As the final week of the NFL season rolls into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s not all “holiday cheer” in several places, where potential coaching and front office changes are looming. One of those remains with the Jaguars and despite a national report Sunday morning about the statuses of Coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell, we’ve been told they’ve been given no assurance that they will have jobs after Sunday.
First, here’s the report from NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport Sunday morning prior to the Jaguars 24 – 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons:
From @NFLGameDay: There is a "good chance" #Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell return in 2020 following the firing of EVP Tom Coughlin, sources say… and Tony Khan could take on an increased role. pic.twitter.com/85Jw7YE4MX
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 22, 2019
Now, Rapaport, who is highly regarded as one of the best information people in pro football, definitely had someone telling him that Marrone and Caldwell could be safe. However, it’s entirely possible that that leak is coming from either Marrone and/or Caldwell, themselves, or someone that represents them, in an attempt to help persuade owner Shad Khan to keep them.
This is especially after VP of Football Tom Coughlin was unceremoniously fired last Wednesday night after the team’s fortunes plummeted over the last two seasons and numerous off-the-field situations involving Coughlin have continued. Prominent players Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey were traded separately to the Rams, linebacker and captain Telvin Smith abruptly retired in May in the prime of his career and other animosity exists between players and management within the Jags building, too.
However, a source that has repeatedly given us insight into the dynamic and dysfunction behind the scenes in Jacksonville, repeated to F.F.I. Monday that Coughlin’s firing isn’t a sign of keeping Marrone and Caldwell. And, post loss to Atlanta, they have not been giving any reassurance, yet, that they will be coming back for 2020.
Rapoport also clearly stated Sunday that how Jacksonville looked in their final two games would be a factor in Khan’s decision. and for the most part on Sunday they played poorly, again, just like they had an Oakland the week before.
Now, in the Raiders game, quarterback Gardner Minshew rallied them for two touchdowns in the final five minutes and victory, but that didn’t happen in Atlanta.
Minshew got them in the end zone once in the fourth quarter and drove the Jaguars inside the 10-yard line with a chance to get another touchdown in the final three minutes of the game before the Falcons stopped them on fourth-and-goal.
So, it was a loss, which is the Jag sixth in seven games, and they now will close out the season at home with the Colts Sunday afternoon.
The Jags also have significant decisions to make, including what to do about now bench quarterback Nick Foles whom they gave a QB franchise-record $50 million guaranteed to and is still owed a good chunk of that money over the next two years on the cap.
They also have to figure out what to do with running back Leonard Fournette and whether to pick up the fifth year option on his rookie contract, which is very likely. However, Fournette’s productivity the last two years is way down and it’s uncertain as to his future in North Florida beyond this season.
So, there are a lot of variables with the season coming to an end. However, the biggest ones are: whether the GM and the coach are going to survive/be around to try to mend relationships and turn it around?
Again, our source still tells us that Khan is very interested, if he can, in luring a strong proven coach with experience to be some type of head coach / personnel or GM in the front office combined.
That may be unrealistic given the Jaguars small market size and the difficulty of having both roles, anyway.
Bottom line: it’s all undecided, for now, in Jacksonville.
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?