The Jaguars have a number of consequential roster decisions to make in the coming days and weeks.
One of the choices Dave Caldwell and company will have to make is whether or not to pick up Marcell Dareus’ 2020 club option. The Jaguars have until 2/25 to pick up or decline the option. The team will almost assuredly not pick up the option.
It would cost the team $22.5M in 2020 cap space to keep the soon-to-be thirty-year-old defensive tackle. But by not picking up the contract option, the Jaguars would save $20M in cap space. For a team that is currently strapped for (easily workable with a few inconsequential cuts) cap space, picking up the club option would be untenable.
But that doesn’t mean Marcell Dareus won’t be in a Jaguars’ uniform this fall. Dareus loves playing in Jacksonville and has a strong relationship with the current coaching staff. And the Jaguars need Dareus — or someone with a similar skill set — to help clog running lanes. Jacksonville’s run defense has been porous without Dareus in the lineup over the last two and half seasons.
When the team traded for Marcell Dareus in the middle of the 2017 season, he immediately shored up the run defense. And in 2019, after Dareus suffered a core injury that sent him to the IR, the Jaguars’ run defense fell apart, surrendering over 150 yards per game on the ground during his absence. This squad simply cannot afford to not have Dareus or someone like him on the roster next year.
Agreeing to a new deal would seemingly make sense for both sides. The Jaguars could reasonably pay Dareus around $10M per year over two to three years. In year one, the year that the Jaguars are in the worst cap situation, the team could cover over half of his salary with a signing bonus that would get prorated over the course of the contract. That means Dareus could potentially only have a cap hit of $3-5M in 2020.
If the Jaguars elect not to bring Dareus back via club option or a new contract, they’d need to bring in a replacement via free agency — Michael Pierce, Shelby Harris, and several other impressive defensive tackles are set to hit free agency — or via a top draft pick. Players like Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw would make sense for the Jags in the first round of the draft.
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