Jaguars will use draft to add pieces for QB Nick Foles
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have done little to build around the most expensive player in franchise history.
Since giving quarterback Nick Foles a four-year, $88 million contract that included $50.125 million guaranteed, the Jaguars essentially have rummaged through free-agent bargain bins, scoured sale racks and added several guys that might as well have been marked “damaged goods.”
All the while they were waiting for the draft.
It’s here now and time for Jacksonville to get Foles some help, whether it’s a starting offensive lineman, a mismatch tight end, a big-play receiver or even a third-down back.
The Jaguars are expected to use several of their first four selections on the offensive side of the ball. They have four of the top 100 selections, including the seventh overall pick next Thursday night, and could go in just about any direction.
But there’s little doubt the primary goal is to build around Foles, a guy personnel chief Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone believe is a franchise quarterback capable of helping the team become a playoff contender again.
“We need to improve in that area,” Coughlin said.
Jacksonville parted ways with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and veteran right tackle Jermey Parnell, creating obvious holes at those positions. The team added tight end Geoff Swaim and re-signed offensive tackle Josh Wells, but neither is considered more than an experienced backup.
So Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams or Florida’s Jawaan Taylor could be potential targets at No. 7.
“To be honest, the foundation of an offense is always through the line,” Foles said. “It’s really hard to run a successful offense without those guys up front.”
Taking a tight end in the top 10 would be more of a stretch, but Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson is expected to go in the top half of the first round. Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns as a third-year sophomore.
Foles said he has been spoiled by playing with All-Pro tight ends Travis Kelce (Kansas City) and Zach Ertz (Philadelphia), seeing firsthand how elite guys at that position can help an offense — especially when they can block and catch.
“It’s very hard to find guys that are good at both,” Foles said.
Coughlin has made it clear that, even with the addition of Foles, the team has no plans to deviate from its run-first philosophy. That means a commitment to defense, and the Jaguars have issues there, too.
They traded away pass rusher Dante Fowler, cut former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson and have defensive end Calais Campbell nearing his 33rd birthday.
They also are unlikely to keep nose tackle Marcell Dareus, who is due to count $22.5 million against the salary cap in 2020, beyond this season. Throw in 2018 first-round draft pick Taven Bryan, who played sparingly as a rookie, and the Jaguars could add to the D-line early.
Coughlin developed a reputation with the New York Giants of drafting along the defensive front even though the team had more pressing needs elsewhere. He picked Justin Tuck (third round, 2005) and Mathias Kiwanuka (first round, 2006) in consecutive years despite already having Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
So don’t be surprised if Coughlin jumps at Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams or Kentucky’s Josh Allen if one of them slides or takes Houston’s Ed Oliver or Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat at No. 7.
“We’ll look at every option,” Caldwell said. “We won’t know until we’re on the clock.”
Here are some other things to know about the Jaguars heading into the draft:
The Jaguars are picking in the top 10 for the 11th time in the past 12 years. Part of the team’s problems is that only three of those selections — cornerback Jalen Ramsey, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive tackle Taven Bryan — remain on the roster.
Jacksonville has parted ways with both starting safeties from last year, cutting Barry Church during the season and Tashaun Gipson before free agency. Although Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson have shown promise, finding competition/backups has to be part of the draft plan.
The Jaguars have revamped their running back room by signing backup Alfred Blue and special teams player Benny Cunningham. But they still are looking to replace third-down back and speedster Corey Grant, who also returned kicks.