JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- During an appearance on a Jacksonville radio station last week, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said left tackle Luke Joeckel hasn't yet met his potential and needs to improve.
On Tuesday, the Jacksonville Jaguars added some insurance if the former No. 2 overall pick doesn't do just that.
The team reached a two-year deal with free-agent left tackle Kelvin Beachum. He started 39 games in four seasons with Pittsburgh, including 34 at left tackle over the last three seasons. Though Beachum is coming off a torn ACL that cost him the final 10 games of the 2015 season, he is expected to give Joeckel something he hasn't had in his three seasons with the Jaguars: competition.
Joeckel was given the starting job at right tackle for the first four games of his rookie season (2013) before being moved to left tackle after the team traded Eugene Monroe. He suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in his first start at that spot. He started every game in 2014 and 14 games in 2015, missing two with an ankle injury.
Joeckel didn't play very well in 2014 but played better in 2015 -- until a disastrous performance in the season finale against Houston in which he gave up five sacks.
Still, he can play better, and Caldwell has told him that.
"He hasn't reached his ceiling yet," Caldwell said on 1010XL. "I think he has a lot of room for improvement. I think he needs to improve, but I think he knows that, too.
"He's in here every day working out, getting stronger. I think he's good enough for us to get to where we want to be and ultimately that's a Super Bowl championship, but he has to get better along with everybody else."
To do that, Joeckel is going to have to hold off Beachum, who has some additional motivation to win the job. According to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter, Beachum will make $4.5 million in 2016 but can push that number to $6 million with incentives. That's more than Joeckel is scheduled to make this season: a guaranteed $3.296 million.
However, a league source said that adding Beachum will not impact the Jaguars' decision on whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Joeckel's rookie contract. The team has until May 3 to provide Joeckel written notice if they're going to do so.
If the Jaguars pick up the option, Joeckel would be paid the average of the 10 highest salaries for left tackles from the previous year. In 2015, for example, that number was $11.1 million. If the Jaguars exercised the fifth-year option Joeckel's 2017 salary would be in the $12-$14 million range.
The Jaguars could decline the fifth-year option, which would make Joeckel a free agent after 2016, and then try and negotiate a new contract. Or they could let him walk if they like what they see from Beachum.
If Joeckel wants to cash in on his second contract, he's going to have to play better than he has in his first three seasons. That starts with holding off the first competition he's had since he was drafted.