I asked our loyal readers if they'd be interested in a "Dream Jaguars 53-Man Roster" for the 2021 NFL season, and the responses were bountiful. Most of you replied with a resounding, "YES!"
Don't forget: this is a dream scenario.
Let's get to it!
Ideally, when creating a 53-man roster scenario, we'd know who would be molding and shaping the roster. But the Jaguars don't have a GM, and head coach Doug Marrone is on the outs. So, in crafting this scenario, I'm just making decisions as if I were in charge of the roster.
Under my direction, this offseason centers around Trevor Lawrence (because I love you all). The Jaguars need to put him in a position to succeed early in his career. We'll do so by giving him as many skilled offensive players as possible and adding defensive talent with game-breaking potential.
The Jaguars are projected to have $77.6 million in available salary-cap space in 2021. That gives us plenty of room to re-sign some in-house names and bring in several high caliber veterans from around the league. The cap might be reduced to an extent due to the impact of COVID on the NFL's financials. But for now, we'll carry on with this exercise based on the current projections.
Major Free Agent Departures: LT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, S Josh Jones
Starters Released: TE Tyler Eifert ($5 million cap savings), RG AJ Cann ($5 million cap savings)
+$10 million in 2021 cap space
Returning Free Agents: CB Sidney Jones 3 years/$18 million ($4 million 2021 cap hit), WR Keelan Cole 3 years/$21 million ($4 million 2021 cap hit), CB DJ Hayden 3 years/$18 million ($3.5 million 2021 cap hit), DE Dawuane Smoot 3 years/$24 million ($5.5 million 2021 cap hit), iOL Tyler Shatley 2 years/$5 million ($1.5 million 2021 cap hit), TE James O'Shaughnessy 2 years/$3 million ($1 million 2021 cap hit)
-$19.5 million in 2021 cap space
Major Free Agent Additions: LT Trent Williams 3 years/$60 million ($12.5 million 2021 cap hit), WR Kenny Golladay 5 years/$95 million ($13 million 2021 cap hit, OG Brandon Scherff 4 years/$55 million ($8 million 2021 cap hit), TE Jonnu Smith 4 years/$40 million ($6.5 million 2021 cap hit), CB Ronald Darby 3 years/$23 million ($4 million 2021 cap hit)
-$44 million in 2021 cap space
Extension: WR DJ Chark 5 years/$90 million (cap hit remains same; new contract begins in 2022)
You get all that? So, before we discuss more of the fun stuff, we must make sure we haven't spent too much of Shad Khan's hard-earned dough. The Jaguars released two decent starters to create more cap space for better players. By releasing Eifert and Cann, the Jaguars saved $10 million in 2021 cap space, increasing their allowance to $87.6 million. The Big Cats then spent $19.5 million in 2021 cap space to retain Sidney Jones, DJ Hayden, Dawuane Smoot, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Shatley, and Keelan Cole, reducing their available cap space down to $68.1 million. Then comes the heavy hitters. Signing five high-quality veteran starters cost the team $44 million in 2021 cap space, resulting in a healthy $24.1 million in remaining 2021 cap space. Signing DJ Chark to an extension doesn't impact the 2021 cap number and is the obvious choice to make.
The returning free agents are all guys that have shown they can play at a high level for stretches, but they aren't bank busters. All of them will either compete for a starting job or play a key role in 2021.
Trent Williams may be thirty-three, but he's still at the height of his game. Paying him elite starter money makes more sense than paying Cam Robinson average starter money.
Signing Kenny Golladay would give the Jaguars an embarrassment of riches at the receiver spot. You can never have enough weapons in today's game, especially in the early years of a young quarterback's development. Pairing Kenny G with DJ Chark on the outside with Laviska Shenault and Keelan Cole probing the middle of the field would put pipe bursting pressure on every defense in football.
AJ Cann has been solid at right guard for the Jaguars in 2020, but his play has been highly volatile throughout his career. Ditching him for a Pro-Bowl caliber guard in Brandon Scherff is an easy decision.
Over the last two seasons, Jonnu Smith has proven that he has Pro-Bowl talent, despite a lack of volume in Tennessee's ground and pound offense. Giving Trevor an explosive, reliable target at tight end is essential. Adding him to the mix at tight end would provide jags with one of the deepest groups in football (if Josh Oliver can get healthy). And who doesn't love poaching from within the division?!
Ronald Darby has generally been a strong cover man throughout his career and is coming off his best season as a pro. Adding him as a third outside cornerback gives the Jaguars more talent and depth.
By spending on some big-time free agents and retaining some key homegrown talents, the Jaguars send a clear message to the rest of the league that Duval is coming. This sets the team up to compete for a playoff spot in 2021 and to be a legitimate title contender over the next handful of years. By the time the Jags need to extend Trevor Lawrence, these contracts will no longer impact their salary cap.
There's also this little event the NFL puts on called the DRAFT!
The Jaguars hit it big here by using their insane draft capital to move up the board in the right spots, landing a host of talented youngsters.
The Jags Draft:
#1 Overall QB Trevor Lawrence (EVER HEARD OF HIM?)
#21 Overall LT Sam Cosmi - The heir apparent to Trent Williams. Plenty of skill, size, and athleticism.
#33 Overall S Trevon Moehrig - Pairing the playmaking Moehrig with the savvy veteran Jarrod Wilson represents a significant upgrade for the Jags at safety.
#35 Overall DE Jaelan Phillips - A first-round talent with apparent character issues, Phillips has been dominant in 2020 and has the potential to be a three-down impact edge player.
#59 Overall DT Christian Barmore - Another defensive lineman with Pro Bowl talent, Barmore is still coming into his own as a redshirt sophomore. But he already has elite production and skill as an interior rusher and pairs well with DaVon Hamilton.
#101 Overall RB Michael Carter - While James Robinson is fully capable of carrying the load by himself, adding a runner of Carter's ability late on day two or early on day three would be a steal.
#145 Overall WR Tylan Wallace - This is a value pick. The receiver class is loaded with depth, and snagging a talented playmaker makes more sense than reaching for a developmental offensive lineman with warts.
You're probably thinking to yourself, where the heck is the 53-man roster that I clicked on this link to find.
QB (2): Trevor Lawrence, Gardner Minshew
RB (4): James Robinson, Dare Ogunbowale, Michael Carter, Devine Ozigbo
WR (6): DJ Chark, Kenny Golladay, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Keelan Cole, Tylan Wallace
TE (4): Jonnu Smith, James O'Shaughnessy, Josh Oliver, Ben Ellefson
OT (4): Trent Williams, Jawaan Taylor, Will Richardson, Samuel Cosmi
iOL (5): Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, Brandon Scherff, Tyler Shatley, Ben Bartch
Edge (6): Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, Jaelan Phillips, Joe Giles-Harris, Leon Jacobs, Dawuane Smoot
iDL (4): DaVon Hamilton, Doug Costin, Christian Barmore, Al Woods
LB (4): Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, Shaq Quarterman, Dakota Allen
CB (7): Sidney Jones, CJ Henderson, Ronald Darby, DJ Hayden, Luq Barcoo, Josiah Scott, Chris Claybrooks
S (4): Jarrod Wilson, Trevon Moehrig, Daniel Thomas, Andrew Wingard
Special Teams (3): Logan Cooke, Josh Lambo, Ross Matiscik
This vision, or something similar to it, is easily within the realm of possibilities. But to achieve such a magnificent offseason, the Jaguars will need to land a head coach and GM ready to win now. As the Jaguars' owner, Shad Khan has yet to show the ability to hire good football people that are good for the organization.
That's all, folks! Follow me on Twitter @jordandelugo