JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the NFL’s worst franchises over the past decade.
They’ve lost 10 or more games nine times.
They’ve had six top-five draft picks and picked in the top 10 every year but one.
They have had one winning season since 2007.
Yet despite all of that -- and many more issues -- it is an extremely attractive opening for general manager candidates after the Jaguars fired Dave Caldwell on Sunday. It's likely the most attractive in the league this year.
The Jaguars have two first-round picks, two second-round picks and two fourth-round picks in 2021. If they pick in the top five -- and the ESPN Football Power Index had them at a 97.5% chance of doing so heading into Sunday’s loss to Cleveland -- they’ll own four of the top 50 picks next spring.
The Jaguars (1-10) are battling the 0-11 New York Jets for the first overall pick, with the prize being Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Even if they miss out on No. 1, the consolation prize could be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who would be the surefire No. 1 QB in the draft if Lawrence weren’t available.
There are some young, foundational players already on the roster in running back James Robinson, receivers DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault, defensive end Josh Allen, defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, linebacker Myles Jack, and cornerback C.J. Henderson. There are definite holes to fill -- the Jaguars need another pass-rusher, a pass-catching tight end, additional bulk on the defensive line and another corner and safety -- but they can address a lot of that with their 12 picks in 2021.
Though there has been no official cap number released for next year ($175 million and $190 million have been mentioned as possibilities), the Jaguars currently have the third-most space available in 2020, per OverTheCap.com at $59.1 million. The only two teams that have more are Indianapolis and New England.
Plus, the new GM will be working for an owner with an incredible amount of patience. Shad Khan let former head coach Gus Bradley go 14-48 before firing him and gave the recently fired GM Dave Caldwell three chances at the QB apple: He drafted Blake Bortles No. 3 overall in 2014, signed Bortles to an extension, and signed Nick Foles to the most guaranteed money in franchise history ($50.125 million). The Jaguars lost 10 or more games in all but one of Caldwell’s eight seasons and his record at the time of his firing was 37-86 (39-87 if you include the playoffs).
And there’s the always ubiquitous “Florida has no state income tax and great weather” factor.
Compare it to the other current openings:
Atlanta: There is an established quarterback (Matt Ryan) and big-time talent at receiver (Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley). But Ryan and Jones are near the end of their careers and have big contract numbers (Ryan’s deal essentially makes him untradeable in 2021) and they’re not long-term foundational pieces. Per OTC, the Falcons are either $44 million or $98 million over the 2021 cap, depending on whether it’s a $175 million or $190 million cap.
Houston: The Texans have a young franchise QB in Deshaun Watson, but former coach/GM Bill O’Brien traded away draft picks to acquire OT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills (who was released over the weekend) and don’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2021. It's hard to win quickly without being able to add elite talent. Per OTC, the Texans are $8 million over, or have $6 million, in cap space.
Detroit: The Lions also have an established quarterback with Matthew Stafford, but the defense needs a complete rebuild and there’s not exactly a list of big-time playmakers there. Plus, Stafford turns 33 in February and has two years remaining on his contract, though it’s not as bad financially to get out of it as the Falcons with Ryan. Per OTC, the Lions have $13/$28 million in cap space in 2021.
No GM job is a bad one. There are only 32 of them. This is one of the rare times that the Jaguars should have an advantage over other teams.