The Jaguars have had a pretty busy week personnel-wise, re-signing wide receiver Arrelious Benn and backup quarterback Chad Henne. The biggest move they made, though, was deciding not to exercise the four-year option they had on left tackle Kelvin Beachum’s contract.
That doesn’t mean Beachum is gone.
As ESPN’s Mike DiRocco reported, Beachum won’t become a free agent until the start of the new league year on March 9, so the Jaguars have until at least then to decide whether they still want Beachum protecting Blake Bortles or Henne’s blindside going forward.
All the Jags have really done here is decide they don’t want to pay the five-year veteran nearly $9 million a year to do that, because that’s the average salary Beachum would have been granted had they agreed to pick up the $39.625 million option.
Exercising the option also would have turned Beachum’s 2017 salary of $7.5 million and $5.5 million of his $8.5 million 2018 salary into guaranteed payouts. So this was more of a financial move than anything, though it does carry some on-field risks.
If the Jaguars and Beachum can’t agree on a new deal before March 9 Beachum will hit free agency, where he could find a deal more to his liking. He was after all a key cog in a line that allowed only 34 sacks last year, the fewest allowed by a Jags team since 2007.
And that would leave the Jaguars in a bit of a bind at left tackle, where they’re a bit short on reserves. Now, there are a couple of options in free agency they could look into but they’ll probably end up overpaying for them, especially if they decide to target Matt Kalil.
The draft is always an option but the Jags may have to trade back into the first round to get a starter there because the best left tackles are currently going in the last third of the first round, according to most mock drafts.
There’s also a chance the Jaguars could re-sign Luke Joeckel and move him to left tackle but if that’s the game plan then the Jags are probably better off just paying to keep Beachum, who was more than solid in 15 starts last year after returning from ACL surgery the year before.
As for re-signing Henne and Benn, Jags coach Doug Marrone said the team really likes the experience Henne brings to the quarterback room and the value Benn brings both as a reserve pass catcher and as a special teams contributor. His lone TD of 2016 was the deciding score in the fourth quarter in Chicago.
A second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2010, Benn’s career has been marred by injuries but Jags general manager David Caldwell said he “exemplifies perseverance,” a trait the Jaguars greatly appreciate.