JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars’ tight end position in this look at the ’19 offseason
Position: Tight end.
2018 starters: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (5), James O’Shaughnessy (9), Niles Paul (1), David Grinnage (2), Blake Bell (4).
Others: Ben Koyack, Pharoah McKever.
2018 at a glance: Seferian-Jenkins, after signing as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown before missing the final 11 games following core-muscle surgery. O’Shaughnessy – a fifth-round selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft – led the position with 24 receptions for 214 yards. Paul, also signed as an unrestricted free agent last offseason, caught 10 passes for 98 yards before a season-ending knee injury in a Week 6 loss to Dallas; Paul, also considered a special teams ace, was released by the Jaguars December 14.
Offseason storyline: This position – like multiple others offensively – could change dramatically during the offseason. Seferian-Jenkins remains on the roster, though his tweet last month about the “next chapter” indicates that may change in the near future – certainly by the March 13 start of the 2019 League Year. With Bell and O’Shaughnessy also free agents – and with Paul having been released – no position other than perhaps quarterback seems likely to be a more major offseason focus for the Jaguars.
Free agents as of March 13: Bell, O’Shaughnessy.
Oehser analysis: This position is perhaps second only to quarterback in terms of offseason focus. Not only must the team decide Seferian-Jenkins’ future, it must find a way to upgrade a position that has needed improvement for far too long. The Jaguars have been weak at pass-catching tight end in recent memory – that despite making significant free-agent moves at the position including signing Seferian-Jenkins as an unrestricted free agent last offseason and Julius Thomas as an UFA in the 2015 offseason. The Jaguars passed on multiple pass-catching possibilities at the position in the 2018 NFL Draft and released veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis, with the result being a deficiency last season at the spot once Seferian-Jenkins went on injured reserve in October. The leaguewide perception long has been that it’s difficult for a rookie tight end to contribute, but that was less true in 2018 – and could be less true going forward if more NFL-ready tight ends enter the league through the NFL Draft. This is considered a good year for tight end in the draft with T.J. Hockenson of Iowa, Noah Fant of Iowa, Jace Sternberger of Texas A&M, Irv Smith Jr. of Alabama, Kaden Smith of Stanford and Caleb Wilson of Stanford among the players at the position considered possible Day 1 and Day 2 selections. This could be the year the Jaguars make a move for a young player at the spot.
Sexton analysis: Tight end is a position of immediate need in Jacksonville in 2019. Seferian-Jenkins contributed just 11 receptions and a touchdown after signing a two-year deal last season and his loss was felt immediately after he was placed on injured reserve in October. He looked like a guy who was going to play a major role in the offense both down the field and – as importantly – in the running game. They missed his abilities terribly and you would think he would return on a reasonable $6 million contract. Beyond Seferian-Jenkins, O’Shaughnessy posted an unremarkable 24 catches and Koyack looked like the same guy they released in August when he returned in December. Bell seems like a solid No. 2 or 3 with his size, blocking ability and soft hands but he’s not a big-time threat in the passing game. This year’s draft is deep at tight end and the Jaguars will have their eyes open at the position after watching Dallas Goedert play effectively in his rookie year in Philadelphia. A team that bases its passing attack on play action as the Jaguars do needs a tight end who can create mismatches in the middle of the field; that player isn’t on the roster today.