The Jacksonville Jaguars spend more money on their defensive line than any team in football, and it's not particularly close. According to Spotrac, the Jags are shelling out more than $50 million to eight defensive linemen this season, for an NFL-high average of $6,363,649 per player. (The next-closest team is the Buccaneers at $4,924,252 per player on the defensive line.)
That'll happen when you make big splurges in free agency in back-to-back seasons and make a trade for a player who is one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the league as well. The first of those free-agent splurges the Jags made was on Malik Jackson, who they brought over from the Denver Broncos in 2016, on a six-year, $85.5 million contract before signing Calais Campbell and then trading for Marcell Dareus last year.
Jackson has been a solid player for the Jags, but he's no longer an every-down player for them and in recent weeks has seen his snap rate decline consistently. And so, he sees the writing on the wall.
"In my mind, if I'm third or fourth on the depth chart making $14.5 million to $15 million, I don't see too much future for me in Jacksonville," Jackson said Wednesday, per The Florida Times Union. "I'm not trying to be a journeyman by any means. But it's a business and soon as you try to forget that then it's a rude awakening for sure."
The Jaguars can save $11 million against the cap by cutting Jackson this offseason, and they can save $13 million if they designate him a post-June 1 release. Compared to a $15 million cap hit, that's a really nice chunk of change that can be used to upgrade other areas of the team. And considering Jackson's performance and salary, it would not be a surprise if the team made that move. That means the final few games of the year serve as an audition for Jackson himself.
"With my situation, I'm playing for 31 other teams potentially," Jackson said. "I have to show these teams that I'm playing at a high level. I'm a pass rusher with one sack. So I have to show this team that I'm consistently still getting to the quarterback, but I'm just not finishing. So for me, I have to show a lot of people a lot of things about who I am and what I am and what I'm continuing trying to build for myself."