We all knew it was coming. NFL players, after the third year of their career, can begin to negotiate contract extensions with the club they were drafted by.
Three key Jaguars defenders, Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack are all about to complete their third season in the league. They represent the foundation of the future of the Jaguars defense at all three levels. Ramsey is the franchise CB, Yannick Ngakoue is the menacing edge rusher and Myles Jack is the defensive signal caller and interior linebacker. All three players were drafted by Dave Caldwell in 2016, which was unquestionably his best year as the Jaguars GM. Caldwell likely shouldn't (and probably won't) get another opportunity to shape a Jaguars draft class, but the 2016 draft class certainly won't be the reason if he does get canned. Ramsey was drafted in the first round, Jack in the second, and Ngakoue in the third. That might represent the best three rounds of drafting in Jaguars history.
Ramsey had this to say on Thursday when asked about a potential contract extension:
"I'm feeling like if y'all serious about that not being real (trade rumors), then y'all need to to make it (a contract extension) happen . . . If not then maybe what came out five weeks ago is what's going to happen. We'll see."
The Jaguars should make contract extensions for Ramsey, Ngakoue, and Jack their biggest priority heading into the offseason. Ramsey's is the most important, as he has already developed into an All-Pro caliber player. But while Ramsey's contract can go through 2020 (via the team's fifth year option) Ngakoue and Jack will be playing their last season under contract in 2019. Thus it is imperative that the Jaguars lock up all three before the 2019 season gets under way. And if they are able to do so, the Jaguars would certainly save themselves some cash in the long run. The earlier the contracts get done the more team friendly they will be. Getting these three under contract early would also prevent any chance of them leaving via free agency.
Jalen Ramsey received not only Pro Bowl honors during his second year in the league but was also named first team All-Pro. His nine interceptions in just under three years lands him at sixth in franchise history, while his 41 passes defended ranks fifth in the clubs 23 year history.
Yannick Ngakoue led the NFL in strip sacks over his first two years, registering 10 combined in '16 and '17. He's failed to register even one forced fumble this year (there was at least one negated due to a defensive penalty), but has still taken down opposing QBs seven times in 2018. That's far from an eye popping statistic, but his 51 pressures and 18 QB hits tells a different story. He, like the rest of the Jaguars pass rush, has been just a split second late on too many occasions to count this season. But Ngakoue's 27 sacks in his first three years in the league puts him in elite company and the Jaguars should look to sign him to an extension as soon as possible.
Then there's Myles Jack. His first year in the league was essentially a waste. The Jaguars coaching staff terribly mismanaged his snaps and had him playing out of position at strong side linebacker. His second season was a bit of a coming out party. He clearly didn't reach his full potential in 2017, but he made a bevy of splash plays and was an asset for the best defense in football. He registered 90 tackles last season (five for losses), three pass break ups, five QB hits, and a defensive touchdown. He also became a cult hero in Jacksonville with the "Myles Jack Wasn't Down" craze. This year, through 13 games, he's failed to take a big step forward. He's still been solid, but he hasn't played at a Pro Bowl level with any consistency in 2018. Still, he is one of the best athletes on the field every time he takes it and the sky is the limit for his potential.
The Jaguars would be wise to get these three signed up for big contract extensions sooner rather than later. With Malik Jackson and Barry Church clearly on their way out of town, an expected $10+ million increase in the salary cap, and some other defenders likely to restructure the Jaguars should have enough cap space to extend all three players next offseason. Dealing with the headache of potential hold outs and the effect those have on team chemistry is not worth it. It's time to get these three cornerstone players locked up for as long as possible.
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