Advertisement

Stay or go: Predicting the fate of all 21 Jaguars free agents in 2024

When free agency started last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars focused their efforts on bringing back almost all of their players on expiring contracts.

While a handful of players (Jawaan Taylor, Arden Key, Marvin Jones Jr., Chris Manhertz, and Dan Arnold) were allowed to leave, the list of players retained by the Jaguars was much longer.

That may not be the case with the players set to become free agents next month. After a 1-5 end to the 2023 season cost Jacksonville a spot in the postseason, it’s clear work needs to be done and running it back with the same group isn’t a viable solution.

Still, the Jaguars aren’t going to strip the roster bare either. Here’s a prediction for what Jacksonville will do with each of the 21 players currently set to become free agents on March 13:

EDGE Josh Allen

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Stays

Jaguars GM Trent Baalke laid his cards on the table for this one. “Josh will be a Jaguar,” Baalke said. What remains to be seen is whether Jacksonville can secure the star pass rusher with a long-term deal, or if he’ll enter the 2024 season on the franchise tag. The tag appears inevitable for Allen, and that’ll push the negotiation until later this offseason.

WR Calvin Ridley

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

All eyes are on the Jaguars receiver, who finished his first season with the team with 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns. Ridley, Baalke, and Trevor Lawrence all want a deal to get done that keeps the veteran in Jacksonville, but the parameters of the 2022 trade that sent him to Duval make things tricky. The Jaguars will likely make a strong effort to keep Ridley; however, it’d be very surprising if they extended him before free agency begins. To avoid sending the Falcons a second-round pick, my guess is that the Jaguars will sign Ridley to a contract shortly after the new league year starts.

WR/RS Jamal Agnew

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Gone

Agnew gave the Jaguars a lot of great memories in his three seasons. A kickoff return, missed field goal return, rushing touchdown, and five receiving touchdowns was more than worth the three-year, $9.25 million deal they gave him in 2021. But the Jaguars need to hunt for ways to upgrade their receiving corps and they drafted a returner they hope could be his replacement when they picked Parker Washington.

G Ezra Cleveland

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

This is a tough one. The Jaguars clearly need to make upgrades on the interior of their offensive line, but how much will they tear down before building back up? If Cleveland feels like there’s a big market for his services, the Jaguars could quickly be priced out. But they didn’t trade away a sixth-round pick just so he’d leave after five starts. Jacksonville reunited Cleveland with offensive line coach Phil Rauscher during the 2023 season and will probably try to keep the pair together heading into 2024.

K Brandon McManus

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

McManus was stellar for much of the season, but struggled late in the year. After making 23 of his first 25 field goals with the Jaguars, he made only one of six during a brutal stretch that coincided with Jacksonville’s losing streak. Still, he made all of his extra points and five of his seven misses on the year were from beyond 50 yards. The Jaguars might be interested in competition at the position, but not many teams want to let their kickers hit the market.

CB Gregory Junior (exclusive rights)

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

This isn’t a hard call at all. While a hamstring injury cost Junior much of the 2023 season, the former sixth-round pick showed a lot of potential in his second NFL season. It’d cost next to nothing for the Jaguars to keep the young defensive back and continue his development.

CB Tre Herndon

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Gone

One of the Jaguars’ most tenured players has stuck around for because of his savvy and understanding of the defensive scheme. But with new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen set to implement his system and his introductory presser seemingly suggesting that cornerback is a position that needs work, it may finally be time to move on from Herndon — especially with several young players like Junior, Montaric Brown, and Christian Braswell already on the roster.

S Daniel Thomas

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

Thomas has been a core special teamer and showed off his elite gunner skills on primetime during the 2023 season. It shouldn’t be too hard or expensive to keep Thomas on the roster with a low-cost contract.

OL Tyler Shatley

AP Photo/Gary McCullough
AP Photo/Gary McCullough

Prediction: Gone

Like Herndon, Shatley is a long tenured Jaguars player who could finally be on his way out. The interior offensive line is in dire need of an overhaul and, while depth is valuable, Jacksonville may be ready to make enough upgrades up front to push Shatley out of the conversation entirely.

EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson

Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports
Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Gone

The Jaguars have been plenty patient with Chaisson, but time is up. After four seasons, the 2020 first-round pick has five career sacks. It’d be surprising if Jacksonville didn’t feel it was past time to walk away.

EDGE Dawuane Smoot

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Gone

While he’s a long tenured member of the Jaguars defense and earned a Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination in 2023, he was simply an ineffective player last season. After starting the year on the PUP list, Smoot returned in October and gave the Jaguars only one sack in 12 games. In Week 18, he played only 16 snaps. Perhaps another year of recovery will see Smoot return to form, just don’t expect it to be in Jacksonville.

LB Caleb Johnson (restricted)

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Stays

Johnson wasn’t quite as stellar on special teams as he was in 2022, but it’s not too expensive to keep a restricted free agent. The reserve linebacker is a core special teamer and someone the Jaguars will probably want back.

DL Jeremiah Ledbetter (restricted)

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Gone

After a stellar preseason, Ledbetter struggled for much of the regular season. While it’d be cheap to tender Ledbetter, the defensive line is going to be reworked under Nielsen and the Jaguars can’t bring back all the same players and expect different results.

WR Tim Jones (exclusive rights)

Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

Jones was brought back as an exclusive rights free agent last year (all four of the team’s ERFAs were) and there’s not much reason for the Jaguars not to do it again. While he’s shown little in the regular season as an offensive player, Jones is a solid special teamer and should battle for a roster spot again in the fall.

RB D'Ernest Johnson

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Gone

What once looked like a loaded running back room proved pretty ineffective in 2023. Travis Etienne Jr. took nearly 75 percent of the carries at the position while Johnson and Tank Bigsby only showed brief flashes. While Bigsby will get a chance to show more in 2024, the Jaguars will probably look elsewhere for a third back.

LB Shaquille Quarterman

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Prediction: Gone

Quarterman was an unsung hero of the 2022 season, but saw a grand total of eight defensive snaps in 2023. If rookie fourth-round pick Ventrell Miller hadn’t suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in August, the reserve linebacker may not have made the roster.

OL Blake Hance (restricted)

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Gone

Hance stuck around last offseason as an exclusive rights free agent, but it’d cost just a little bit more to keep him as a restricted free agent. While he started a game for the Jaguars in 2023, the team probably isn’t antsy to get him back on the field.

DL Angelo Blackson

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Prediction: Stays

Blackson managed to fall on three fumbles during the 2023 season and finished with a pretty respectable 66.1 run defense grade from PFF. Don’t expect him to be a top priority, but he might’ve done enough to earn another contract and stick around until camp, at least.

OL Cole Van Lanen (restricted)

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Prediction: Gone

The backup tackle saw the field in only two games during the 2023 season and the results weren’t great. When he was thrust into action against the Buccaneers, he allowed four pressures in 31 pass blocking snaps. After trading for the lineman in 2022, the Jaguars gave him time to develop. It doesn’t seem like it has yielded positive results.

WR Jaylon Moore (exclusive rights)

Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Stays

If your first reaction was “Who?” that’s pretty understandable. Moore spent 2022 on the Jaguars practice squad and 2023 on the injured reserve. They’ve had plenty of opportunities to part with Moore, but he’s still on the roster. And with exclusive rights making it very cheap and easy to retain the receiver, there’s not much reason to ditch him now.

QB Matt Barkley

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Gone

The 33-year-old journeyman quarterback joined the Jaguars in December amid injuries for Trevor Lawrence and the departure of Nathan Rourke. The Jaguars will likely want to add a camp arm or two in the offseason, but they’ll likely look to go much younger than Barkley to fulfill that need.

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire