JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars did not pick up the four-year option in Kelvin Beachum's contract on Wednesday, but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't be the team's starting left tackle in September.
Beachum is not a free agent until March 9, so the two sides have plenty of time to agree on a contract. By not picking up the option, however, the Jaguars run the risk that Beachum will decide to test the free-agent market and sign elsewhere.
Without Beachum, the Jaguars would have to find a new offensive tackle through free agency -- Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff are the top options -- or in the draft to protect quarterback Blake Bortles' blind side.
Left tackles don't become available often in free agency, and top-tier ones never do. While Kalil and Reiff, who moved to right tackle with the Detroit Lions in 2016, aren't elite, there will be several teams competing for their services, and the Jaguars may have to pay more than they'd like to land either one of them. Possibly more than the $9 million per-year average in Beachum's option.
The two best offensive tackles in the draft are Garett Bolles and Cam Robinson. Both are projected to be taken in the 20s in Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft, so selecting one at No. 4 would be a reach.
The Jaguars could also re-sign Luke Joeckel and move him from left guard back to left tackle.
Beachum returned from a torn left ACL suffered in October 2015 and started 15 games last season, missing only one game because of a concussion. He was a key part of an offensive line that gave up only 34 sacks, the fewest allowed by the Jaguars since 2007 (31).
The 27-year-old Beachum dealt with soreness and slight swelling in his knee throughout the season, but that was expected as he returned to the field less than a year removed from the surgery and linemen put considerable strain on the joint.
The Jaguars were pleased with the way Beachum played in pass protection but wanted to see improvement in the run game.
Beachum signed a one-year deal with a four-year option with the Jaguars in March and earned $5 million in 2016. Had the Jaguars picked up the option, Beachum would have had his $7.5 million base salary in 2017 and $5.5 million of his $8.5 million base salary in 2018 guaranteed.