Trevor Lawrence’s Extension Puts the Entire Jaguars Franchise On the Clock

Signing the talented young quarterback now is a savvy move, but Jacksonville must be sure to take advantage of the next few years—or risk a frightening cycle of incompetence.
Lawrence earned his massive rookie extension Thursday, according to multiple reports.
Lawrence earned his massive rookie extension Thursday, according to multiple reports. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
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Signing Trevor Lawrence to a long-term contract, as the Jacksonville Jaguars reportedly did on Thursday, is a sad-happy moment for the franchise and the fan base. Obviously, it’s nice to know who will be under center for the foreseeable future and to know that, when all else is right, the most important position has been taken care of. 

The debate about whether Lawrence deserves the money is ridiculous. It’s been clear since the moment he walked through the door that he’s the best quarterback the franchise has employed since Mark Brunell and will almost certainly end his career as the greatest passer in the franchise’s nascent history. It would have been foolish to dawdle around until Lawrence’s fifth-year option season and risk a flurry of other quarterback extensions making this endeavor all the more complicated and expensive. 

The troubling part is everything in Lawrence’s orbit and the fact that, if the Jaguars don’t reach the playoffs this season, we might be talking about a third head coach and a second head of personnel and a third search for proper complementary weapons. We’ll be getting so close to that Justin Herbert territory, where we dream in a strange future tense rather than the present, projecting what could have been onto what might be and never realizing how to fix what is.  

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws the ball during an organized team activity.
Lawrence has experienced a tumultuous tenure in Jacksonville since getting drafted in 2021. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

We know the quarterback is good, but what we may have forgotten is how hard the rest of it is to put together. 

The Jaguars regressed last year. The division around them vastly improved and, while Jacksonville made a slew of great additions and upgraded their defensive coaching staff (which could, honestly, end up solving a significant degree of what ails them), they are now contending with a Houston Texans team that has both the offensive and defensive rookies of the year, as well as the coach of the year and the executive of the year from 2023. The Indianapolis Colts have Shane Steichen, who, in my mind, was the deserved runner-up for that award. The Tennessee Titans just brought in Brian Callahan as head coach and spent a boatload of money in free agency. No one should be the least bit convinced that the Titans’ plan will work, but it’s a sign of what they’re willing to do and what they think of Will Levis’s potential on a rookie contract. Callahan could be the next great NFL quarterback whisperer for all we know. 

Back that up against the incredible swing and miss that was the Urban Meyer era and one really starts to feel the weight of lost time and opportunity. In another year or so, this division could rival the competitiveness (not the skill level, don’t misquote me) of the AFC North, where every team has a puncher’s chance of winning the division every year. 

It’s a hacky visual, but Jacksonville is at a kind of fork in the road. On one side is the pre-Dan Campbell Detroit Lions; a franchise that had “The Guy” in Matthew Stafford and kept firing one season after another into the sun; one head coach after another; one bad financial decision after another. The other side of the road is, of course, a path to completion around Lawrence. 

Again, signing Lawrence is great. It’s an indication that the franchise is thinking the right way and evaluating the right way and prioritizing the right way and financially allocating the right way. They managed to squeeze in signings of Lawrence, Arik Armstead, Josh Allen and Mitch Morse into a single offseason while taking a swing at a high upside wide receiver in former LSU star Brian Thomas Jr. in what could end up being one of the great pass catcher drafts of our lifetime.

But at some point, the people around Lawrence need to put their own mark on the franchise so that he can crystalize his in a way commensurate with his reported $55 million per year salary. Trent Baalke inherited the franchise’s two best players. Doug Pederson certainly elevated Lawrence’s play, but we’re comparing Lawrence’s sophomore season against one of the poorest-run single years of NFL football in modern league history. I asked a coach on Lawrence’s initial Pederson staff what they would do with the film and the playbook from the Meyer year and the answer, without hesitation, was to find the nearest furnace to chuck it in. 

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson talks with quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during a game.
Pederson has helped Lawrence's game along, but it remains to be seen if fans in Jacksonville have watched the best of the former No. 1 pick. / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

How much of what Pederson has brought is good coaching versus merely plucking Lawrence out of a brushfire?

We’ll find out, with the hope that most of the squandering has already been done in Lawrence’s career and that he’ll be worth every penny. That’ll mean the people around him are earning theirs, too. 


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Conor Orr

CONOR ORR

Conor Orr is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers the NFL. He is also the co-host of the MMQB Podcast. Conor has been covering the NFL for more than a decade. His award-winning work has also appeared in The Newark Star-Ledger, NFL.com and NFL Network. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children and a loving terrier named Ernie.