32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Jaguars Need Trevor Lawrence to Live Up to Expectations

The former No. 1 pick has a new $275 million contract extension, and the organization is banking on a few bold decisions this offseason to possibly help him reach elite status. 
Lawrence and the Jaguars collapsed down the stretch in 2023 after an 8-3 start.
Lawrence and the Jaguars collapsed down the stretch in 2023 after an 8-3 start. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA
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Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, in order of projected 2024 win totals. Up next: the Jaguars.

It appeared Trevor Lawrence was well on his way to exceeding the lofty expectations that were placed on him as the obvious No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. 

Lawrence had the Jaguars in first place in the AFC South with an 8–3 record, but then was helped off the field with an ankle injury, leading to a disastrous 1–5 finish to the 2023 season and missing the playoffs. Once again, the Jaguars had an up-and-down season with Lawrence. They did make the postseason in ’22, but that was after the team brushed off a slow start and benefited from a weak division.

After three seasons, the Jaguars could be wanting more from Lawrence on the field, but the flashes of greatness were enough for the team to hammer out a massive five-year contract extension reportedly worth $275 million to make Lawrence the highest-paid quarterback on a yearly average. Technically, he’s tied with Joe Burrow at $55 million per year, but Burrow might get the tiebreaker based on his lone trip to the Super Bowl a few years back. 

Lawrence and the Jaguars have had shortcomings the past three seasons, but they paid their star signal-caller because of his high potential and what could come in the next five years. For 2024, the organization is banking on a few bold decisions this offseason to possibly help Lawerence reach elite status. 

The Jaguars let Calvin Ridley walk in free agency but signed Gabe Davis and drafted Brian Thomas Jr. The team also splurged for veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead to improve a disappointing defense last season. 

Many are talking about the Houston Texans in the AFC South, but the Jaguars could quickly contend again if Lawrence delivers an MVP-worthy season.

Biggest gamble this offseason: Letting Ridley walk in free agency

There are pros and cons to the Jaguars letting Ridley leave for the Tennessee Titans after he only played one season in Jacksonville. The team didn’t overspend for a receiver who has had availability and consistency issues as he heads into his age-30 season. But Ridley played at a high level toward the end of the season when the Jaguars dealt with injuries amid their losing streak. Now Lawrence is left without a No. 1 wide receiver while Ridley could help improve an AFC South rival, and their promising second-year quarterback Will Levis. 

The Jaguars adjusted by signing Davis, but they might have overspent for a player who has had consistency issues, similar to what they wanted to avoid with Ridley. But Davis’s contract was $39 million over three years compared to Ridley’s four-year, $92 million deal in Tennessee. Also, the Jaguars used a first-round pick on Thomas. Perhaps Jacksonville’s new receiving corps will lead to better results, with Lawrence having two downfield threats (Christian Kirk, Thomas) and a physical wideout known for occasional clutch performances (Davis).  

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 1 to 4

Jacksonville opens the season with four consecutive games against playoff teams from last season. The Jaguars start with a road matchup against the high-scoring Miami Dolphins before returning home to face the Cleveland Browns and their dominant defense. From there, Jacksonville has back-to-back road games vs. the Buffalo Bills and Texans—two teams considered to be Super Bowl contenders. The Jaguars’ tough stretch could extend as far as Week 7 because they face the Indianapolis Colts at home before back-to-back games in London vs. the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. 

Breakout player to watch: LB Devin Lloyd 

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd
Lloyd had 127 tackles in 2023. / Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

After a forgetful rookie season, Lloyd reminded the Jaguars last season why they drafted him No. 27 in the 2022 draft. The Utah product turned into an elite defender against the run, showed improvement in coverage and recorded 127 tackles. If Lloyd continues to ascend, the Jaguars could have one of the best inside linebacker tandems in the league with Foyesade Oluokun, the league leader in tackles the past two seasons. 

Best-case scenario: Lawrence earns his money, delivers MVP-worthy season

There’s no question Lawrence has an elite skill set, but heading into his fourth season, the Jaguars are still waiting for their quarterback to develop into a yearly MVP candidate. The organization clearly believes Lawrence will eventually become an elite quarterback after handing him a contract extension with $200 million guaranteed. The team might have gained a small bargain by paying Lawrence before Jordan Love, Dak Prescott and Tua Tagovailoa agreed to new contract extensions with their respective teams. The new deal, however, could be worth every penny in a few months if Lawrence is the favorite to win the MVP and has the Jaguars in position to win the AFC South and clinch the No. 1 seed in the postseason. The title of highest paid often changes in the NFL, but not many can compete with Lawrence when it comes to highest potential. He could put it all together in 2024. 

Worst-case scenario: The Jaguars’ offseason moves turn into a disaster 

The Jaguars made a few questionable signings with the additions of Armstead (three years, $43.5 million), center Mitch Morse (two years, $10.5 million), Davis (three years, $39 million) and the re-signing of offensive guard Ezra Cleveland (three years, $24 million), whom the team acquired in an October trade with the Minnesota Vikings. 

Armstead was a standout enforcer in the middle of the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive line, but his best days could be behind him as he heads to his age-31 season. The same can be said about Morse at age 32. Cleveland struggled during his three and a half seasons in Minnesota, and Davis was inconsistent during four seasons in Buffalo. The Jaguars need all of these players to step up in 2024 or they might regret all of these decisions during the season. 

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson
Pederson has back-to-back 9-8 records as coach of the Jaguars. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

No. 12: Doug Pederson (14) and Lawrence (10)

The pressure is on Pederson and Lawrence to make Jacksonville contenders. Lawrence needs to step up after amassing just 4,016 yards with 21 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in 2023. —Matt Verderame

Fantasy sleeper pick: Lawrence

Lawrence was expected to break out last season, but it didn’t happen. He did finish a respectable 12th in fantasy points among quarterbacks, but Lawrence was also held under 16 points in nearly half of his games. He’ll also have to gain a rapport with Thomas and Davis, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if his numbers don’t improve. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet: Lawrence over 3,800.5 passing yards (+100) at FanDuel

What am I missing here? Lawrence passed for 4,000-plus yards in both 2022 and ’23.  He didn’t have Ridley in ’22,  and he had a bum ankle for the last six games of  ’23. A full season of Kirk and some shootouts with the Colts and Texans should help us grab this plus money. —Jennifer Piacenti

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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Gilberto Manzano