The Jacksonville Jaguars are entering the 2021 offseason with as many question marks on the roster as available dollar bills in the team's cap space. Well, maybe not quite, but close enough.
The Jaguars have already undergone a lot of change this offseason, hiring a new head coach in Urban Meyer and a new general manager in Trent Baalke. Now the Jaguars will have to undergo even more change by overhauling the roster. The first step of that will come in March during free agency.
Jacksonville leads the NFL in available cap space, so it can be reasonably assumed they will be big spenders on March 17 and beyond.
With this in mind, we are going to look at some of the top free agents over the next month and determine if they fit the Jaguars moving forward.
We first covered impending free agent interior defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Denver safety Justin Simmons. Now we move to the offensive side of the ball and look at the top player at a position the Jaguars are currently having the ask questions about: left tackle Trent Williams.
After spending one year with the San Francisco 49ers, it appears Williams is set to test the open market and potentially field the most lucrative market for a left tackle in NFL free agency history.
Williams is clearly a fit for the Jaguars, but are the Jaguars a fit for Williams? We examine below.
Williams will be entering his 12th NFL season and will be 33-years-old when he suits up in Week 1, but the eight-time Pro Bowler hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Williams sat out the 2019 season for the Washington Football Team, partially a result of dissatisfaction from Williams with how the Washington medical staff handled a cancerous growth found on his head that was eventually surgically removed.
Williams was eventually traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There was a detail in Williams' re-worked contract with the 49ers that he wouldn't be franchise tagged in 2021, so it is either return to San Francisco on a long-term deal or hit the open market for the first time.
With the 49ers currently having roughly $13 million in available cap space per Over The Cap, it remains a possibility Williams walks and plays for a new team after just one year for the 49ers, a year in which he was named to a Pro Bowl.
What Does Trent Williams Do Well?
There has been a recent trend of left tackles being able to play well into their 30s in the NFL. Williams appears to be the latest example of that pattern, and perhaps its greatest highlight. After not playing a game in 2019, Williams stepped into the void the 49ers had at left tackle and filled it with his traditional excellency.
Still an elite athlete, Williams is the definition of a textbook left tackle. He is capable of doing everything one could ask out of a blind side protector, whether as a pass blocker or in the running game. Williams has gargantuan size and length and used it to his advantage in pass protection. Defenders can rarely go through him, and it takes quite a while to physically get around him.
As a run blocker, Williams shows the ability to erase linebackers at the second level as well. He has the power to move defensive ends and tackles out of gaps as well, and there are no limits when it comes to him operating in space to lay a block. He generates consistent movement as a run blocker and is often setting the tone for the offense in terms of physicality.
Williams allowed just 19 pressures in 14 starts last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He held the company's highest overall grade among all tackles in 2020 in large part due to dominant run blocking, but Sports Info Solutions has Williams on the hook for just five sacks in 2020. By comparison, Sports Info Solution credited Jaguars' tackles Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson with 15 and 11 allowed sacks, respectively.
Combine Williams' dominance as a run blocker, which can elevate an offense's entire running scheme, and his still high level of play as a pass blocker, there is a good argument to make for him as a top two or three left tackle in the NFL. He is still in the conversation for the top spot as well -- he is still that good.
How Trent Williams Would Fit With the Jaguars
There isn't any question about how Williams would fit with the Jaguars. For a Jaguars team that has their left tackle of the last four seasons set to be a free agent in March in Cam Robinson, the left tackle position is arguably the second-biggest priority. If the Jaguars didn't have a similar hole at quarterback, left tackle would be hands down the biggest need on the Jaguars' roster.
The Jaguars could always attempt to retain Robinson, their second-round selection from 2017, and hope the 25-year-old takes a step forward in his fifth season. But there is zero question that Williams is a better short-term option. Robinson can still develop, but Williams is a known commodity who can provide elite play in 2021.
Williams will likely be setting a contract that will reset the left tackle market. The Jaguars can perfectly justify paying him such a contract -- they are set to have roughly $80 million in cap space in 2021 and have just a handful of players on the roster on current lucrative deals.
The Jaguars also have to think about protecting the franchise's most important investment. Jacksonville currently holds the 2021 draft's No. 1 overall pick and is expected to use it on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. It will be key for the Jaguars to provide Lawrence with adequate protection early on in his career, and adding Williams as a free agent would be the best possible way to do that.
Should the Jaguars test the waters with Williams if/when he becomes a free agent in March? The answer is an unequivocal yes, even if it is just them doing their due diligence. He is the best left tackle option available in any form this offseason, and he would give the Jaguars a blue chip player -- something they currently don't have.
With this in mind, there has to be a question of whether the Jaguars are a fit for Williams. Williams has been on just two playoff teams in his career (2012 and 2015), so there stands some reason to believe he may want to sign with a contender at this stage of his career. While the Jaguars have a potentially bright future with Lawrence and Meyer, it will be hard to sell them as a winner early on following a 1-15 record in 2020 and a 12-36 mark the last three years.
Jacksonville should pursue Williams if he will entertain them doing so. Whether that would happen is known only by Williams and his camp, but there is no reason for the Jaguars to not at least push all their chips to the middle of the table and go all-in on an elite player.