The Jaguars have been relatively lucky when it comes to players opting out. They haven't been bombarded by opt-outs like the Patriots, who have seven players that have chosen not to play in 2020.
Still, two Jaguars' players that were expected to contribute in 2020 decided to opt-out over the weekend. DT Al Woods and DE Lerentee McCray will not be suiting up in black and teal this fall.
Woods informed the team of his decision on Friday. "While I was excited to join the Jaguars, I have made the tough decision, given the current status of COVID-19, to opt out for the 2020 season," said Woods. "The health and safety of my family has always been the most important thing in my life. I love the game of football and will be rooting hard for my teammates this season, and I look forward to re-joining the Jaguars in 2021."
McCray made his decision final on Saturday. "With the health and safety of my family in mind, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 season during these trying times in Our Nation," said McCray. "I will miss being there with my teammates, coaches and Jaguar personnel competing on Sundays, but I feel that God has directed my steps to make this decision. I was honored to be involved in our team's social justice efforts during this offseason, and I look forward to continuing to support those affected in any way I can. My family and I appreciate the understanding and support of the Jaguars organization and our fans. We are praying and working for the health and safety for this great country!
Woods, who signed a one year deal with the Jaguars worth $2.5 million earlier this year, was supposed to take over for the Jaguars at their big defensive tackle spot. The 33-year-old has been a proficient run-stuffer in the NFL for much of the last decade. He was taking over the same role that Marcell Dareus filled for the Jaguars for the previous two and a half seasons.
Without Dareus on the roster, DaVon Hamilton, a rookie third-round pick, and Abry Jones, the longest-tenured player on the team, would likely rotate at defensive tackle, with Taven Bryan playing most of the snaps at three-tech.
The Jaguars can't afford to struggle to stop the run again in 2020. Fortunately, there's plenty of talent on the free-agent market at defensive tackle. The Jaguars should look to sign one of the many veteran defensive tackles available. Among them is Marcell Dareus, who is familiar with the Jaguars' defensive scheme and should be able to plug right back in. At 30 years old, and still on the market, Dareus wouldn't cost too much. But more strong run stuffers remain beyond Dareus. Mike Daniels, Damon Harrison, and John Jenkins headline the list. If the Jaguars do add a veteran defensive tackle, it'll give them more front line talent, and depth, and allow DaVon Hamilton to grow into a bigger role instead of being thrust into one.
As for Lerentee McCray, his absence won't change the Jaguars' plans on the defensive side of the ball. He's been nothing more than a reserve in that regard for the Jaguars. McCray's value has been on special teams, where he's been a core player for the Jaguars over the last three seasons. His replacement will likely come from within and could take some time to find. Still, the Jaguars have one of the best special teams coaches in football, and plenty of young players that will be eager to make the roster any way they can.
As for their future with the Jaguars, both Lerentee McCray and Al Woods will remain under contract through the 2021 season.
The deadline for players to opt-out of the 2020 season hasn't been made official. The verbiage between the NFL and the NFLPA suggested that the deadline would be seven days after the agreement is finalized. The problem? The two sides still haven't officially reached an agreement. That would make the deadline next Sunday, August 9th, at the earliest. But the NFL is pushing for a short opt-out period, with eyes on the deadline being Tuesday, the 4th, or Wednesday, the 5th.
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