The third overall pick in 2013 gave up five sacks in the 2015 season finale. The Jaguars signed free agent left tackle Kelvin Beachum and announced it would be an open competition for the starting job. And the team announced earlier this month that it wouldn’t be picking up Joeckel's fifth-year option.
Yet according to his head coach and a teammate, Joeckel has been unaffected by those setbacks. He isn’t upset or bitter and is still as driven as he has always been.
"I’d be surprised if anything changed for him mentally," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "I think if Beachum never showed [up in Jacksonville], I would expect Luke to do the same thing he’s doing now and play the same way he’s going to play coming up. Competition pushes everybody, so we’re excited. It’s going to bring the best of both of them out."
Coach Gus Bradley said he didn’t see a change in Joeckel after the team told him on May 2 that they weren’t picking up his fifth-year option, which would have meant he would have earned more than $11 million in 2017.
"I can’t speak for him, but visiting with him, he’s very focused," Bradley said. "He’s always been like that, but I think that [with] a lot of things now, he’s just a very focused individual.
"So whether we picked it [the option year] up or not, I don’t see much effect on him other than he’s just extremely focused."
Joeckel -- who got married in March -- has been a starter since the day he was drafted. He started the first four games of his rookie season at right tackle 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. Joeckel started every game in 2014 and 14 games in 2015, missing two with an ankle injury.
However, he has struggled, particularly against quicker rushers. Pro Football Focus tagged Joeckel with allowing eight sacks in 2014, but he did play better in 2015. The team said he had allowed just two sacks until the season finale against Houston.
Beachum started 39 games in four seasons with Pittsburgh, including 34 at left tackle over the last three seasons. He is still rehabbing a torn ACL and will be a limited participant during OTAs and minicamp, but Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said Beachum should be cleared to fully participate sometime early in training camp.
The Jaguars gave Beachum a one-year contract with a cap hit of $5.4 million in 2016, but the team also included a four-year option worth $35 million in base salary alone and approximately $10 million more in potential escalators.
If Joeckel wins the job and plays well, the Jaguars will likely try to sign him to a contract extension. If Beachum wins the job, the Jaguars might try out Joeckel at left guard. That also could lead to an extension, though not at the same kind of money because tackles are paid more than guards. Joeckel could also try to find a job as a tackle elsewhere.