The Jaguars decided to decline the contract option of left tackle Kelvin Beachum who had a decent 2016 season one year removed from suffering a left ACL tear. Beachum had his ups and downs which was expected given his circumstance, and many believed Jacksonville would pick up the 27-year old’s four-year contract option. However, the Jaguars’ front office had other plans and made the decision not to bring Beachum back into the fold for the 2017 season. The team now has a glaring hole at the left tackle position heading into next season, and to make matters worse this year’s draft does not present very many promising offensive tackles.
The Jacksonville Jaguars New Regime Makes Their First Mistake
The Jaguars new regime may have some plan in order, but choosing to not bring back a serviceable left tackle in Beachum was their first mistake so far. Not only is the 2017 NFL Draft barren of talented offensive tackles but so is this year’s free agency class. The best left tackle on the market will be Andrew Whitworth who is 35 years old and will likely look to sign on with a team contending for a championship. The next best guys are Riley Reiff and Matt Kalil. Neither of those two guys are better left tackles than Beachum. Reiff made the switch to right tackle in this past season to allow 2016 first rounder Taylor Decker to man the left side. Even if the team signs one of them, the Jaguars will still have taken an unnecessary step back at the left tackle position.
The offensive line now only has one starter that can be relied upon, Brandon Linder. A.J. Cann is average at best but is heading into his third year as a pro and must prove that he is worthy of re-signing and keeping around. Jermey Parnell was terrible this past season and turns 31 this summer. The team should have had plans to cut him and pick up a premiere right tackle in free agency such a Ricky Wagner or Riley Reiff.
Declining Beachum’s option leaves the Jaguars’ front office with little room for error in free agency now because they absolutely must sign at least one of these two or the offensive tackle position will be a dumpster fire. Mike Remmers is also a potential target in free agency as a right tackle, but his meltdown in Super Bowl 50 against the Broncos pass rush is very concerning given he would have to face J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus twice a year.
Looking for Guards in the Draft
The popular belief was that the Jaguars would aggressively look to sign a premiere right tackle and an offensive guard in free agency, but now one has to wonder how the team plans to fill three holes on the O-line in one off-season. The team will likely have to fill one of the holes through the draft which would probably mean the Jaguars have their eye on drafting a guard in the second or third rounds.
The draft has some intriguing prospects that project to be solid starting guards in the NFL like Taylor Moton, Forrest Lamp, Dan Feeney, and Ethan Pocic amongst others. Lamp is expected to be drafted at the bottom of the first, so unless the Jaguars want to trade up back into the first round, he likely won’t be a target for the team. Moton and Feeney are two guys that could potentially go in the second round. Feeney is a well-rounded zone-blocking guard, but some question whether he can only thrive in that system. Moton is a massive right tackle that will likely switch to guard in the NFL where he can really highlight his power in the run game.
Unnecessary Step Back
Regardless of how it ends up playing out, the Jaguars’ new regime created a completely avoidable and senseless situation at the left tackle position when they decided to not pick up Kelvin Beachum’s contract option. The team still could resign Beachum for less guaranteed money, but the contract’s numbers weren’t terrible to begin with so doing so would make the entire ordeal pointless given the amount of cap space the Jaguars have. Not only is the free agency market deficient at the tackle position but so is the draft.
Perhaps head coach Doug Marrone who coached Beachum as the team’s offensive line coach had a differing opinion on the player, but the last thing this team needed to do was to create more personnel problems for itself. The Jaguars’ front office has a lot of work to do to fix the offensive line in the upcoming months, and they only added to that workload by making the mistake of declining Beachum’s contract option.