The Jaguars made national headlines on multiple fronts Monday.
Perhaps the most impactful news came from an off-the-field hire. Urban Meyer announced via his Twitter that the Jaguars are hiring Amy Palcic to head their communications team. Yes, that Amy Palcic. The same one who directed one of the best PR departments in football and then unceremoniously got handed her pink slip by the Texans in November, an organization shrouded in controversy. After the Texans wrongfully terminated Palcic, many in the professional football landscape came to her defense, including JJ Watt, who mentioned how instrumental Palcic was in his hurricane relief efforts. A wrong committed by a lost franchise and divisional rival has been righted by Shad Khan, Urban Meyer, and the Jaguars. As Meyer has continuously stated during his brief time in Jacksonville, he wants the best of the best, and that's what Amy Palcic appears to be. I'd look for the Jaguars' PR and communications to be top-notch from here on out. The team already had a quality group formerly led by Tad Dickman, until he took a role with the PGA in 2020. But had Palcic been around a couple of weeks ago, the Chris Doyle fiasco might have been avoided entirely.
Back to football...
The Jaguars are (unsurprisingly) expected to turn down their team option on TE Tyler Eifert's contract, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. The move will make Eifert an unrestricted free agent and free up $5.25 million in 2021 cap space. The Jaguars signed Eifert just a year ago, and while he was an efficient target in 2020, Eifert never lived up to a potentially lofty contract. He often appears just a bit off trying to haul in some spectacular catches down the field. With Eifert likely no longer in the Jaguars' 2021 plans and James O'Shaughnessy also set to become an unrestricted free agent, the team has Tyler Davis, Ben Ellefson, Josh Oliver, and Eric Saubert under contract. The only player that could inspire confidence there is Josh Oliver, who is talented and athletic, but can't stay on the field. With a lack of experience and talent inside the tight end room, the Jaguars could be a major player at the position in free agency.
Speaking of free agency, it's now less than a month away, with the legal tampering period set to open on March 15th. With the salary cap expected to be at least $180 million, the Jaguars will have over $80 million in cap room (at minimum). And it's a good thing too. The Jaguars have a roster with plenty of needs.
The top three needs are crystal clear, and two of them come at critical positions: cornerback and left tackle. The Jaguars' starting left tackle of the last four years, Cam Robinson, is set to hit free agency. The way I see it, the Jaguars should swing for the fences on Trent Williams while keeping Cam Robinson in their back pocket with a transition tag. If the Jaguars land Williams, they can choose not to match another team's offer on Cam Robinson. And if they can't land Williams, they move forward with Robinson, who looks to be on an upward trajectory. Either way, the Jaguars need to have a veteran left tackle on the roster before the draft.
At cornerback, the Jaguars have one starter in 2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson. He's locked in on one side of the field, but the team doesn't have a legit veteran under contract on the other side or at the nickel spot. Sidney Jones could be re-signed, but the talented young cover man has had a rough go of it with his achilles and can't be fully relied upon. Tre Herndon or DJ Hayden could be retained at the nickel spot, but Hayden is aging and oft-injured while Herndon is coming off a dud of a season. And the young options under contract, Josiah Scott, Luq Barcoo, Chris Claybrooks, Brandon Rusnak, Quenton Meeks, and Josh Nurse, haven't done enough to warrant a starting spot.
The third biggest need is at tight end, the position group we looked over earlier.
But there are more areas the Jaguars could and should attack. On offense, the wide receiver room needs more talent and depth, while the team could use a suitable change of pace behind James Robinson. On defense, the Jaguars could use another big interior defensive lineman with some penetration skills, another edge rusher, and at least one more veteran safety.
How Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke handle this free-agent class will have a massive impact on how the next two to three years of Jaguars' football play out, for better or for worse.
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