There has been much speculation for years that the Jaguars will end up moving to London, England, permanently and Tuesday’s announcement by the team that they’re adding a second London game for 2020 is only going to stir it all back up.
First, the team made the surprising news official on its website late morning Tuesday that they will become the first team to ever have two “home games” outside of the U.S. in the same season,
Full press release regarding season ticket member pricing and London games. ⤵https://t.co/1ZwMN0tw7k
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) February 4, 2020
“Our work to create new sources of revenue to help us improve our long-term outlook and commitment to operating a thriving franchise in Jacksonvillewill continue and never end,” said Mark Lamping, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars said in the statement. “For the past seven seasons, our London strategy has been a game-changer. No single approach, including London, will answer the many challenges that are common with any market the size of Jacksonville.”
Although, we don’t know the exact dates or the opponents, the Jaguars did announce they will play back-to-back weeks at London’s Wembley Stadium in October. That’s when the NFL typically plays their International Games in the U.K. And, this was the case of year ago when the Jaguars hosted the Houston Texans at Wembley.
Interestingly in the statement, the Jaguars announced that two teams on their home schedule won’t be playing in London: the Steelers and the Bears. This obviously indicates that owner Shad Khan and the NFL reached an agreement that, in addition to allowing the league to move two of the Jags home games to London, those two games with huge traveling fan bases that will likely sell out TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville won’t be part of the deal.
As mentioned above, this will only fuel more speculation the Jacksonville will begin playing, as many as half of their home games in London. That is something that had been speculated by the London tabloid press last year in a scenario the team would still maintain Jacksonville as their home base for off-season, training camp and preseason purposes but then split up their eight regular-season “home” games.
Khan, who already owns the English Premier League soccer team Fulham FC, was in negotiations last fall trying to buy Wembley Stadium. That only heightened anxiety that he was doing so to permanently move the Jaguars to London for all of their games.
Alas, officials in England and with the Football Association or “FA” chose not to reach a deal with Khan to sell him the facility. Still the NFL has had an over 35 year relationship with Wembley and the Jaguars have regularly played home games there for the entire tenure that Khan has owned the team.
The move will obviously be met with much skepticism and disdain from Jaguar fans, as they are one of the smallest market teams in the NFL. And, save for the 2017 season where they won the AFC South and a couple of playoff games, Jacksonville has basically had little to no success on the field with Khan owning them and therefore, with only mild fan support because of it.
In the end, it’s all about “the green” for NFL owners and Khan realizes that’s selling more less than desirable home games back of the NFL for them to be played in England makes more financial sense, than playing in a half empty stadium in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars lease with the city apparently currently allows for up to two of the games to be played in another location besides TIAA Bank Field.
Now, we wait to see if Khan will attempt to change that/escalate slowly beyond just two games in future years, or if he and the NFL will attempt to move Jags completely out of Jacksonville?
Certainly, Tuesday’s announcement can only be taken one way: the Khan wants to play more, not less games, in the U.K. And, the NFL is happy to let him start with two next year.
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?