Jaguars cut starting defenders Darious Williams and Rayshawn Jenkins to create $16.6M in cap space

FILE - Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31) leaves the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Jacksonville Jaguars cut veteran cornerback Darious Williams on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, to create $11.5 million in salary cap space. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

FILE - Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31) leaves the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Jacksonville Jaguars cut veteran cornerback Darious Williams on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, to create $11.5 million in salary cap space. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

The Jacksonville Jaguars cut half their starting secondary Tuesday to create $16.6 million in salary cap space.

The Jaguars released veteran cornerback Darious Williams and safety Rayshawn Jenkins minutes apart and hours before they were expected to use their franchise tag on pass rusher Josh Allen.

Williams, who started 30 games over the past two seasons in Jacksonville, was due to make $9 million in 2024 and count $12 million against the cap. The Jaguars will take on $500,000 in dead money while saving $11.5 million this season.

Jenkins, who started 50 games over the past three seasons in Jacksonville, was due to make $8 million in 2024 and count $12.3 million against the cap. The Jaguars will take on $7.14 million in dead money while saving $5.15 million this season.

The moves came a day after the Jaguars cleared $3.5 million in cap space by releasing veteran defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi.

The $20 million in additional space will help the team bring back Allen and potentially re-sign receiver Calvin Ridley and left guard Ezra Cleveland.

Cutting Williams also sends a clear signal that Jacksonville will be in the market for a cornerback in free agency next week and probably in the NFL draft next month. Fellow starter Tyson Campbell is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Jacksonville has little proven depth behind him.

Williams finished with 53 tackles and four interceptions last season, but the Jaguars are switching to a scheme that calls for more man-to-man coverage under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. That change coupled with Williams’ production and salary made him expendable at age 31.

Williams signed a three-year, $30 million deal in 2022 that included $18 million guaranteed. He previously played four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Jags drafted Jenkins’ replacement in 2023 when they chose Antonio Johnson from Texas A&M in the fifth round. Johnson had 17 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in limited action as a rookie, showing enough promise to make Jenkins expendable at age 30.

Jenkins signed a four-year, $35 million deal in 2021 that included $16 million guaranteed. He had 290 tackles and five interceptions — including a 52-yarder in overtime to beat Dallas in 2022 — with Jacksonville. He previously played four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers.

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