The Jacksonville Jaguars were on top of the world in 2017. They made the AFC Championship game on the back of their elite defense and were a possession away from booking a ticket to the Super Bowl. Their success that year turned out to be an outlier, as the following season, they returned to the mediocrity the franchise was long stuck in.
Putting the past fully behind them allows the franchise to look forward to the future. Almost every important member of the 2017 defense is now gone. Quarterback Blake Bortles is gone, and his replacement, Nick Foles, has departed as well. Running back Leonard Fournette has a foot out of the door too.
It all starts from the foundation now in Duval county, as an impressively-lengthy receiver and a scrappy young quarterback with a mustache try to lead one of the NFL’s youngest franchises to its first taste of glory.
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we are starting at the bottom.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a mess of a franchise, but it appears that they will be able to move on from their mistakes with little-to-no risk. Clearing out much of their defense may actually be a good thing, as it was unlikely they would compete anyways, and it allows them to free their salary cap. Their mistake in selecting Fournette fifth overall likely cost them a Super Bowl in 2017, but putting that issue behind them, it will have no bearings on future rebuilds.
Jacksonville has a clean slate to start over with. The Chicago Bears bailed them out of the terrible Nick Foles contract. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has no intention of sticking around past 2020. The big-money extension of Myles Jack is risky (we will get to it later), but Jack showed enough on his rookie deal that it may work out. Both Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder have deals that team can easily get out of in the coming years.
The only big-money extension on the horizon for the team is that of wide receiver D.J. Chark. The young receiver had a standout 2019 season and truly broke out after a change at quarterback. While he will likely be expensive, his extension likely won’t happen until at least least 2021.
Their quarterback situation allows them to remain fluid in their direction going forward. Gardner Minshew played in 14 games last season after being selected in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. Minshew first came in to relieve an injured Foles to start the year, but late in the year, he managed to win the job based off performance. While he was not particularly great, he certainly showed enough promise for the team to want to move forward with him.
We do not know what the future entails for Minshew, but either way, the Jaguars win. If he turns out to be a great player, then the Jaguars will get to have one of the league’s cheapest starting quarterbacks for the next three years before they have to pay him. If it doesn’t work out, then who cares? Minshew could easily be moved on from, and they will likely have a top draft pick to take a crack at a top quarterback prospect anyways.
Minshew will get to throw to two great receivers in Chark and rookie second-round pick Laviska Shenault. The speedy receiving corps also includes the likes of Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. While none of the group are world beaters outside of Chark, it definitely is a great group to surround a young quarterback with.
The defense is in a similarly fluid spot as well. With Ngakoue all but gone, Jack is the only heavy investment the team will be stuck to long term. The linebacker is in an interesting situation. While he has been great thus far in his young career, he has a degenerative knee condition that may shorten his career. Last year, a knee injury cut his season short, a prospect which must be scary for anyone familiar with his injury history. Still, though, if Jack can stay healthy, he is certainly a player worth building around.
Jacksonville also has 2019 first=round pick Josh Allen at defensive end. Allen’s impressive rookie season was largely overshadowed, but he looks like he has the making of yet another top-tier edge rusher to play for this franchise—and maybe the central piece to the next iteration of “Sacksonville”. The edge rusher still has three more seasons before he is eligible for an extension, giving the team control over him for cheap for the next few years as well.
The Jaguars roster is not very good for 2020, but it is in a position that allows them to be very good in 2021 or maybe 2022. They do not have many long-term, crippling contracts on the roster. They have a fluid quarterback situation without much investment put into the current guy—who could turn into a star. The stars they may have on the roster won’t have to be seriously paid for another couple years. They should have more high draft picks coming soon as well.
Jacksonville has quietly set themselves up perfectly to be a surprise contender in the coming years.