The Jacksonville Jaguars went 6-10 in 2019 and are two years removed from playing in the AFC Championship Game. That 2017 playoff run is their only playoff appearance since 2008.
Jaguars are far away from being a Super Bowl contender, but with a 7th playoff team in each conference, making the playoffs isn’t an impossible task. But it will take some work, starting with these four moves.
1. Trade for Andy Dalton
Logistically, there’s issues with trading for Dalton, such as his contract. But Dalton is a good quarterback, despite what the critics say. Sure, he’s 0-4 in playoff games, but he’s helped lead the Bengals to 5 playoff games since being drafted in 2011! Since their origin in 1995, the Jaguars have just 7 playoff appearances total.
From 2011-2013, Bengals made three straight playoff appearances with a young Dalton and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. That’s notable, because Gruden will call plays for the Jaguars in 2020, after being fired as Redskins head coach half way through the 2019 season.
Gardner Minshew is a fun story, who showed flashes of potential, but there’s a reason he played for three colleges and was a fifth round pick. He isn’t a franchise quarterback He’s a backup-level starter, who is capable of winning games, but not capable of sustained success throughout a 16 game season. Dalton has his limitations, but Minshew’s limitations severely outweigh Dalton’s.
Also worth noting, Jaguars signed former Bengals TE Tyler Eifert. Eifert’s best season came in 2015, when he caught 13 TD passes (out of 24 career) and had career-highs 52 receptions and 615 yards. Some comfortably with his pass catchers would help.
An upgrade with the pass catchers would also help…
2. Draft Jerry Jeudy
DJ Chark Jr emerged as a breakout WR in 2019, with 1,008 yards and 8 touchdowns. Beyond Chark, the Jaguars WRs are Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole. All solid, but unspectacular.
Jeudy is spectacular. He has been among the best WRs in college football for the last two years and should have an immediate impact in the NFL. Chark was good, but now imagine him facing #2 cornerbacks, instead of #1. Imagine Conley or Westbrook going over the middle against linebackers or safeties. Jeudy would instantly upgrade the entire Jaguars offense with his presence.
3. Trade Leonard Fournette
Fournette has an attitude issue. He has clashed with head coach Doug Marrone and former team President Tom Coughlin. I’m amazed he is still in Jacksonville.
The #4 pick in the 2017 Draft has his best year as a pro, running for 1,152 yards but only 3 touchdowns. His TD numbers have regressed from 9 to 5 to 3 in three years. He also proved to be multi-dimensional with 76 catches for 522 yards.
So why in the world would I recommend trading him?
Because 2020 is the final guaranteed year of his contract, before the Jags are forced to decide on his 5th year option for 2021, and then decide on an extension, that would likely cost around $16 million per season, in the range of fellow 2017 top 10 pick Christian McCaffery and 2016 #4 pick Ezekiel Elliot.
I don’t believe Fournette falls in the same category as Elliot and McCaffery as far as value and feel like he is replaceable (Jonathan Taylor with a 2020 round 2 pick?). Trade him for another player or for 2020 picks and continue to add depth across the roster.
4. Trade Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue, a third round pick in 2016, has 37.5 sacks in four years and has missed just 2 games during that time. Jaguars applied the franchise tag but Ngakoue has publicly expressed his displeasure with that decision and has claimed he will not suit up for Jacksonville in 2020.
Eagles, Seahawks, 49ers stand out as three times that could benefit from trading their late first round picks to the Jaguars for the 25 year old.
An extra first round pick gives Jaguars the chance to draft a potential starter on defense and likely acquire a second pick on day 3 to add more depth.
Trading Fournette and Ngakoue are tough pills to swallow, but cleaning up the franchise of disgruntled talent is a major step in fixing the Jaguars.