As the new league year is set to begin in the NFL on March 17 and free agency is about to crank up, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a few decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. And as the season inches closer and closer this offseason it’s never too early to take a look ahead at what decisions Jacksonville will have to make next year on its pending free agents.
There are some big names and some important players potentially hitting the market in 2022 if the Jaguars decide to move on. With this in mind, we break it down starting at the top with arguably the biggest name on this team in wide receiver DJ Chark.
WR DJ Chark
Shades of Allen Robinson surround the Jaguars when it comes to 2019 Pro Bowl receiver DJ Chark. Stories of old should be remembered and used as a road map as to what the organization should do with Chark.
Although he is coming off a lackluster 2020, Chark was one of just a handful of bright spots at times for the Jaguars this past season and is just one year removed from a breakout 2019, hauling in 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns.
Only the people in the building know how they feel about Chark and if they want to re-sign him, but if they do have interest in a long-term deal with No. 17 then it might be better to go ahead and try and get a deal done now. Because if he returns to form this upcoming season with Trevor Lawrence throwing to him in Urban Meyer’s offense, Chark may get a much larger deal in a year than if they sign him now.
DT Taven Bryan
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan is a decision that seems all but already made up based on his play since entering the league as a 2018 first-round pick. He has not lived up to expectations and last season we saw more production out of an undrafted rookie at his position than we did out of Bryan.
However, as a first-rounder, the Jaguars have the ability at the end of this upcoming season to pick up his fifth-year option or potentially cut bait with Bryan based on how he performs after 2021.
If Bryan finally shows vast improvement in a new defensive scheme moving from the 4-3 under Todd Wash to Joe Cullen’s 3-4 system he brings with him from Baltimore then the Jaguars may see enough upside to give him the option or give him a new one or two-year prove-it deal at a lower rate.
RG A.J. Cann
The offensive line has been one of the most talked-about units this offseason in regards to the decision on left tackle Cam Robinson, if right tackle Jawaan Taylor should still be the guy on the other edge, and if left guard Andrew Norwell and center Brandon Linder are worth the money at this point in their careers. The one guy along this unit that hasn’t been discussed is right guard A.J. Cann.
Cann’s lack of attention throughout the last year is one of the best qualities you can have as an offensive lineman. Typically, linemen are only brought up when they do something wrong or are simply not playing well.
Cann has been a steadfast starter basically since being drafted out of South Carolina in 2015. After signing a three-year extension in 2019 he has played well and has not really dipped as he has gotten older.
Now at 29-years-old, Cann will look to earn another extension after the 2021 season. And if he maintains his consistent play it would make a lot of sense to sign him to another three or four-year extension to remain a Jaguar.
FS Jarrod Wilson
The Jaguars secondary is incredibly young across the board right now and lacks some depth. If the Jaguars move away from veteran nickel corner D.J. Hayden, who is an impending unrestricted free agent, that would make free safety Jarrod Wilson the oldest member of the Jaguars secondary at 27-years-old. Jacksonville will have to make the call on Wilson following the 2021 season.
Not much was expected out of Wilson when he entered the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent. But after three years he was named a starter in 2019 and has been a solid player since then, racking up 148 total tackles, 102 solo, eight tackles for loss, seven passes defended, and three interceptions.
Has Wilson been a massive difference-maker? No, but he has been a good player on a lackluster secondary. Unfortunately, perhaps Wilson's future could be decided before he even plays a down in his contract year considering the other safety options in 2021.
A decent group of safeties in this year's draft with prospects like Trevon Moehrig out of TCU and Jevon Holland out of Oregon, along with one of the best safeties currently in the league in Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons, are all realistic options the new Jaguars regime could decide to explore in the coming weeks and months.
If they cannot sign Simmons and Wilson has another productive year it would make sense to bring him back and have some semblance of veteran leadership in the defensive back group.
P Logan Cooke
Finally, the easiest decision the Jaguars can make with their free agent class of 2022 is to sign punter Logan Cooke. He has been one of the most consistent punters in the league since entering it in 2018.
Last season Cooke ranked sixth in yards per punt at 47.7 yards a kick and was tied for sixth in the league for the longest punt at 67 yards. He routinely flips field position and pins teams deep.
It was (jokingly) argued at times throughout the 2020 season that Cooke was the best player on the entire team. And if you look at where he ranked among his peers at his position, the argument can honestly be made for Cooke in that regard.
Signing Cooke following the 2021 season ensures Meyer and staff will have a top punter in the league for years to come.