Jaguars Mailbag: Breaking Down the Baalke Hire, Trevor Lawrence, and More

In this week's mailbag we take questions on Trent Baalke, the coaching staff, Trevor Lawrence, and much more.
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It has been a busy few weeks for the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Within the last month, the Jaguars have fired a coach, hired a new one, and hired a general manager. Urban Meyer was introduced as the team's newest leader last week, while interim general manager Trent Baalke had the interim tag removed officially on Thursday.

As a result, we have taken to social media to gather questions on all of the latest Jaguars news. What does the hiring of Baalke mean for the future? How likely is it the Jaguars don't actually take Trevor Lawrence? We deliver our thoughts and answers here. 

Q: Would the Baalke hire be because of the work already done on the draft class and, as it is sometimes the case, the personnel staff would be reshuffled after the draft/offseason?

A: I don't think so. You can keep a scouting and personnel staff without keeping the lead member of it; we have seen that before in the NFL. I think the Jaguars genuinely believe he is the best possible option for the job, and I think that is largely due to the fact that Baalke has had the last 11 months to impress the team and prove it to them. A lot of work is still to be done ahead of the draft, as well. 

Q: Is WR a need in your eyes if we bring back Cole, and Shenault and Johnson develop? If so what round and who would you think fits well?

A: Here is the way I look at it: when a team goes 1-15, is there any real argument to make that something isn't a need? The Jaguars have a good collection of young talent at multiple positions, but they failed in 2020 because there were holes all over the roster. If they bring Keelan Cole back, I do think there is still a need at receiver, even with those solid four players. The Jaguars don't have a true speed or space threat in the receiver room. DJ Chark counts obviously, but we mean players who are in the Jakeem Grant or Curtis Samuel mold.

Q: Do you see us loading up on defense in Free Agency similar to the way we crafted our 2017 defense? (Campbell, Bouye, Gipson, etc.)

A: I do. The Jaguars have a ton of needs on both sides of the ball but it is hard to argue that the defense isn't the area where they are most talent-depleted currently. The Jaguars, as we've said, have some good young talent, but they badly need veterans who can come in and make an impact from day one. They could conceivably add a quality free agent at every position on defense other than linebacker, so it makes sense for them to focus a lot of their spending there. I think at least one big-money defensive back and defensive lineman will be in play.

Q: What do you think about the Baalke promotion? Should we be worried that the best opening in the NFL went to the man who had it already?

A: I understand why the Jaguars made the decision. They have seen Baalke operate in an important role since February, and his role became even more important following the firing of Dave Caldwell. Essentially, he had a year to audition for the role and his place with the team should help Urban Meyer make a smooth transition, even if Meyer shot that narrative down when asked about it on Friday. Combine this with his experience, scouting background, and the success of the start of his San Francisco 49ers' tenure, and the logic for the Jaguars removing the interim tag is clear. 

I do think there should be some reservations considering several other candidates, such as Rick Smith and Jerry Reese, had similar backgrounds to Baalke in terms of experience and track records of success. The only real difference is that the Jaguars knew Baalke more. With that said, it is ultimately difficult to judge front office hires when they happen just due to the nature of the job.

Should you be worried? I don't think so, but that is because I don't think it was the best opening anymore. It was still an incredible job and opportunity, but once Urban Meyer was hired it was clear he would have considerable roster control. Not all general managers want to be in that kind of dynamic, which is understandable.

Q: Is there any news on Keenan McCardell remaining as a receivers coach? 

A: No, there hasn't been anything. It appears we will get news on Meyer's staff next week, but so far there haven't been any reports or rumors of any sort in the media about Jacksonville's receivers coach position. 

Q: I know it’s not official until draft day but you think anyone, whether it be Trevor Lawrence or the front office, will slip up and finally admit coming to the Jaguars is the move? 

A: No. It will be made more obvious the closer we get to the draft, but don't expect for anyone to just come out and say it. That just hasn't happened, at least not in recent years. Everyone knew Joe Burrow would be the top pick last year, for example, but Zac Taylor wasn't confirming the pick even in April. If any of the two parties makes any substantial statement ahead of the draft, it would be a bit surprising. 

Q: What are the odds we trade up for Kyle Pitts with second 1st rounder? Lots of talent in this draft, so we could pick defense in 2nd-5th rounds and come away with defensive talent there while getting Pitts early, an amazing weapon for Trevor and establish a dynamic duo on offense .

A: Right now, I will say low. The Jaguars have five picks in the first 65 selections, and holding onto all of those picks could completely overhaul the team's overall depth. The Jaguars need as much talent as possible, so for now it makes sense for them to hold onto their most valuable selections. With that said, Pitts is arguably the best skill player in the draft. If the Jaguars want to go all-in on giving Trevor Lawrence the right number of weapons from the start, then being aggressive in moving up for him would probably be the best way of doing so. 

Q: I would like to see a hybrid defense, building a scheme around players and not taking a scheme and trying to put players in place. But is a hybrid defense "better" than a classic 3-4 or 4-3?

A: When it comes to defenses, I truly believe the most impactful ones are the ones that make the offenses adjust to them instead of vice versa. At the end of the day, I do not think 3-4, 4-3, or hybrid really matters that much. What matters more, at least in my eyes, is how aggressive and adaptable your defense and philosophies ultimately are. You need to put the players in the right positions, of course, but even doing that could be rendered moot if one isn't putting their foot to the pedal enough. Having a defense that can sustain itself against any brand of offense is asking for a lot, obviously, but it can be done from any alignment with the right players and right defensive principles. 

Q: John, are there positions at which teams usually get more (or less) value through the draft? Wondering how this impacts our off-season strategy: do we hire defense FA's and draft offense, or vice-versa? would like your thoughts.

A: I think it is easier to get an instant impact from a veteran defender as opposed to drafting one. On offense I would actually argue it is the opposite; a rookie running back can be just as good, if not better, than a veteran running back from day one, so the better value would be to draft one instead of paying one. It is harder to see rookie defensive backs and defensive ends be substantially better than veterans on the market at those positions, though. In short, I think it is wiser to draft positions like running back, wide receiver, and tight end. I do think you can get great value in signing free agents defensively, at least in comparison to the offense. 

Q: Apart from the obvious in Trevor Lawrence, who else could you see picked in the first round of the draft for the Jaguars?

A: That is tough to answer right now. I think any position is on the table, personally. Ultimately though, I think Rondale Moore and Shaun Wade are two names who make sense. Wade isn't a player who has proven to be worthy of a first-round pick, but the Jaguars have a defensive back need and Meyer's Ohio State staff recruited Wade out of high school. Moore would fill the aforementioned 

Q: Baalke has basically clashed with every coach he's worked with. Should we have any reason to think it won't play out differently here?

A: My gut says the reason to think that wouldn't happen here is that I can't imagine Urban Meyer is someone who would enter into a partnership. or an alignment as they called it, if he thought there was even a slight likelihood that they would clash. It seems like a cop-out to essentially say trust Meyer and his judgment, but that is the main reason to think things would go differently here as opposed to past stops.

Q: Can you give some options of trade up or down scenarios from our second pick in the first round? 

A: Sure. For trade ups, I would say Kyle Pitts, Caleb Farley, Jaylen Waddle, Christian Barmore, or Rashawn Slater. 

For trade downs? How about Rondale Moore, Kadarius Toney, Jalen Mayfield, Tyson Campbell, and Creed Humphrey. 

Q: When are they gonna start re-signing some of the guys like Cole, S. Jones, and Smoot?

A: If the Jaguars are going to bring any of these players back, it would make sense to start hearing news later in February. Meyer and Baalke are likely both putting 100% of their current energy into filling out their respective staff. The Jaguars are going to start from point 'A' in basically every contract negotiation due to the new power dynamic. I think giving about a month to evaluate the roster and make those kinds of decisions make sense, in the event the Jaguars do decide to bring any of those players back.

Q: Who are three (reasonable) FA signings to fix the defense? 

A: William Jackson, John Johnson III, Leonard Williams. All would be instant upgrades, all would be pricey, and all would make complete sense for Jacksonville's current needs. Maybe Williams stays in New York, but Jackson and Johnson are perfect fits for what the Jaguars are currently missing on defense.

Q: I know basically nothing about Baalke. What do I need to know?

A: Here are a few things.

  • Baalke has worked for the Jaguars since February 2020 as the team’s director of player personnel before being named the interim general manager on Nov. 29. 
  • Baalke spent 12 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He climbed the ladder there, going from Western region scout (2005-07) to director of player personnel (2008-09) to vice president of player personnel (2010) to general manager (2011-16). 
  • Baalke and Urban Meyer actually interacted over a decade ago when the 49ers were doing their homework on eventual No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, who was Meyer's quarterback at Utah.
  • His history of chemistry with his head coaches has been shaky at best.
  • He acquired six players in San Francisco who became All-Pros.
  • He went to the NFC Championship three years in a row with Jim Harbaugh, but never had a season above 8-8 after that run. 

Q: What percentage chance the Jags screw it up and don't take Lawrence? 

A: Zero. The Jaguars have never had the No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. They aren't going to do something that bold and hasty because they know just as much as anyone that this opportunity would likely not come again. The fact that the pick came in a year where there is a slam-dunk prospect such as Lawrence only strengthens that argument.