Entering this week's free agency period, the Jacksonville Jaguars knew there was one position on their roster that would have to be built up completely and totally from scratch: tight end.
Yes, quarterback is priority one, but Gardner Minshew is a capable depth piece and they have the No. 1 overall pick.
Yes, the defensive line was a major need, but the Jaguars had a few in-house options to be excited about at least.
But the same couldn't be said for the tight end position.
But through the first week of free agency, all the Jaguars have done so far is sign veteran blocking tight end Chris Manhertz to a two-year deal and re-sign veteran tight end James O'Shaughnessy. Counting the Josh Oliver trade and Tyler Eifert's free agency, the Jaguars' tight end room is a bit different now than it was last August, but not overly so.
But while the Jaguars know what work needs to be done at tight end, this doesn't take away from their excitement over pulling Manhertz to Jacksonville after several successful years in the Panthers' offense. The reason why, Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on Friday, was because of the two different roles they ask tight ends to play in their offense.
"That was a high priority. We have two different style of tight ends, one is a ‘Y,’ which is—on the line, basically an extension of your offensive line, a very good blocker, but also very functional in the pass game," Meyer said.
"We identified the guy, had him at the top of the list and that’s Manhertz and we got him. I’ve not met him, he’s coming in today, but I’m—we all are extremely excited about him. He was exactly what we wanted and we got him."
It is high praise from Meyer for the team's biggest addition to a room that Meyer himself previously said would have to be rebuilt. And Meyer was right then considering the Jaguars' complete lack of production from the tight end position in recent years, including 2020.
The Jaguars' leading producer from the position in 2020, Eifert, had his team option declined once Meyer and his regime took over. Meanwhile, former 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for just a conditional 2022 seventh-round draft pick.
"I didn’t know Josh. That was our personnel side that made that decision and ran it by me before we did it and I agreed. So, I just didn’t know a lot about him, and I know he’s had some injuries since he’s been here, and we decided to make that move," Meyer said.
With Eifert and Oliver gone and with Manhertz having just 12 career receptions for 142 yards and one touchdown in 70 career games, the Jaguars still need to keep their eyes open on the tight end position through the rest of this offseason.
Whether through a trade or -- more likely -- via the NFL Draft, the Jaguars need a pass-catching tight end before they hit the practice field in the fall. Meyer knows this as well as anyone.
"The next one is the ‘F’ and that’s the primary pass catcher, but also a functional blocker. We have not addressed that," Meyer said.
The one option the Jaguars do currently have for the 'F' tight end is O'Shaughnessy, who flashed a good amount of skill and potential in five games in 2019 (14 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns) before a season-ending ACL injury.
O'Shaughnessy, who the Jaguars re-signed on Wednesday, played 15 games last season and caught 28 passes for 262 yards last season. He was the team's No. 2 tight end throughout the season and, as of now, is the only major piece of last year's room who is being brought back. This doesn't make him the answer at tight end, but it is likely he will be part of the ultimate solution.
"O'Shaughnessy—two years ago, O'Shaughnessy had a very good year, showed a lot of potential. Obviously, he had an ACL injury, he’s been in here training, I’ve gotten to know him, really enjoy being around him," Meyer said.
"So, we count on him, but we have not finalized that piece of the puzzle yet. But the ‘Y’ part–we all feel extremely strong about Manhertz.”