JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's 10 things the Jaguars must do in the 2021 offseason …
1.Hire a head coach. The Jaguars face a couple of obvious tasks early this offseason. We list head coach first, because early signs are Owner Shad Khan could fill the Jaguars' vacant head-coaching position before the vacant general-manager position. Circumstances have aligned to make the Jaguars' head-coaching position as appealing as any time in franchise history, certainly since the expansion days of the 1990s. Candidates reportedly include former Florida/Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett, Atlanta Falcons Interim Head Coach Raheem Morris, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. When will this happen? Perhaps only Khan knows. Who's the best candidate? All are qualified. Meyer is a three-time college national championship coach; all others likely will become NFL head coaches in this hiring cycle or soon thereafter. There will be a lot of talk about the background of the eventual hire: college or pro experience, whether he is a defensive coach of an offensive coach, etc. Neither factor matters as much as ability to lead and provide vision for the franchise.
2.Hire a general manager. The Jaguars haven't had a complete regime change since 2013, when Khan hired David Caldwell as general manager and Gus Bradley as head coach. The new general manager will be the fifth person in 27 seasons to hold the role – following Tom Coughlin, James Harris, Gene Smith and Caldwell. The GM will work hand-in-hand with the head coach rather than having absolute final say. It's nonetheless a critical hire.
3.Find a quarterback … This is listed third because of timing. Head coach and general manager will come first, and their No. 1 task will be fixing a quarterback position that hasn't been good enough in too long. Getting the quarterback right is Priority One for any NFL general manager/head coach. Fortunately for the Jaguars' new GM/coach, it's not hard to figure out the solution.
4. … so draft one No. 1 overall. The Jaguars have the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, the first time the Jaguars have held the No. 1 selection. Khan last week made the obvious clear – saying that the franchise has "the ability to make a choice [at No. 1 overall] … and it's going to define the franchise moving forward." Many believe that will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. We'll know more in this vein when we know the identity of the coach and general manager.
5.Fix the interior of the defensive line. If shaky quarterback play has been the Jaguars' main issue in recent seasons, lack of depth and front-line talent on the interior of the defensive line has been close. The Jaguars wore down here for a second consecutive season this past season. This area could be addressed in a big way in free agency and early in the draft.
6.Add speed. This feels particularly true offensively. Adding speed at running back and receiver – and getting faster and better at tight end – figures to be a priority under the new leadership.
7.Add a complementary running back. Rookie running back James Robinson figures to be key to the offense moving forward. But he's not a breakaway threat. Adding speed and a third-down back is likely here.
8.Add a playmaking safety. The Jaguars' secondary may not be overhauled, but there almost certainly will be changes. Perhaps rookie Daniel Thomas will be one starter, but a new defensive coordinator/head coach likely will want a more dynamic maker at one of the safety spots. A key decision, too, in the secondary will be whether to re-sign corner Sidney Jones IV, who impressed in six games as a starter before missing six of the last seven games with an Achilles injury. The secondary may not be a complete overhaul, but it might be close.
9.Fix tight end. The Jaguars' tight-end position has been deficient far too long, perhaps as long as quarterback. The position is hard to fix: great ones can be tricky to scout in college, with some of the league's best often being selected outside the first round, and teams don't often allow good ones to hit free agency. Still: it's hard to be really good offensively these days if you're not really good at tight end. This needs to get fixed. Finally.
10.Figure out left tackle. This figures to be one of the first tasks facing a new regime. Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year. Robinson was inconsistent enough during 2020 that re-signing him to a long-term deal is hardly a given, but he is good enough – and finding a left tackle is difficult enough – that letting him leave could be a mistake. Applying the franchise tag could be a possibility.
10b.Figure out the Chark Plan. This is "10b" because it's similar to 10 – just with not quite as much urgency. Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. will enter his fourth NFL season next season, so he and the team can negotiate a second contract. Before the 2020 season, it seemed reasonable the Jaguars would approach Chark this offseason about a long-term extension. But after making a Pro Bowl season in 2019, Chark caught 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns in 2020. Those numbers were hurt by shaky quarterback play, but they make the decision on Chark's long-term future trickier than seemed likely last offseason.