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Would a Roy Robertson-Harris Trade Make Sense for the Jaguars?

One NFL writer believes it would ... but is he right?

The Jacksonville Jaguars know they have a lot of work to do this offseason. But could that involve being active on the trade market? 

The Jaguars are currently $22,753,686 over the salary cap after spending sprees in each of the last two offseasons, including a 2022 offseason where they spent among the most guaranteed money in free agent history. 

To get under the cap and still allow themselves the flexibility to improve the roster, the Jaguars have some tough decisions staring them in the face. 

"First of all, we’re up against the cap a lot more than we were the previous two years. We feel really good about the nucleus of young players that we have on the team," Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said at the end of the season. 

"I believe we’re the fifth or sixth youngest team in the National Football League right now. We have a lot of young players on their first contracts, a lot of players overall on their first contracts. As you transition into more guys that are on their second deals, it becomes more and more difficult to use free agency as a strong vehicle to improve your team, so we’ve got to look to the draft. We’ve got to look to developing the guys that are currently here and obviously retain as many of these guys as we can.”

Among those tough decisions could ultimately be defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris, who signed a three-year, $23.4 million deal with $14 million in guarantees in the 2021 offseason. 

Robertson-Harris was critical for the Jaguars' pass-rush down the stretch of the season, recording three sacks, seven tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits in the Jaguars' final five games, including a four-tackle for loss performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card Round.

But that hasn't stopped Robertson-Harris' name from becoming a point of discussion this offseason, whether inside Jacksonville or out of it. 

In fact, the Jaguars' cap situation and Robertson-Harris' strong play has even led to Robertson-Harris being tapped as a top-5 trade candidate this offseason by Considering Robertson-Harris is included with names like Jalen Ramsey, Daron Payne, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins, this is a considerably impressive group. 

"Sorry, I know run-stuffing D-linemen aren't exactly buzz factories, but I'm trying to find realistic candidates here. Also, yes, I still have a soft spot for this former Bear. And it'd make a lot of sense for him to play somewhere else in 2023," Rank said. 

"The Jaguars spent a whole lot of money last offseason. Now, the waiter just dropped off the check at the table. Currently deep in the red when it comes to cap space, Jacksonville is going to have to move on from some players. Robertson-Harris isn't a "STOP THE PRESSES!" type of trade chip, but he's the kind of low-key acquisition that a smart front office grabs to help out the defensive line. Especially one that needs to get better against the ground game."

But does it make sense for the Jaguars to consider such a move? 

Trading Robertson-Harris pre- or post-June 1st will create the same amount of available cap space: it would clear up $7,800,000 in savings, while also having the Jaguars on the hook for a $2,333,334 dead cap hit. These are the same numbers the Jaguars would be held accountable for in the event they released Robertson-Harris in a cap-saving measure.

So really, the question is whether the Jaguars want to move on from Robertson-Harris to get under the cap or not. Since releasing Robertson-Harris and trading him accounts for the same financial hit, trading him would obviously be ideal since it would net the Jaguars draft compensation. 

But can the Jaguars fill the void left by Robertson-Harris in the event they move on from him? That is the bigger question to ask, especially after a year in which the Jaguars' interior depth was hit or miss for much of the season.

As things stand today, Robertson-Harris is one of the Jaguars' top interior players and one of their two best interior pass-rushers when you factor in Dawuane Smoot's injury. If the Jaguars don't retain Arden Key, then Robertson-Harris quickly becomes the Jaguars' top interior pass-rusher.

“He’s been huge. You look at it, when we lost Smoot, Smoot was such a big part of the defense, the pass rush, just being able to play the run from a different body type. I think Roy has jumped into that role now," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said after the Wild Card round.

"He’s able to help us out on third down, as well as first and second down. He’s been a big part of that pass rush and that pressure package, being able to sustain.”

One also has to consider that interior defensive line is a need even before a decision on Robertson-Harris. Corey Peters and Adam Gotsis are both impending free agents, leaving DaVon Hamilton and Foley Fatukasi as the only experienced interior defenders in the event Robertson-Harris is dealt.

If the Jaguars have a plan to replenish the defensive line room, then it would be hard to argue against a trade of Robertson-Harris. He is a good player who performed at his best when the Jaguars needed it the most, but the NFL is ultimately a business. He has a big price tag that could go a long way toward fixing the Jaguars' cap issues, creating a situation worth keeping an eye on.