JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars have lost 30 of their past 35 games, so it’s obvious they need help.
A lot of help.
Pretty much everywhere, but especially at wide receiver, which has been the most disappointing position group on the roster this season.
Season-ending injuries to DJ Chark Jr. and Jamal Agnew, a lack of speed, way too many drops, an inability to get consistent separation and the fact that the healthy receivers are still running the wrong routes and/or getting the wrong depth are not only major reasons why the offense is one of the league’s worst, but they’re also stymieing the development of rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
That’s why upgrading that position has to be the team’s top priority in the offseason.
“We have to fix it,” coach Urban Meyer said. “Am I concerned? Sure. I’m concerned about everything, but that’s a reality of the game of football. The pass game part is about consistency and timing. When you have -- like I said to no one’s fault -- when you have two guys go down and you’re just kind of rolling through guys, it’s a little bit more difficult on a quarterback.
“So yeah, it’s a problem.”
Unfortunately, it's a problem that can’t be solved until the season ends. But the offseason sets up nicely for the Jaguars to get significantly better at receiver.
It starts in free agency.
The Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Chris Godwin and Chicago Bears' Allen Robinson II are – at this point – scheduled to become free agents in March. Adams is in the final year of a four-year, $58 million contract ($30 million guaranteed) and said in July that he wants to be the league’s highest-paid receiver – which means the Jaguars would have to better the $27.25 million annual salary of Arizona Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
Godwin is playing on a one-year, $15.9 million contract, and Robinson is playing the season on the franchise tag ($17.9 million). It’s not out of the question for those three players to be given the franchise tag in 2022, but if not, the Jaguars would have to have to come up with big money in order to sign one of them.
That wouldn’t be a problem, though, because the Jaguars are projected to have $71.8 million in salary cap space in 2022, per Spotrac. Only the Los Angeles Chargers ($75.8 million) and Miami Dolphins ($75.5 million) are projected to have more room.
It’s supposed to be a good draft for receivers, but if the Jaguars (2-9) don’t win a few more games, they will find themselves in a tough spot. While there’s solid depth among the receiver class, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Jordan Reid’s first mock draft doesn’t show any receivers worthy of a top-10 pick, like Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle were in the 2021 draft class.
Staying put and addressing other needs – possibly offensive tackle (such as Alabama's Evan Neal) or a pass-rusher -- then trading back into the first round might be the better option. Meyer has lamented the lack of speed at receiver – especially after the loss of Chark and Agnew – and wideouts such as Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Ohio State’s Chris Olave are speedy options who could be available in the 15-25 range of the first round.
Regardless of which path Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke choose, making multiple upgrades at receiver is critical for Lawrence’s development. The Jaguars are averaging just 15.7 points per game (31st), haven’t scored more than 23 points in any contest and haven’t scored more than 17 in their past five games.
Lawrence has thrown nine touchdown passes with 10 interceptions and has had just one game with multiple TD passes – the 37-21 season-opening loss to the Houston Texans -- who is tied with the Jags for the second-worst record in the NFL.
If he’s going to become the player everyone expected him to be – which is why he was the first overall pick in 2021 – then the Jaguars have to get significantly better at receiver.