The Jaguars are back on the practice field starting Tuesday opening their three-day mandatory minicamp with as much uncertainty, as hope for this season.
It’s a critical year, in particular for Coach Doug Marrone, as his team floundered badly in 2018 and needs to rebound. This is especially, after owner Shad Khan spent a massive amount of money to bring an eagle Super Bowl hero quarterback Nick Foles through free agency to fix their constantly underachieving offense.
But Foles’ arrival is not the only story line in the second week in June
As we learned Monday, Jacksonville’s most effective pass rusher of the past three seasons, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, has decided to skip these workouts, as a message to the team that he wants a new contract. Ngakoue is woefully underpaid buy NFL elite pass-rusher standards. The top five averages over $15 million per season and Ngakoue is scheduled to make just $2 million in the final year of his rookie deal.
There had been hope from the team that Ngakoue would continue to participate, while the contract was being worked out between his representatives and VP of football Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell. Obviously, Ngakoue didn’t believe there was meaningful and sincere progress towards his new deal. And, the only leverage he has, for now, is to not play until he gets one.
The next huge question mark is also on the defensive side of the ball. And, that is: what happens in the absence of linebacker Telvin Smith?
Smith has been AWOL for over a month after announcing that he would not play football this season. No one knows for certain what the reasons are, and if they do, no one is saying. It’s obviously still possible that Smith good rejoin the Jaguars for training camp and preseason in August etc., but for now they must prepare to go without their former Pro Bowl captain and leading tackler the last three seasons.
As expected, the team got good news when star corner Jalen Ramsey reported to minicamp Tuesday Morning.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 11, 2019
The two time Pro Bowler is in the final year of his rookie deal, but the team has also picked up his fifth year option for 2020. Ramsey has made it a habit of skipping all the offseason workouts except the mandatory ones. And, that has drawn the ire of Coughlin, in particular, who spoke out about it earlier this Spring and then got rebuked by Ramsey’s representatives and the NFLPA, too.
Another off-field headache has been in the status of running back Leonard Fournette.
After a tremendous breakout rookie year that help Jacksonville make the playoffs, Fournette was a flop, just as the team was, all last season. He was injured and also disciplined for his behavior in the finale against the Texans. That’s when he and former teammate T.J. Yeldon were shown completely disinterested in whether the Jaguars could come back and win the game while sitting on the sidelines and not playing.
Add to that, Fournette was arrested by Jacksonville police on outstanding traffic warrant charges earlier this offseason, but fortunately, that case has now been plead out without Fournette receiving any jail time.
He has been working out heavily on his own and including with the University of Wyoming football program and the former LSU assistant strength coach that is now there with the Cowboys. Now, we will see if that hard work and the off-field headaches are behind the former first-round pick for a fresh start in 2019.
And finally there’s the pressure on Marrone, having fired offensive coordinator to Nate Hackett last season and hiring John DeFillippo, who is the former Eagles quarterback coach with Foles. Marrone is obviously out of excuses on having the offense fixed. Further, a strong argument can be made that the struggles with team off the field , with discipline,, behavior and culture are going to be blamed on him, if the Jaguars continue to lose
So the head coach, his team and everyone everyone involved is trying to put the last 15 months behind them to focus in and have the Jags last meaningful practices in June before training camp in late July.
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?