A possible home finale for Jaguars’ Jackson, Bortles, Church
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson dusted off his Super Bowl ring last week and wore it for the first time all year.
He was feeling a little nostalgia, just not about his days with the 2015 champion Denver Broncos.
“I need to remember who I am,” said Jackson, a Pro Bowl selection last season.
It might be too late. Jackson is no longer a starter and his playing time is dwindling, signs his tenure in Jacksonville is likely nearing an end. The 28-year-old Jackson signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract in March 2016 that included $42 million guaranteed. He’s due to count $15 million against the salary cap in 2019, a figure the Jaguars seem unwilling to pay for a role player.
The Jaguars (4-9) essentially have moved on already, benching Jackson in favor of run-stopper Abry Jones and rookie Taven Bryan.
Now, Jackson is one of seven former or current starters prepared to play what might be their final game in Jacksonville when the Jaguars host reeling Washington (6-7) on Sunday.
Here’s a deeper look:
The quarterback was benched last month , ending a run of 72 consecutive starts. Bortles signed a three-year, $54 million extension in February — after playing turnover-free football in the postseason — and is due to count $21 million against the cap in 2019. The team can cut him with a post-June 1 designation and save $9.5 million against the cap.
Still, giving Bortles an extension — he was already under contract and due to make about $19 million in 2018 — turned out to be one of several bad calls by chief decision-maker Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone.
A third-round draft pick from South Carolina in 2015, Cann has been a durable starter at right guard during his four seasons. But his availability is more impressive than his ability, leaving Jacksonville in need of an upgrade at the position.
The veteran safety signed a four-year, $26 million contract with Jacksonville in 2017, part of a stellar free-agent class that included defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. Campbell and Bouye both made the Pro Bowl last season and have been solid in 2018. Church had 74 tackles and four interceptions in 2017, but looked a step slow this season. He started the first 11 games before getting benched in favor of rookie Ronnie Harrison . Church was inactive last week at Tennessee and has declined several interview requests.
Jackson has one sack this season after notching a career-high eight in 2017, and coaches have pinned the defense’s run-stopping woes partly on him. Jackson insists anything can happen in the final three games, but he also acknowledges that the team’s intentions to go in a different direction are obvious.
“If you’re a guy at the end of his guaranteed money, you’re probably in trouble,” Jackson said.
The former Indianapolis Colts receiver signed a one-year, $9.6 million deal in free agency in hopes of becoming a big-play threat and earning a more lucrative, long-term contract. He has 42 catches for 604 yards and three touchdowns, but has failed to show breakaway speed or win his share of 50-50 balls.
The 32-year-old right tackle is expected to miss his first game of the season this week because of a knee injury. Parnell signed a five-year, $32 million contract in 2015 and has started 57 games. But the Jags drafted his replacement, Will Richardson, in the fourth round in April.
A backup running back, Yeldon is the team’s leading rusher and receiver. The 2015 second-round pick has 408 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with a team-leading 54 receptions for 482 yards and four scores. Yeldon will be a free agent in 2019 and unlikely to remain in Jacksonville even though the Jaguars have only two running backs — Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde — under contract moving forward.
“Every game is an audition,” Campbell said. “In this game, it’s what have you done for me lately, so at the end of the day, every time you’re on that field, you have to play with the mentality that it could be your last game.”