Jaguars' window is closing and major changes are coming to the roster and beyond
The Jags project to be $25-$30M over the cap; NFL execs don't see a path where they'll contend in the near future
The Jacksonville Jaguars will look drastically different in 2019, with their window to win now effectively closed and the team forced to move on from many of the top veteran free agents they brought in while attempting to make a Super Bowl push. Sweeping changes are inevitable, which may include coaching and front-office moves as well, and the team will have to gut its roster to reposition for the future, according to multiple NFL salary cap executives who have studied the team's payroll and cap situation.
The Jaguars, losers of seven straight games and in disarray amid a coordinator firing, quarterback benching and the suspension of 2017 first-round pick Leonard Fournette this week, currently project to be $25-$30M over the cap in 2019, according to official NFL Management Council figures; only the Lombardi Trophy-holding Eagles and Super Bowl-favorite Saints are in a similar position. NFL execs believe the Jaguars have no chance to trade former starting quarterback Blake Bortles and his bloated salary, they predict a purge of the team's highly-paid and aging defensive line – once the strength of the team – and do not see a path to this team contending in the near future.
Team president Tom Coughlin came out of quasi-retirement to take that position prior to the 2017 season, but that was when this looked like an ascending franchise. Questions remain about whether he will stay in that role, or perhaps consider a return to the sidelines. The rampant lack of discipline, fights, ejections and embarrassing performances do not bode well for head coach Doug Marrone's prospects and, after having picked in the top 10 for 10 straight years with precious little to show for it, changes to the front office could be in store as well. The perception around the league is that this once again looks like a less-attractive job, with lingering concerns about the team's future in Jacksonville as well among top candidates and the lack of an NFL starting QB on the roster an issue.
"They are going to have to cut Bortles and basically everybody else they signed in 2018 just to try to get under the cap," said one NFL executive who broke down the roster this week. "You have to wonder what Coughlin does, and how long he sticks around at this point. They've had a hard time getting top guys to come there before, and that looks like a bad job now, too."
The Jaguars (watch them play the Colts at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) tried to build a champion by spending huge on defensive players, but that unit's play as slipped and they have linemen Calais Campbell (33 next season), Marcell Dareus and Malik Jackson set to count $42M against the cap in 2019, alone. "Maybe you can get them to restructure, but I would be moving on from two of them, for sure," another NFL cap manager said. The Jaguars lack of any offensive playmakers is a serious concern to those who might be interested in this job, and the decision to stick with Bortles this long has clearly set the franchise back.
"There is no way to keep that team together if you wanted to," said another cap expert. "You are going to have to extend (linebacker) Myles Jack and (end) Yannick Ngakoue, and I guarantee you (Jalen) Ramsey is going to want to get paid, too. They are going to have to shed a lot of veteran contracts. I don't see any way around it."
With the Texans (Deshaun Watson) and Colts (Andrew Luck) having franchise quarterbacks just entering their prime, the prospects for the Jaguars become even more complicated, and if they are competing for a small crop of candidates in an NFL landscape in which upwards of 10 head coaching jobs could be open, the numbers could be working against them.
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