtedly catch the eye of the power-run heavy Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s get to the film. Be prepared – there’s really no negative aspects to his game.

FILM ROOM

Blocking prowess

I typically don’t clip up a lot of run blocking plays for film reviews, because you can usually get a good feel for a player’s ability in that aspect from a couple of early-down reps.

But good lord, T.J. Hockenson makes run blocking a sport of it’s own – and he’s a first-team All Pro in it.

Hockenson’s pure strength and explosion into his block is enough to “wow” you from an entertainment perspective, but his technique makes the difference between a “good” block, and the “great” block that leads to him driving the defensive end 10 yards backwards and into the turf. His fluid explosion through contact out of his three point stance creates instant pad-level leverage by getting the DE vertical. Hockenson maintains the lower pad-level and his strong hands stick in the chest frame despite the defender attempting to wiggle himself free like a fish in a fishnet.

You’ll never, ever see Hockenson quit on a block until the whistle is blown. His rep is won by the time the standing EDGE defender crosses the numbers at the top of the field, but Hockenson drives him out of bounds and into the sideline area a yard behind the line of scrimmage. When Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin stated “I suggest we adopt the term ‘grit’ as a way to define ourselves,” at the Jaguars’ State of the Franchise press conference in 2017, plays like this are what he was referring to.

Hockenson plays with grit on every snap.

Hockenson is more than just an in-line blocker. He’s equally as dominant as a space blocker, which will reap benefits for a team that will use him in pass protection vs. loaded boxes and blitz. Diagnose this look as Cover 2-man underneath with the MIKE linebacker responsible for Hockenson (hovering over the left tackle behind the DE). The MIKE reads pass from the QB – the play was a QB draw – and gets his eyes up to Hockenson quickly, but even with eyes on the tight end, the MIKE was unable to stand his ground from the bulldozer of a blocking tight end and eats dirt. It’s the same thing over and over again, whether it’s in-line or out in space – Hockenson wins with a fantastic combination of athleticism and technique which cements his high floor as a blocker at the NFL level.

Hockenson’s technique becomes important when taking on rush and disengaging moves from opposing rushers and defenders. Hockenson wins with initial leverage and hand placement, but the defender gets an arm free to attempt top rip out Hockenson’s arms. But with the lower pad level, Hockenson can get his disengaged arm back up-and-under through the rip and back into the defenders chest, and turn him 180 degrees away from the play.

The next six clips will be the last of Hockenson’s blocking breakdown before moving to his receiving ability, all displaying his ability to seal-block on designed runs and backfield throws to completely open up the field. This obviously requires the previously stated technique and strength through blocks, but the processing speed to diagnose his responsibilities and time his blocks, as a lead-block from H-back/fullback, in-line, and out in space. He can do it all.

Simply put: Enjoy.

Receiving ability

You’ve probably had a lot of fun watching T.J. Hockenson, the blocker, so far… (or maybe not, and maybe I’m just a football nerd).

But I promise you, that’s not all the Iowa product has to offer. The Jaguars prioritize the ability to run block in their tight ends, but in today’s NFL, tight ends need to contribute significantly as receiving threats in order to be considered dynamic.

Hockenson hasn’t mastered all nine routes of the route tree, but he’s proven he can win multiple routes in all three levels of the playing field. His athletic testing results (see below) also offer promise that Hockenson can develop on just about any route there is, too. It’s not that Hockenson struggled with certain routes – he just wasn’t asked to run them in Iowa’s run-heavy offense.

His high-pointing ability wasn’t often utilized at Iowa given their run-heavy philosophy, but the talent, size, and technique is there for Hockenson to be the redzone threat the Jaguars have desperately been searching for.

Hockenson squeezes through a tight, two-defender gap on an outside release with explosion off the line in order to breeze by the coverage LB and separate despite little field room in the redzone. The QB lofts a ball to the back of the endzone, and Hockenson’s mix of technique and athleticim finishes the rep. He identifies the ball and times his full-body extension at the top of his vertical jump in order to get both hands on this ball and bring it  down in bounds without ever letting the closing defender have a chance to make a recovery play.

In order to win in contested areas such as the redzone, fighting through contact and adjusting to throws is as important as anything. Being nearly 6-5 with a 90th percentile vertical jump (see his athletic profile later in the report) is obviously a benefit in this category, but Hockenson has the natural ability to fight for and win contested throws across the field.

Hockenson releases inside to draw the linebacker off of the seam that he intends to get vertical before breaking into a post on a deep mesh concept to keep the safety modest. This is a well-run, pro-style yet schemed-open route that Hockenson can win on at the next level, but the play turns into a YOLO-pass. The QB scrambles left with pressure closing in, and lets this ball rip back towards the middle of the field where Hockenson is playing the scramble drill back towards the left side of the field. He tracks this underthrown ball while navigating back to the side he came from, fights through contact and comes down with a huge gain on what was on pace to become a 4th-and-long punt.

If the Jaguars intend on running the similar, if not the same, passing concepts with Foles in the fold, then plays like this are important in Hockenson’s evaluation – winning in the short-to-intermediate levels of the passing field. Otherwise known as the routes that make a West Coast offense operate.

Hockenson possesses the explosion off the line and agility to maintain speed through his turns in the route to operate in a timing-based passing offense which can be seen in the fluidity of his release from the slot anf through the deep crossing route – a staple of Jacksonville’s offense over the past two years. And with clean footowork, Hockenson cleanly separates with hip fluidity and no wasted movement as soon as the defender begins to pedal vertically again. So long as the QB leads this ball (after years of watching a QB fail to do so, it’ll be a sigh of relief to see that from Foles), this is a yards-after-catch route that Hockenson would wreak havoc with in the Jaguars’ WCO-offense.

Did someone mention yards after the catch?

Hockenson does a great job at keeping his feet underneath him through vertical route breaks, with no wasted movement whatsoever in order to maintain a comfy cushion from the coverage defender. And once again, this is a timing route based off of play action with a relatively immediate release at the top of the route.

And your arm tackles will do nothing to slow down the Hock. He’s a yards after catch and yards through contact machine.

This rep was just disrespectful, and provides another feel for how Hockenson can transcend the offense beyond WCO concepts and integrate some vertical philosophies.

Hockenson lines up in-line in 23 personnel (2 RB/3 TE) – this looks like it’ll be a run play or short-field pass off play-action to get an easy 3rd and 1 conversion, right?

Wrong.

The outside TEs in Hockenson (to the weak side of the formation) and Fant (strong-side – safety help follows) run a Yankee concept that acts like a deep mesh pattern between the most outside players in the formation, getting vertical up the seam and crossing. With the one-on-one matchup and a rub to benefit from, Hockenson gets wide open and the safety tries to recover as the top of the defense is exposed at the rub.

What makes this rep so disrespectful? Watch the second half of the clip. Hockenson wins route-running leverage vs. his man coverage defender by running an inside release. With so many defenders in the box that make an inside release difficult to manuever, Hockenson literally pulls a swim move on the play-action-biting stack linebacker (#14) and breezes to the middle of the field, easily separating from the man-cover #25.

To begin this crucial 4th and 8 rep, with under a minute left in the game tied 28-28, it’s obviously clutch of Hockenson to make a backside sliding catch to get both across the line-to-gain and into field goal range. That’s just a given.

But his explosion off the line of scrimmage is real. Sure, he plays the line at the snap compared to the top outside WR, but to be three yards removed vertically post-snap before the shorter-build, assumptively quicker and nimbler even crosses the line is impressive for any tight end. And Hockenson matches his LOS burst with a fluid hip-turn at the top of this curl to ensure separation from a breaking safety on the most important play of the game up until this point. The QB getting the ball out late eliminates some of that separation, but Hockenson held up to his end of the deal with ease.

Athletic profile (via MockDraftable.com)

Hockenson offers typical height for the tight end position, but based on his NFL Combine testing, he comes in slightly underweight and with below-average length compared to the average NFL TE.

As mentioned while describing his redzone touchdown catch above, however, Hockenson has legitimate athleticism to cover for his lack of elite size at the position. His vertical (37 1/2″) and broad (123″) rank in the 90th and 91st percentiles among NFL TEs in MockDraftable’s database that has collected testing numbers dating back to the 1999 NFL Draft class.

His top speed comes in above average as well, as he recorded a 4.7s 40 yard dash (68th percentile). This is a huge benefit for any team looking to add some vertical field stretching via Hockenson, and if Jacksonville wants to catch teams off guard beyond their traditional WCO passing concepts, Hockensons’s skillset + measurables give them that flexibility.

Last but not least, Hockenson’s 77th percentile, 7.02s 3 cone drill is a cherry on top. A widely praised drill for testing a players ability to change direction, the Jaguars brass is likely salivating at this number. As mentioned previously, Jacksonville’s WCO concepts require short-field route running and the ability to create YAC in a timing-based play. These factors require twitch and quickness from a change-of-direction standpoint. Hockenson’s 3-cone drill proves one thing: He’s anything but stiff, and at bare minimum he can fit the Jaguars current mold as a receiving TE.

What’s nice is that’s just his floor, and his ceiling can provide so, so much more.

Conclusion

Listen, I understand that selecting a tight end in the top 10 is pretty uncommon, but it isn’t unheard of. Eric Ebron (10th overall, 2014), Vernon Davis (6th overall, 2006), Kellen Winslow Jr. (6th overall, 2004) are the most recent to be selected that high.

Winslow Jr. suffered two early setbacks with a broken leg two games into his rookie season and a torn ACL knocking him out of his second season, but currently ranks 31st all-time in receiving yards among TEs. Assuming he met his career average 650 yards per season in those nearly two fully missed seasons, Winslow would rank 13th all-time in the same category. He was worth the selection in hindsight.

Davis, who is still active today and plays for the Washington Redskins (he played his first 9 1/2 seasons with the San Francisco) currently ranks 9th in all time receiving yards among TEs with 7439. He was worth the selection in hindsight.

Ebron… is a bit of a different story. He’s entering his sixth season in the NFL and looked like a bust with the Detroit Lions, recording 186 catches for 2070 yards and 11 touchdowns in four years there. However, Ebron signed with the Indianapolis Colts this past season, and tore his bust label to shreds. He more than doubled his career touchdowns with 13 alone in 2018, along with 66 receptions for 750 yards – both career highs. The jury is not out on whether or not Ebron’s ability and skillset were worth his selection.

Forget what I said in the introduction about run-blocking: T.J. Hockenson is the best tight end prospect I’ve ever evaluated, period. He’s also the safest offensive player in this draft, and considering the traditional NFL learning curve at the tight end, it’s really rare to ever hear that label being thrown around at the position.

His combination of poise as a blocker in all facets as well as extremely high floor in the pass game for an offense stylized like Jacksonville’s absolutely makes him worth their 7th overall pick, and the Jaguars’ dire need of a tight end right now only further solidifies that.

Quarterback Nick Foles will need as many weapons as he can get here in Jacksonville to get this Jaguars team steered straight. Considering his success in Philadelphia with tight ends, it’s incredibly difficult to assume T.J. Hockenson wouldn’t be one of Foles’ most trusted receiving targets, and as a whole Jacksonville’s most important non-QB offensive player given his immense skill-set as a contributor to the run and the pass game.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars officially sign former Packers LB Jake Ryan

Demetrius Harvey

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Sep 10, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Jake Ryan (47) steps over Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy (27) following a tackle during the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have officially signed former Packers ILB Jake Ryan. While it was reported on Saturday, the Jaguars would be signing the linebacker, there was still a physical pending. Ryan tore his ACL prior to the 2019 season and is still in the middle of his rehab. Today, the Jaguars made it official.

Ryan was signed to a 2-year $8M contract with an option during the 2020 season according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The contract is similar to the contract Austin Seferian-Jenkins deal from last season which essentially boils down to a 1-year prove-it deal.

Ryan adds another proven veteran linebacker to a group which lacks experience. Before the signing, the Jaguars linebackers on the team were Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, Donald Payne, Blair Brown, Donald Payne, Leon Jacobs, and Nick Deluca. None of them have had much if any experience at the MLB position.

Ryan started  27 games in three seasons with the Packers prior to his injury. He has totaled 213 combined tackles in his career. That is plenty of experience added to the Jaguars linebacker group ahead of the 2019 season. It would not surprise me to see the Jaguars continue to add to the position via the NFL Draft.

It is also worth noting Telvin Smith’s contract cap number reaches its highest point next year ($12.8M). It is possible — if Ryan performs well — for the Jaguars to move on from Smith and move Myles Jack back to his more natural position. Myles Jack will be entering the final year of his rookie contract this season.

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