JACKSONVILLE – A look back at the past week around the Jaguars, with an emphasis on Owner Shad Khan's thoughts on different areas of the roster – and a look at why he retained General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone …
NGAKOUE, CAMPBELL WANTED BACK
London and Lot J weren't the only topics Khan covered this week.
The Jaguars' owner also discussed multiple football issues when he spoke to the media and jaguars.com earlier this week. A couple of the topics were obvious:
The futures of defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.
"Both of those players – Yannick and Calais – I had chats with them after the season," Khan said during a conversation with jaguars.com's Ashlyn Sullivan. "I would love for them to be back and I'm very hopeful they'll be back."
Campbell and Ngakoue are both key offseason Jaguars storylines. Because they are at different stages of their careers, different dynamics surround the players.
Campbell, who has made the Pro Bowl in all three seasons since signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in the 2017 offseason, has a year remaining on his contract. He is entering his 13th NFL season, with a $17.5 million salary-cap figure for 2020.
The Jaguars can either pay Campbell his $15 million base salary in 2020, try to renegotiate an extension with a lower-cap figure or release Campbell for cap reasons. He also is the unquestioned team leader, and Khan acknowledged his importance off the field and in the community.
"I think he's a fabulous guy and I think his contributions … everybody understands, knows, respects," Khan said of Campbell, who this past Saturday became the first Jaguars player to receive the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year – an award that acknowledged volunteer work, work in the community and on-field performance.
Ngakoue's situation is as complex. The fourth-year defensive end is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the March 18 start of the NFL League Year. Ngakoue turned down the Jaguars' offer for a contract extension last offseason and held out through the first part of training camp.
The Jaguars are unlikely to allow Ngakoue to become a free agent. If the sides can't agree to a long-term contract, the Jaguars have the option of applying the franchise tag – a move that restricts a player's ability to sign elsewhere. Ngakoue would then have the option of signing the tag and playing in 2020 on what essentially is a one-year contract or not signing the tag and not playing.
"We very much want him to be [back], and I've talked to him," Khan said. "Absolutely it's our desire that he be back."
The window for a team to apply the franchise tag is February 25 through March 10.
ON QUARTERBACK …
Neither Caldwell nor Marrone have indicated who will start at quarterback next season – Gardner Minshew II or Nick Foles. "Frankly, this past year proved you better have two competent quarterbacks, OK?" Khan said. "There were a number of teams if they didn't have a competent [backup] quarterback [in 2019], they wouldn't have made it. If you look at it, from where we've come from … an argument could be made we didn't have any competent quarterbacks, so this is in a way an embarrassment of riches for us in a good way that we do have two very good quarterbacks. I think as we move forward in this season – training camp or whatever – the coaches will have their work cut out to determine who gives us the best chance of winning as we move forward."
During a Tuesday conference call with President Mark Lamping that centered mostly on London, Khan also discussed his reasoning for bringing back Caldwell and Marrone: "We were a .500 team within reach of first place of the division at the midway point [of the 2019 season: We had the [quarterback Gardner] Minshew Mania going, and then … boom: We lost five straight and then won two of the last three. A 6-10 team last year that did a good job dealing with a number of the off-field issues, but the bottom line is that we really underperformed. That completed the thought plan of what we needed to do going forward."
Somewhat overlooked in a busy Jaguars news week was the hiring of former San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke as director of player personnel. Baalke has a reputation for drafting quality defensive and offensive linemen, and current 49ers starters such as defensive end Arik Armstead, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, tackle Michael Person, strong safety Jaquiski Tritt and defensive back Jimmy Ward were drafted during his tenue.