The Jaguars are still riding the wave created by the thrill of so handily beating the Texans on Sunday, but Tuesday always brings a change of focus toward a new opponent and a new challenge, and and that is surely the case in Jacksonville.
Off the field the Jaguars are now being forced to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma just as much as the Buccaneers and Dolphins are, while on it, they are looking for an answer to this critical question:
Where can they get the help they need at wide receiver?
Losing star wideout Allen Robinson to an ACL tear in the first quarter of the game Sunday has further depleted a position group that was already missing some potentially valuable pieces.
With Rashad Greene, Shane Wynn, and rookie Dede Westbrook on IR, the Jaguars do not have a lot of in-house options to turn to help fill the void.
For now, the most obvious candidates are veteran slot receiver Allen Hurns, promising, but so far underachieving, Marqise Lee,and special teams ace Arrelious Benn.
The team could also turn to undrafted rookie Keelan Cole, who had a breakout game against the New England Patriots in the preseason opener and now will be asked to step in and show what he can do with the games for real.
They aren’t the worst of options, but given the depleted nature of the group and the relative lack of experience of some of its members, it’s possible the Jaguars could look outside of their building for help as well.
And one place they may want to look is Tampa, where they’ll find former Buccaneer, Vincent Jackson, a former Pro Bowler whom we are told is still in shape and has been waiting for the opportunity to catch on with someone.
The Jaguars could offer that opportunity. The question, of course, is would Jackson, now 34, want to play for what has been year in and year out one of the worst franchises in the NFL? We may find out.
Not that Jackson is their only option. Anquan Boldin recently retired from the NFL after being in the Buffalo Bills training camp. The perennial Pro Bowl receiver, who has won a Super Bowl with the Ravens and also had success with the Cardinals and 49ers doesn’t seem too eager to come out of retirement, but that fast start by the Jags may change his mind a bit.
The Jaguars might also be interested in taking a chance on former Eagles and Buccaneers speedster Josh Huff. With 37 games under his belt he obviously has game experience and he could be signed for the league minimum. Whether he has the right work ethic to earn one more chance is debatable but the Jaguars aren’t really in a position to be picky.
And then there’s former Packers and Raiders wide receiver James Jones (above), who has a ton of experience and at 33 might be a good veteran touch to catch underneath routes and play in the slot. Jones, after not playing last year, announced that he is retired only last week so he may be worth invesitgating.
So, the Jaguars do have a couple of options in house, and a few on the outside that are worth looking into. Good thing, too, because a position group that once seemed so deep that Hurns was deemed expendable, at least in some circles, suddenly looks rather thin.
And it’s only Week 2.
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?