Trevor Lawrence Update
Trevor Lawrence, the expected number one overall pick of the Jaguars, had successful labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last month. Lawrence recently spoke with Stephania Bell of ESPN. "As you know, this is really the first serious thing that I've dealt with, but I'm doing great. I actually feel way better than I thought I would at this point."
Good news for anxious Jaguars fans! Lawrence's physical therapist told Bell that they're currently focusing on pain-free range of motion in the left shoulder. And Lawrence is expected to begin throwing from his knees in six to eight weeks.
DJ Chark's Contract
The Jaguars, loaded with over $80 million in 2021 cap space, will be linked to myriad unrestricted free agents in the coming weeks. But before signing any outside players to massive contracts, Jaguars' GM Trent Baalke and HC Urban Meyer should look within.
DJ Chark is 24 years old and entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. In recent years, the Jaguars have struggled to keep homegrown talent around, and this new regime needs to make sure that trend does not continue. They should start with DJ Chark, who has been everything and more that you could expect from a second-round wide receiver over the last two seasons.
The Big Cats should ink Chark to a contract extension, which would likely be around four to five years and in the range of $15 million per season with about $45 million guaranteed. The contract would be an extension, and the new money wouldn't hit until 2022, so it would have little to no impact on the Jaguars' ability to sign free agents in 2021.
By signing DJ Chark now, not only does it send a strong message of a new vision for Jaguars' football, but it also locks up one of the most dangerous and efficient deep-ball receivers in the NFL today. And it gets you ahead of the curb when it comes to contract negotiations. If the Jaguars wait to try to sign DJ until the 2022 offseason, they risk severing their relationship with their young star and the potential for him to earn even more money with a massive season in a contract year.
It's painfully obvious that the Jags should do everything they can to ink Chark, who is uber-talented and hard-working, to a generous extension this offseason.
Free Agent Safeties
As I mentioned before, the Jaguars have plenty of money to acquire talent at positions of need in free agency this offseason. And needs, they are aplenty. With Trevor Lawrence on his way to town, the Jaguars need a left tackle, a cornerback or two, a tight end, a safety or two, a third edge rusher, another big defensive lineman, and wide receiver depth. The Jaguars should address all their needs in FA, giving them the flexibility to draft for talent instead of need.
Today I want to take a quick look at the safety market. Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye, Marcus Williams — three of the best young safeties in football, all have expiring contracts. But the Bronco's just cleared a ton of cap space and will likely franchise tag Simmons or sign him to a new deal. The Jets are also flush with cap space and would be crazy not to bring back Maye. And while the Saints are in cap hell right now, they've made it clear that they're prioritizing getting Williams back to New Orleans in 2021.
So where does that leave the Jaguars, who could use an upgrade at both safety spots? Fortunately, many other free agent safeties appear more likely to hit the market. And the Jaguars do at least have one quality safety on their roster that could start in 2021 in Jarrod Wilson. The advantage to keeping Wilson around is that he can align at strong or free safety, giving the team flexibility with who they sign to pair with Wilson.
The Jaguars could go for the grizzled vet in guys like Anthony Harris, Tre Boston, Bradley McDougald, Shawn Williams, or Jaquiski Tartt, to name a few. Instead, I'd opt to sign a defender whose best ball might still be in front of him.
John Johnson is 25 and has been a versatile safety, excelling in coverage and run defense during his time in Los Angeles. The Rams are in a rough cap situation and may need to prioritize other players. Johnson plays with consistency but also has a knack for big plays, making him an ideal fit.
Jalen Mills made the switch to safety for the Eagles in 2020 and had the best season of his career. Another year at the position could see Mills play even better in 2021. He'll turn 27 later this year and should be entering his prime.
Keanu Neal is still 25 years old and had a bounce-back season in 2020 after two injury-plagued seasons in '18-19. He's proven to be a playmaker in Atlanta and could bring some juice to the Jaguars' secondary.
Malik Hooker has dealt with injuries for much of his career. But at 24 years old, the former first-round pick has undeniable talent and range. Stealing him away from the division-rival Colts could be a big win. Signing Hooker would undoubtedly represent a risk, but it's a risk that could pay off big if Hooker is able to stay healthy. He played in a combined 27 of 32 games in 2018 and 2019 before missing 14 games in 2020 with a torn Achilles.
If Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye, and Marcus Williams do indeed stay put, I would prioritize signing John Johnson and keep tabs on the rest of the group.
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