That the Jaguars are disassembling their roster shouldn't come as any surprise to those paying attention. With the way the team was constructed -- specifically on defense -- it was always going to be a brief window until age, cap, cash and culture (or lack thereof) conspired to tear it apart.
All of their free agent splurges, and all those top-10 draft picks, resulted in one winning season and one shocking playoff run. That's it. That's the total payoff. Sending Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue away for what will likely amount to a draft pick well outside the top 50 and another mid-round pick has finalized the exodus of those who remained disgruntled, though given all the cash-cutting going on there recently, it wouldn't surprise me if they managed to peddle a few of their big-money offensive linemen before the deadline, as well, if they can get anything back (which is far from certain).
Bottom line: Jacksonville 2020 is a lot like Miami, circa 2019, or Cleveland, say, 2017. This is a baseball or basketball style reboot. Call it tanking (though when a team perpetually wins between four to six games in a 16-game season, anyway, can you call it a tank?). Call it a rebuild. Call it whatever you want. They'll be within range to grab Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft. They have amassed a decent draft haul, overall, going back to shipping out Jalen Ramsey a year ago, and given all of the holes on this roster, they're going to need all of those selections and then some to pan out.
But the real question becomes: could owner Shad Khan, whose loyalty to GM Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone has already baffled executives around the league, actually let the men who orchestrated this mess oversee the process? After botching so many top picks for so many years, could he actually allow them to remain in control in 2021? Doesn't seem logical, of course; then again, logic doesn't always win out in the NFL.
"Those guys have nine lives, it really is amazing," said one longtime personnel executive of the Jaguars braintrust. "He can't actually sell the status quo in 2021 with all those picks, can he? Can you sell tickets that way?"
It's easy to pin all of this on departed top exec Tom Coughlin, and he surely was a big part of the problem, but that's all disingenuous. You don't see this many players want out and think it's all down to a dude who isn't even there running the show anymore. Khan's results as an owner have simply not been good, and his refusal to overhaul his leaders has resulted in the Jaguars getting less than expected value in several transactions.
It's maddening that they allowed the stalemate with Ngakoue to devolve all the way until damn near September before finally doing what was always inevitable: moving on from him, as they did with Ramsey. Everyone in the league knew that the talented pass rusher was going to follow Ramsey's template, everyone knew that the Jags would only hurt themselves by waiting beyond the July 15 window for the franchise-tagged player to sign an extension ... and they went ahead and did it anyway.
Other general managers told me throughout this entire ordeal that they routinely got mixed messages about the Jaguars' true intentions dating back to the combine, the team was unrealistic in its asking price at other times, and they all knew that by waiting beyond July 15 you could get him at your price, not theirs, and it was always folly thinking they were going to get a first-round pick for him. Maybe back in February, before teams began their free agent and trade splashes; but that has long passed.
"If there is an argument to be made that they handled this situation well, I'd love to hear it," another personnel executive offered.
Players talk, and the Jaguars' reputation in the player and agent community is simply very poor right now. Agents have told me they have players who opted to retire rather than go back. The locker room has been an ongoing problem, and the relationship between players and decision makers in that organization has been poor.
Would it make sense to load up on rookies with all these drafts picks and then send them right back to the same stewards who have overseen all of this in the first place? When does the moratorium on being able to blame it all on Coughlin end? What would be the explanation for believing anything would be different this time around, both identifying players and creating an atmosphere that the best and youngest players on the roster would be a part of longterm? How much loyalty can you expect out of fans who have sat through all of this?
Khan is going to have plenty of time to consider all of that as the losses mount, again, this season. At some point you have to embrace change.
Chiefs could have AFC stranglehold for many years ahead
The Chiefs are going to be a problem for a long time. You could argue that they already won the offseason by securing 12 years of Patrick Mahomes' services for what will prove to be an absolute bargain and saving so much cash and cap space the next three years that they could extend Chris Jones and keep the entire team together for the most part.
And, as I reported over the weekend, they are very serious about securing coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach well into the future as well. Sure, they both just got new deals a few years ago, but sources said they are negotiating what would be six-year deals, in what would be another very strong sign from ownership about what the franchise has built.
As I pointed out in this space a few weeks ago, deals of six years or longer have become a growing trend in this league, and with a 10-year labor deal just kicking in, and the finances of the NFL expected to boom like never before post-pandemic, and with the cap likely flat or decreasing in the interim, spending big to keep the best and brightest coaches and execs around only makes sense.
Kansas City just might be where Reid, 62, spends the remainder of his Hall of Fame career, and it's hardly out of the question at all to believe he may end up spending more years at the helm there than he did in Philadelphia (1999-2012). Knowing that he has Mahomes tied up so long makes that all the more likely, and while K.C. might not have a Patriots-esque stranglehold on a spot in the AFC Championship ahead, it could end up being a lot closer than their rivals would care to consider.
More insider notes
- Continue to hear nothing but superlatives about Joe Burrow. By the middle of the season that Bengals offense is going to be something to see. Keeping A.J. Green may be merely the cherry on top at this point, because this QB is going to flourish with the rest of that skill group either way. Hoping they can provide a modicum of protection for the young man ...
- Had a personnel guy who was flipping through payrolls and depth charts point to Washington and New England as potential landing spots for Fournette, FWIW ...
- Love how the Browns are giving top pick Jedrick Wills a steady diet of varying defensive linemen in individual drills to try to hasten his development. He is manning up against edge rushers and defensive tackles and getting a crash course in battling different body types and different types of pass rush moves. Kevin Stefanski is going to be very good for that team ...
- Still hear more talk about Jadeveon Clowney from media types than from football people. His price-point has always been starkly out of line with reality and Ngakoue taking his contract all the way down to $13M to facilitate the deal with the Vikings just further deflates any argument Clowney can make. Execs believe, as I have been reporting for quite some time, that if you factor in all of the unique realities of 2020, Clowney is a $10M player at best (with the ability to earn more via incentives). The market continues to speak.