The Jacksonville Jaguars are likely going to begin reshaping their roster in a big way over the next week or so. Among the decisions that will take place in that reshaping is what the organization's plans are for players who opted out last season.
66 NFL players opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Three of those players were set to be veteran contributors for the Jaguars' defense: defensive tackle Al Woods, defensive end Lerentee McCray, and cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
Both Woods and Melvin signed with the Jaguars as free agents last season, while McCray signed a new one-year deal with the Jaguars last March. Each was expected to play a role, whether large or small, in a young Jaguars' defense last season that limped to the finish.
Each player is eligible to return to the team in 2021, but things are much different now. There is a brand new coaching staff in place, led by Urban Meyer. The defensive scheme they were signed to fit into is long gone, with Joe Cullen now in charge of the unit. And there is a mostly new front office, though general manager Trent Baalke is technically a carryover from the previous regime.
As of now, though, there is little clarity on whether any of the three veterans will return to the Jaguars in 2021.
"We’re still working through that with all three of them. I don’t think there’s clarity yet on any of them, but [we’re] certainly working that way and we should know something within the next week or two," Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said on Wednesday.
Before 2020, McCray played in 35 games for the Jaguars from 2017-2019. He was a reliable backup defensive end and core special teams player, but it remains to be seen whether he is a scheme fit for Cullen's defense.
As for Woods, he has appeared in 128 games in a career that dates back to 2010. Woods would have had a strong chance to start at nose tackle for the Jaguars last season, but Abry Jones and DaVon Hamilton stepped up in his place. Woods is older, but the Jaguars do need more run-stuffers up front. If anyone was to be brought back, he would make the most sense.
Melvin has played in 64 games in his career, more than all of the cornerbacks on Jacksonville's currently. With this in mind, the Jaguars could target the cornerback position in free agency and the draft and find cornerbacks they are more aligned with in terms of scheme fit.