How Much Could Luke Kuechly’s Retirement Impact the Jaguars, if at All?

John Shipley

The NFL's landscape changed when Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, one of the game's top ambassadors and players, announced his retirement from the league on Tuesday.

Whenever a player of Kuechly's caliber retires, it can have massive ramifications on not just the team who is losing an elite member of its team, but on the rest of the league as well. Such is the case in a 32-team league where each move every franchise makes creates a domino effect across the league -- whether that domino effect is substantial or barely noticeable. 

This is the situation with Kuechly's retirement, especially as it pertains to the Jacksonville Jaguars. While on the surface his retirement has nothing to do with the Jaguars, it can impact some of the moves the Jaguars make this offseason as a direct result of how it changes the Panthers' plans. 

Simply put, Kuechly's departure from the NFL means there is one more team added to the linebacker market, an area the Jaguars ought to have extensive real estate in at this point. 

Jacksonville's linebackers struggled throughout the entirety of the 2019 season, and maybe no Jaguars' linebacker played below expectations further than Myles Jack did. Jack's poor season, in which he made inconsistent run fits and didn't impact many games in a positive way, has led to some to speculate if Jack will stay at inside linebacker in 2020. Jaguars' defensive coordinator Todd Wash was even non-committal near the end of the season about Jack's future at Mike, despite being adamant in the past that it was the best position for Jack. 

Because of this, the Jaguars are in prime position to add a linebacker this offseason. Whether it is selecting a linebacker at some point during the NFL Draft or finding a veteran during free agency, the Jaguars likely can't afford to stand pat at the position. 

This is why Kuechly's retirement impacts the Jaguars. With him out of the picture, the Panthers are just one more team that the Jaguars are going to have to compete with when it comes to adding to the linebacking core.

If the Jaguars want to attempt to sign players like Joe Schobert, Danny Trevathan, or Cory Littleton, they would likely now have to add the Panthers into the mix as a team that they have to outbid. And more teams trying to sign players at a position group means price tags get elevated. 

If neither team signs a linebacker during the free agency period, then it just means they would be competing with each other for linebackers during the 2020 NFL Draft. The Panthers pick seventh overall this year -- two spots before the Jaguars first pick at ninth. If the Jaguars have their eyes on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, they very well could be disappointed due to the simple fact the Panthers can take Simmons before the Jaguars ever have the chance (sans the Jaguars trading up and jumping ahead of the Panthers). 

The same logic could be applied to the later rounds. Just like teams who need a quarterback have to compete with each other to add to the position each year, the Jaguars and Panthers could likely be facing off for the services of a linebacker in 2020. 

The Panthers and Jaguars are not the only two teams that need linebacker help next season, obviously. But Kuechly's retirement means there is one more place at the table, and one more team the Jaguars need to keep a close eye on.

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