We knew that the Jaguars would have to start making some moves to free up salary-cap money and that process began on Wednesday with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus restructuring his deal.
ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates got the info first that Dareus has agreed to help the Jaguars save on their 2019 cap by accepting less money for this year in total:
Dareus was due a $2M roster bonus by March 15 and a non-guaranteed base salary of $8.335M. Under his new deal, he gets a $5M bonus up front and the final year of his deal was eliminated. He’s now under contract through 2020. https://t.co/dlg1rvTs3u
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 27, 2019
We had written previously that while on the surface it might seem far-fetched for the Jaguars to release Dareus, it obviously was something they would have to consider.
As Yates tweeted he was owed a $2 million roster bonus on March 15th and Dareus’ salary for this year was another $8.3 million. And as we wrote previously, he is simply did not live up to that large of a contract number with his play in 2018 and now, you have the Jags scrambling to free up money for free agency.
Plus, the Jaguars drafted Gators defensive tackle Taven Bryan, whom they have high hopes for, in the first round last year, and he’s a younger and cheaper long term solution.
Dareus is the former third overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2011, who made the Pro Bowl in 2014. He played for Jaguars coach Doug Marrone with the Bills, and it’s one of the big reasons why Buffalo traded for him during the 2017 season.
Marrone had this to say Wednesday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine about getting the re-structure done with Dareus and keeping him in the fold for 2019:
Marrone: “I can’t say enough about Marcell [Dareus] … He’s a very focused individual.” #Jaguars
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) February 27, 2019
Dareus obviously wins in that he gets a $5 million signing bonus now instead of the $2 million coming in March.
Tthe team also wins by lowering his actual base salary to just under $3 million for this season and so therefore it frees up some $5 million under the cap for them to utilize.
The Jaguars will have to make several more moves like this, including possibly outright releasing a player or two to have money to spend in free agency, when it starts in about two weeks.
Jaguars searching for RB depth after second preseason game
With preseason game number two in the books, it’s apparent the Jaguars have real issues with running back depth due to injury. This after veteran Alfred Blue left the first half of the 24 – 10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury and did not return.
Blue carried the ball four times for just five yards has Jacksonville offense once again sputtered behind a makeshift offensive line. Coach Doug Marrone was so concerned about that line situation and their ability to protect/block that starting quarterback Nick Foles and running back Leonard Fournette never saw the field for a single play during Thursday night.
That means that veteran at Thomas Rawls (above Thursday) was called upon to carry the ball a little more, and he did so, seven times for 19 yards including a long run of 11 playing in the first half.
Rawls is a 5th year veteran who had some modest success with the Seahawks, including rushing for 830 yards his rookie year in 2015 with a 5.6 yard per carry average. His numbers tapered off in 2016 – 17 with ankle and foot injuries, as he only played in 21 games in those two years. Rawls was later released and picked up by the Bengals, but injured again last season, and never carried the ball in Cincinnati.
Obviously, the Jaguars are wanting to implement Fournette, as the primary ball carrier, but they will need someone else to spell him on a series or two. Also, Fournette has had durability questions, as he missed parts or all of eight games last year with a hamstring injury.
The Jags were also hoping to bring along Temple rookie running back Ryquell Armstead, but after he carried eight times for 22 yards last week, he suffered a concussion in the preseason opening loss to the Ravens. Armstead hasn’t practiced since, and is still being evaluated with no further update Thursday.
Speaking of updates, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Fournette, backed up by Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.
Jaguars dilemma with injuries vs preseason playing time
The Jacksonville Jaguars will play their second preseason game tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field. At least, some of them will play against the Eagles.
And therein lies “The Dilemma” facing coach Doug Marrone, his staff and a team trying to shake off an awful 2018 season.
How much are his guys going to play, if at all, in this second exhibition contest? This is a week after 20 of his 22 starters did not play a down in the preseason opening loss in Baltimore.
And while everybody has been looking at the possibility of former Eagles Super Bowl MVP, and now Jaguars free agent star QB, Nick Foles going against his old team, it quite possibly won’t materialize.
As Mike Dirocco, ESPN beat writer for the Jaguars, wrote about earlier this week, Foles all the conceded he may not be out there very much due to injuries on the Jaguars offensive line and concerns over being able to protect him.
However, you cannot replicate the “live fire of a game,” like in the preseason, where Foles can work on timing at full speed with his reads and throws to young receivers like D.J. Chark, DeDe Westbrook and Chris Conley.
Further, it’s not as if the Jags have a season, much less several seasons, of experience with Foles with his personnel to lean on. No, he’s trying to get used to them, and they’re trying to get used to him.
And, let’s not forget that star running back Leonard Fournette wants to have a bounce-back 2019 and he didn’t play a down last week. Yes, there were injury issues with his hamstring all last year.
So what will Marrone and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo do with Fournette tonight? This is especially with a banged up O-Line.
And, maybe it will be, a series or maybe, none at all that we see the former LSU number one pick, who wowed everyone in his rookie season of 2017.
It’s fully understood that weeks from now, this Thursday night’s second preseason game isn’t going to matter. But for right now?
The first unit Jaguars need to be able to work together under a game tested circumstance, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to do much of that in North Florida Thursday night.