While the complete focus for the Jacksonville Jaguars at this point is the state of their head coach search, that is far from the only thing on the Jaguars' to-do list over the opening stages of the offseason.
When the Jaguars do eventually announce their next head coach and make a decision on what they will do at general manager, the first major task at hand will be figuring out what the new brass wants to do with the Jaguars' free agents.
The Jaguars don't have an abundance of free agency questions due to a roster that has won just four of their last 33 games, but they do have several major contributors from the past several seasons who have played out their final contract seasons with the Jaguars.
We have already taken a look at exactly which players the Jaguars will have to make decisions on in terms of free agency. Next, though, we will take a case-by-case look at whether the Jaguars should keep certain players, let others walk, and more.
First up, we take a look at the Jaguars' biggest free agent for the second year in a row: left tackle Cam Robinson.
With the Jaguars having so much turnover along the offensive line, is Robinson a player they should consider retaining after franchise-tagging him in 2021, or should the Jaguars instead let Robinson test the free agent market?
Case for keeping Cam Robinson
The case for keeping Cam Robinson is fairly obvious. There is no player more important to the Jaguars' future than quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and thus there is nothing more important for the Jaguars to accomplish this offseason than supporting Lawrence. Considering Robinson has 64 games of starting experience at left tackle compared to the alternatives (Walker Little's three starts or a rookie tackle's zero career starts), then it is much easier to trust the tackle you know than it is to trust the tackle you don't.
Robinson is also one of the legitimate leaders of the offense. Few players are more respected within TIAA Bank Field's walls than Robinson, who has frequently displayed next-level toughness during his five years in Jacksonville. While his play has always dipped due to inconsistencies, he has made several people fans thanks to his steady presence.
While there is the aspect of Lawrence's own play that impacted Robinson's production -- there is a reason Robinson looked better at tackle with Lawrence at quarterback than with Gardner Minshew II -- there was also a step taken forward by Robinson in 2021. The Jaguars were banking on Robinson to improve in 2021, and he is one of the few players on the roster who did just that.
Per TruMedia and PFF, Robinson allowed 15 sacks, 75 pressures, and 11 quarterback hits in 30 games from 2019-2020 -- an average of 7.5 sacks, 37.5 pressures, and 5.5 quarterback hits per season. But last year, Robinson allowed one sack, 29 pressures, and nine quarterback hits. While his quarterback hits increased his allowed sacks and pressures ultimately decreased.
This can of course be contributed to Lawrence's pocket presence, but Robinson was a better tackle in 2021 than he was in 2019 or 2020. Eventually, the Jaguars will need to show that players they drafted and developed who have improved deserve second contracts. While that doesn't mean the Jaguars should re-sign Robinson simply because of their past failures to keep their own draft picks, Robinson has likely done enough as a former second-round pick to at least earn the argument.
Case for letting Cam Robinson walk
Using the franchise tag on Robinson for the second year in a row would be misguided considering the high cap hit it creates for a player who may not have a long-term future in Jacksonville, so the Jaguars would likely be best off looking at multi-year deals for the impending sixth-year left tackle. And in that event, the Jaguars would have to likely open up the checkbook in a big, big way.
Simply looking at the left tackles set to hit the market in 2022, there are few tackles who have as much experience and are simply as competent as starters as Robinson is. He isn't a premier left tackle by any means, but he is likely around average. In the NFL, average tackle play can earn a player a lot of money, especially with teams like the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers likely desperate to find answers at the position.
If the Jaguars were to find themselves in a bidding war for Robinson's services, then it is hard to argue that they should allocate important resources to Robinson as opposed to the interior offensive line, the defensive line, or wide receiver. The Jaguars built themselves a fall-back option for Robinson's 2022 free agency with the selection of Walker Little at No. 45 overall last year, and nothing Little did in his three starts suggests that he isn't capable of taking hold of the left tackle job on a full-time basis.
In short, the Jaguars don't need to pay Robinson. It isn't like last offseason where they entered the free agency process without any actual backup plans at left tackle. They have their insurance option and he is a player whose own coaches believed at the end of the 2021 season was ready to be a full-time starter.
The Jaguars also have the No. 1 overall pick in a year in which there are legitimately three offensive tackles worthy of considering in Alabama's Evan Neal, Mississippi State's Charles Cross, and North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu. The Jaguars could take a left tackle at No. 1, move Little to right tackle, and use the money they would have paid Robinson to find a legitimate playmaker in free agency.
There are solid reasons to want to keep Robinson. He just had his best NFL season by many standards and is a player whose floor is clearly defined thanks to his skillset and experience. Some team will pay Robinson handsomely to be their left tackle in 2022, and no team knows the tackle better than the Jaguars themselves.
With that said, the presence of Little, the No. 1 overall pick, and Lawrence himself make me lean more toward letting Robinson test the market. If he can be brought back on a reasonable deal, then it would be smart to keep the starting-quality tackle in place. But if the market suggests that he will be given top-10 tackle money, the Jaguars have too many in-house options to justify keeping him, along with a quarterback who makes the entire offensive line look better.