JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's four thoughts on Tuesday's news that the Jaguars have released veteran TE Marcedes Lewis and veteran WR Allen Hurns
1. Tough goodbyes.While most NFL teams' offseasons feature difficult releases these days, the guess here is Tuesday was particularly tough for many Jaguars followers. It certainly ranks that way for those who cover the team, because both Hurns and Lewis rank among not only the organization's best stories of recent seasons – and among the team's most enjoyable people to cover, too. As a first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, Lewis was the team's most-tenured player and also was a relative NFL rarity – a highly-drafted player who spends more than a decade with the team that drafted him; he and former center Brad Meester are the only players in franchise history to play 12 years with the organization. Hurns, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie following the 2014 NFL Draft, made an immediate impact with two touchdowns as a Week 1 starter as a rookie – and he had 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving the following season. Beyond that, both were gracious and patient with media and fans; you got the idea from both over the years they valued their NFL opportunity – and the organization that gave them that opportunity. The Jaguars careers of both players ended Tuesday. Here's guessing they're not soon forgotten.
2. Surprise, surprise?What was the level of surprise for Tuesday's moves? The release of Lewis must be considered at least somewhat surprising; the release of Hurns, not so much. The Jaguars last week re-signed wide receiver Marqise Lee and signed wide receiver Donte Moncrief as an unrestricted free agent from the Indianapolis Colts. With second-year veteran Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook playing significant roles in the second half of last season and the postseason, it was tough to figure Hurns' role moving forward. He also was scheduled to make $7 million next season, which is high for a player without a key role. Lewis' release will save the team $3.75 million on the cap this season. He started all 16 games last season, and his release leaves the Jaguars with the following tight ends on the roster: James O'Shaughnessy, David Grinnage and recently-signed unrestricted free agents Niles Paul and Austin Seferian-Jenkins; the team also has extended an exclusive rights tender to Ben Koyack. Lewis' release would seem to increase the chance the team addresses tight end in what is considered a good draft for the position in the late-first through third rounds.
3. Hurns' legacy.Both Lewis and Hurns should be remembered fondly by Jaguars fans. We'll start with Hurns, who turned in more than a few memorable moments during four seasons. His diving reception just in bounds on a late pass from quarterback Blake Bortles beat the Buffalo Bills at Wembley Stadium in 2015, and he followed that with a late game-clinching touchdown reception over the Colts at Wembley the following season. He also had a huge touchdown reception in a 51-16 victory over the Colts in December 2015 that stood as perhaps the most impressive victory of the four-year "Gus Bradley" area. But the moment for which Hurns likely will be most remembered come last November. Hurns, upon sustaining a high-ankle sprain late in a 20-17 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at EverBank Field,crawled from the field to avoid a 10-second runoff as the Jaguars drove for a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. Had the Jaguars had to take a timeout there, they perhaps don't win that game – and perhaps don't qualify for the postseason. It was the sort of play – tough, aware, focused on the team – that endeared Hurns to Jaguars fans and will ensure he is remembered for a long time.
4. Lewis' legacy.Lewis, too, deserves to be remembered – and he carved out the second-longest career in franchise history behind Meester with a combination of toughness, determination and professionalism. Originally selected as a receiving tight end in 2006, Lewis instead established himself as one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends over his time with the team. He also had flashes of contributing in a big way as a receiver, including when he set career-highs with 58 receptions for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns – and this past season, when he caught a career-best three touchdown passes in a 44-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium in London. Mostly, Lewis will be remembered for his run-blocking: There were times during his career the Jaguars ran as well as any team in the NFL, and there were times he blocked in that area as well as any player at his position.