NFL Free Agency is tentatively set to begin on March 17th. The Jaguars have several impending unrestricted free agents, and they'll need to decide whether to attempt to retain them or not. One of their players set to hit the open market is fourth-year left tackle Cam Robinson.
Left tackle is one of the premier positions in football, and with Trevor Lawrence on his way to Duval, the Jaguars will want to make sure they have his blindside protected.
Cam Robinson, a 2017 second-round pick, has developed into an average to below-average starting left tackle. His growth was stunted by an ACL tear in his second season in the NFL. The effects of that injury lingered into his third year and impacted his play on the field. In 2020, his fourth year in the league, Robinson turned in his best season as a pro. But was it good enough to sign him to a long-term contract?
The answer isn't a simple one.
Among starting left tackles, Robinson is undoubtedly in the bottom half and probably in the bottom third. Ideally, you'd want a higher level player protecting your franchise quarterback. Will Cam Robinson develop into a better pass protector as he enters the prime of his career? He certainly could, but there's little to no evidence that suggests he'll turn into a high quality left tackle overnight.
So, what are the options to replace Robinson in the starting lineup? In theory, landing a talented veteran would be the best option for the early years of Trevor Lawrence, especially because the Jaguars are flush with salary cap space. Trent Williams, the NFL's premier left tackle, is set to hit free agency. The 49ers will undoubtedly attempt to retain Williams, but the Jaguars will have more money to throw at him throughout the contract and in the form of an initial signing bonus.
But if the Jaguars can't land Williams, they could target Russell Okung, another aging but talented left tackle, in free agency. The Panthers are in the midst of a youth movement and might not be too keen on retaining Okung. Okung is still a far superior offensive tackle compared to Robinson, but he does have a concerning history of injury.
Alejandro Villanueva, the Steelers' starting left tackle, is another impressive potential free agent. He's not the same level of pass blocker as Williams or Okung but is still an improvement over Robinson.
If the Jaguars can land Williams, Okung, or Villanueva in free agency, they'll be in a better position for the immediate future to protect their number one pick quarterback. If I were running the show, we'd push hard for one of those three veteran left tackles.
If the Jaguars are unable to land one of the aforementioned players, bringing Cam Robinson back should be on the table. I wouldn't break the bank for him, but thanks to the salary cap position the Jaguars are in, they could easily afford to pay Robinson at value, which would be around $10-11 million per season over a three-year deal.
Whether the Jaguars pursue a talented veteran or re-sign Cam Robinson, the key here is to draft a left tackle on the first two days of the draft. With their 11 draft picks, the Jaguars should be motivated to, once again, keep Trevor Lawrence clean, both in the short and long term. Round two appears to be the sweet spot, where they could likely land Liam Eichenberg or Alex Leatherwood, two prospects who project well to the next level. The Jags could even target a left tackle with their second first-round pick. Players like Christian Darrisaw, Rashawn Slater, and Samuel Cosmi would make sense in that range.
Adding one of Trent Williams, Russell Okung, or Charlie Villanueva, and drafting a left tackle on the first two days of the draft would be my preferred course of action. And the young draft pick could also potentially push Jawaan Taylor, who is coming off a tragically disappointing sophomore campaign, on the right side of the offensive line.
Re-signing Cam Robinson is not the Jaguars' best option, but if they're unable to target and land a more talented veteran, bringing Cam back on a reasonable three-four year contract wouldn't be the worst scenario if the Jaguars draft an heir apparent in the first two rounds of the draft.
The good news is, the Jaguars have options when it comes to keeping their franchise quarterback out of harm's way.
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