Three biggest concerns for Jacksonville Jaguars before the draft3 min read
Last offseason’s flurry of free-agent signings lifted Jacksonville out of the NFL cellar and into the playoffs, albeit at the expense of its current budget. No matter how promising the Jaguars are, a few issues must be addressed with the 2023 NFL Draft quickly approaching. Here are their three biggest concerns:
1. Can Walker Little succeed as starting right tackle?
Due to the aforementioned financial constraints, GM Trent Baalke placed the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram instead of right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who later signed with the Chiefs. As the Jaguars haven’t acquired Taylor’s replacement this offseason, they’ll likely turn to their 2021 second-round pick to fill the position.
Little made five starts at left tackle last season, including the playoffs, filling in for Cam Robinson. Over those five starts, Little surrendered 17 pressures and two sacks.
A successful playoff debut against the Chargers should give Little and the Jaguars confidence heading into next season. In 39 snaps in pass protection against star defensive end Joey Bosa and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, Little didn’t allow a pressure, per Pro Football Focus.
Even if Little is a full-time starter this season, it doesn’t rule out Jacksonville drafting an offensive tackle early. The Jaguars have an out in Robinson’s contract next offseason, and if they make him a post-June 1 cut, they’ll save $17.8 million, and Little can play his natural position.
2. What should Jaguars do with defensive end Josh Allen?
Despite being Jacksonville’s most effective pass rusher last season, the former top-10 draft pick has yet to exceed or match the 10.5 sacks he recorded as a rookie. Entering a contract season, Allen would likely have to register another high sack total to convince Jacksonville to re-sign him.
Spotrac estimates Allen could sign a four-year, $64.7M deal in free agency, based on market value. While his six sacks were enough to lead the team last season, they don’t warrant this type of contract.
Since Jacksonville is striving for a division title and has a rising star at quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, trading Allen wouldn’t be a wise move. It might make sense to draft Allen’s potential successor to prepare for a possible departure.
3. Where will the depth come from?
The Jaguars have several young players capable of developing into long-term starters, which is why their few offseason moves have centered on improving depth. A trio of rotational pieces — CB Tre Herndon, DE Adam Gostis, and safety Andrew Wingard — have re-signed, while DE Michael Dogbe, DE Henry Mondeaux, and RB D’Ernest Johnson came in as free agents.
Although they’ll continue adding to their young core through the draft, the Jaguars need some veteran presence in the locker room now that they’re a playoff team.
On Thursday, Jacksonville welcomed a familiar face to its facility, hosting 36-year-old defensive lineman Calais Campbell on a free-agent visit. Campbell anchored Jacksonville’s defense for three seasons (2017-19), recording 137 solo tackles and 31.5 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl each season during his Jaguars tenure and earned his lone career first-team All-Pro selection in 2017.
Campbell left his visit unsigned, but Jacksonville should continue searching for an experienced pass rusher. Could DE Jadeveon Clowney’s next stop be with another AFC South team?