Jacksonville Jaguars got Trevor Lawrence some help, but long-term questions hang with WR, TE

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2022 NFL draft was barely a week ago, but it’s already obvious that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ focus in the 2023 offseason will be to get quarterback Trevor Lawrence more help.

The Jaguars did it in free agency by signing two receivers and a tight end, but after going on the defensive with five of their seven draft picks and only picking one skill position player (a fifth round running back), attacking will be their top priority next year.

“I think the free-agent period gave us some freedom to look at the draft a little differently than we could have pre-free agent if it makes sense,” said general manager Trent Baalke. “Again, dealing with [Head] Coach [Doug Pederson] and going through the process of coaching staff, it’s about developing the best roster, the best 53. That’s how we approached the free agency, that’s how we approached the draft.

“Of course one has to address needs, and we felt we did.”

The addition of receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight-end Evan Engram in free agency provided a significant upgrade in the Jaguars’ passing game for 2022. With lead receiver Marvin Jones Jr. back, receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. came back, and tight-end Dan Arnold Lawrence, as he got over the sprained MCL in the right knee that put him on the shelf for the last six games of the 2021 season, has a pretty good group of pass-catchers for 2022.

Beyond the upcoming season, though, things are murky.

Receivers Marvin Jones and Laquon Treadwell, who led the Jaguars by 416 yards over the last eight games in 2021, are not under contract after next season. Nor are Engram, Arnold and Chris Manhertz tight ends, who are essentially a blocker.

That leaves Kirk, Jones, Shenault (who was a one-second draw in the NFL with eight drops and had trouble running the wrong routes) and Jamal Agnew (a converted defensive back who has only been a receiver for two seasons) as the only ones. experienced receivers under contract in 2023. The Jaguars have only one tight end under contract beyond this season: Luke Farrell, who caught seven passes for 56 yards last season.

Marvin Jones and Manhertz are unlikely to return, and Shenault’s biggest influence has been on quick throws, allowing him to break tackles as he is not a fast receiver. The Jaguars will have to either try to sign a receiver in free agency or, more likely, go heavy on the position in the draft.

There is a pretty good group of recipients who are scheduled to become free agents in 2023: Deebo Samuel (if he is not traded), Terry McLaurin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DK Metcalf, Mecole Hardman and Diontae Johnson. However, the pool will shrink as teams use the franchise mark or players sign extensions.

An early look at the potential receivers available in the 2023 draft class – with Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba at the top of the list, was No. 4 overall in ESPN NFL analyst Todd McShay’s early 2023 mock draft. – is not as impressive as the 2022 class of receivers.

Engram signed a one-year deal and the Jaguars hope to have a great year and sign again, but if he does not, there are several good tight-ends planned to become free agents: Mike Gesicki, Dalton Schultz, David Njoku , Dawson Knox and Maxx Williams. Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Clemson’s Davis Allen, Miami’s Will Mallory and Alabama’s Cameron Latu are among the top prospects for 2023.

It was the 14th time in the last 15 years that the Jaguars have chosen in the top 10, and for the second year in a row, they have chosen first overall. Because the franchise has missed so many of these picks in the first round and continues to chase bugs, the list has a lot of holes. It’s impossible to meet every need in a low season, but the Jaguars’ new regime with Baalke and Pederson addressed some key points this offseason: offensive line (guard Brandon Scherff and center Luke Fortner), pass rush (defensive end Travon Walker), linebacker ( Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma) and cornerback (Darious Williams).

Kirk, Zay Jones, Engram and the return of healthy running back Travis Etienne Jr. should also make things easier for Lawrence in his second season.

“We like this team and of course we like the group that is there, but as I have always said, you never stop looking, you never stop trying to improve every room and try to do so. competitive as you can, “Baalke said.

This is especially true for 2023.

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