MOBILE, Ala. – The coming months will be busy.
We're talking about the Jaguars' 2020 offseason, and we're specifically talking about making salary-cap moves before free agency – then participating in the free-agent market.
Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said the team will do both. What's unknown nearly two months before the start of free agency and the 2020 NFL League Year is exactly how much the Jaguars will do on both fronts.
"We can be as active as we want to be," Caldwell said this week at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
The first step toward any Jaguars free-agent activity this offseason will be getting to – then under – the salary cap. That may be trickier than in any of Caldwell's previous seven offseasons with the Jaguars, with multiple veterans – defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Marqise Lee, guard Andrew Norwell and linebacker Jake Ryan – having large enough 2020 cap figures to make their release or restructure possible and/or necessary.
The Jaguars signed many of those players to large free-agent contracts knowing they likely wouldn't play out their entire contract. Caldwell said the nature of this offseason in that respect was expected.
"That happens with every free agent – let's be honest," Caldwell said. "You get these guys after they play four of five years with their initial club. Then you sign them. Not many players play 10 years. If you can get three years out of a free agent, at a high level, you feel good about that. We've been able to do that with the majority of free agents.
"Skills generally diminish in the second contract and then they get paid at the peak of their performance. At the end of the day, the two don't match each other. With free agency, that's the nature of the beast."
Caldwell said the Jaguars' task in reaching and getting under the cap is no "more or less than another year." The Jaguars by restructuring or releasing those five players can save about $62 million against the cap, putting them $59 million under by the start of free agency.
What would that mean in terms of their free-agency approach? Caldwell cautioned against expecting a repeat of 2017's high-end class of Bouye, Campbell and safety Barry Church.
"I don't know if I anticipate us setting markets with any specific player, but we'll be active and we'll be in conversations," Caldwell said. "We'll have our price points for players and if we can get a guy, that's great. If we can't, we have until September to fill those needs."
Sunday's 2020 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando will feature three Jaguars players – Campbell, second-year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and rookie defensive end Josh Allen. Allen became the first rookie in franchise history named to the Pro Bowl and Chark became the fifth second-year player to make it after left tackle Tony Boselli, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, wide receiver Allen Robinson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. "DJ did a great job," Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Chark, who caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns this past season after catching 14 passes for 174 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. "He was probably one of our best special teams players [as a rookie] and probably didn't play as well offensively as he would have liked. He really worked hard and came back and it's a great honor for him." Marrone, speaking at the Senior Bowl this week, had similar praise for Allen. "He came in Day 1 and really worked hard," Marrone said of Allen, who set a Jaguars rookie record with 10.5 sacks. "He really didn't have any type of first year where you kind of go down at the end of the year. He stayed strong throughout the whole year. We were able to move him around a little bit. He showed some versatility. He really played well and really progressed well during the year. Those two players, we're really excited about."
Marrone: "We haven't stopped since the season was over with the hiring, the meetings with people around the building. Everything right now is going well, but the hard work, the heavy lifting – all that is ahead of us now. We're all going to be looking to see how we can improve. It obviously hasn't been good enough. There will have to be some changes, meaning that if we keep doing things the same way it's not going to change. Where can we get ourselves better? Where have we maybe tipped our hands too much to our opponents? Those are the things you're looking at, because at the end of the day you want some type of balance. You might not have it from game to game, but at the end of the year you want to be a balanced team."