The Jaguars were so close to reaching the Super Bowl — they held a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead before losing to New England in the AFC Championship Game. To remain a legitimate contender over the next several seasons, the team needs to add a game-changing receiver, find a pass-catching tight end and address the interior of the offensive line.
It’s not an overwhelming task, either. The receiver is already in house, and it’s a good draft for tight ends and offensive linemen. Executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell can make the Jaguars the favorite in the AFC with two draft picks.
The first priority is re-signing receiver Allen Robinson, who missed nearly all of the 2017 season because of a torn left ACL. His rookie contract expires on March 14, and the Jaguars can work out a reasonable, long-term deal or get him to agree to a one-year, incentive-laden deal similar to the one Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia last offseason.
If neither works, the team can use the franchise tag. The projected salary for that is about $16 million, and while that’s a little high for a player who has missed 17 games in four seasons, the Jaguars can easily afford it now that the team won’t have to pay Bortles the $19.053 million he was due under his fifth-year option.
Robinson is expected to be cleared with no restrictions by training camp, and bringing him back gives Bortles the explosive downfield playmaker the offense didn’t have last season. Robinson led the NFL in catches of 20 or more yards in 2015 (31), but he and Bortles both struggled in 2016 (just 11 catches of 20 or more yards on the same number of targets). However, he had a fantastic camp last year, and the Jaguars believed he was headed for a big season before his injury.
The Jaguars also need a pass-catching tight end to complement Marcedes Lewis, who will be in his 13th season with the team and is more of a blocker than receiver. Jaguars tight ends caught an NFL-low 43 passes and were targeted the third-fewest times last season.
Jimmy Graham is a player the team could target in free agency, but the tight end draft class is also good. Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert are players who have been linked to the Jaguars with the 29th pick in various mock drafts. All three are move tight ends who can make plays in the seam and create matchup issues with smaller defensive backs when lined up outside.
The Jaguars also have to get better along the interior of the offensive line. The Jaguars finished the regular season as the NFL’s top rushing team (141.4 yards per game), but their production dropped off significantly over the final six games. The Jaguars averaged 51.3 fewer yards rushing per game in Weeks 12-17 than they did in the first 11 weeks.
Right guard A.J. Cann was up and down, and left guard Patrick Omameh is an average player, so addressing one or both guard spots in free agency or high in the draft is a must. Josh Sitton, Andrew Norwell and Justin Pugh are veterans worth investigating, but they might cost more than the Jaguars are willing to pay.
It’s unlikely the Jaguars would address guard with their first pick in the draft, but using a second- or third-round pick could net them an immediate starter who will help the front be more consistent in the run game.
That the Jaguars are sticking with Bortles is a sign management believes in his ability to get them to the Super Bowl. Adding those additional pieces on offense to complement one of the NFL’s best defenses makes it a stronger possibility.
Seattle Seahawks’ Chad Wheeler arrested on suspicion of domestic violence
SEATTLE — Seattle Seahawks backup offensive tackle Chad Wheeler remained in King County Jail on Monday night after he was arrested early Saturday morning on suspicion of domestic violence, according to online court records.
Wheeler is accused of assaulting a woman at an apartment in the Seattle suburb of Kent, according to a police report obtained by The Seattle Times. The Kent Police Department’s report said Wheeler is accused of throwing the woman on a bed, strangling her before she lost consciousness and later picking a lock on a door to a bathroom, where the woman had fled to call 911 after she regained consciousness.
The incident began when Wheeler asked the woman to bow to him, according to the report. It said Wheeler had not been taking his medication for bipolar disorder.
The Seahawks said in a statement obtained by ESPN, “We are aware of the situation and still gathering information.”
Wheeler, 27, appeared in five games with Seattle last season. He was undrafted out of USC in 2017 and joined the Seahawks in October 2019. He’s a restricted free agent.
Court records show he was being held on $400,000 bail.
Patrick Mahomes favored over Tom Brady for Super Bowl LV MVP
Tom Brady has won more Super Bowl MVPs than any other player but he’s not the favorite for the award in Super Bowl LV.
Mahomes won Super Bowl MVP last year when he accounted for three scores, including two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter that helped rally the Chiefs past the San Francisco 49ers for a 31-20 win in Super Bowl LIV.
The quarterback of the winning team has won MVP 29 times, including in eight of the last 11 Super Bowls. But there are some intriguing playmakers on both teams. Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce are each 13-1. Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is 25-1, followed by Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire at 30-1.
Super Bowl LV kicks off Feb. 7, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Chiefs are consensus 3-point favorites over the Buccaneers.
Buffalo Bills made jump, but Chiefs remain their ‘measuring stick’ in AFC – Buffalo Bills Blog
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills believe they’ll be back.
The Bills are young; most of their core players are either signed to multiyear extensions or still on their rookie deals. Their coaching staff, while not completely clear of uncertainty with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey drawing interest from other teams, should remain largely intact for the fourth straight year.
And now, they’re experienced — even if that experience is the pain of falling short of something the franchise has never accomplished.
“It stings to get this far. Sometimes the further you go, the harder it is to lose,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “It’s a learning experience for us as an organization. We’ve got to obviously get back to work.”
Buffalo has little to be ashamed of after winning its first AFC East title since 1995 and its first two playoff games since the turn of the century. The Bills entered the playoffs arguably the hottest team in the NFL, winning nine of their last 10 games en route to the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
Quarterback Josh Allen, although he had his lowlights in Sunday’s game, blossomed into the franchise quarterback general manager Brandon Beane hoped for when he traded up to draft him in 2018. Allen set single-season franchise records in every major passing category and earned his first Pro Bowl selection and possibly an MVP vote or two. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs could not have envisioned a better Buffalo debut season as he finished as the NFL’s leader in receptions and receiving yards.
But the league’s next great quarterback-wide receiver duo wasn’t enough. The Bills aren’t at Kansas City’s level quite yet.
“They’re the reigning Super Bowl champs for a reason and they were the better team tonight,” Allen said.
Last season’s playoff loss felt different. A blown 16-point lead against the Houston Texans stuck in the Bills’ minds all offseason and was part of the reason for the team’s offensive renaissance. It was obvious Buffalo needed reconstruction on that side of the ball, and until it happened nobody could say to any degree of certainty that the Bills would win the AFC East in 2020.
But now, barring a major trade — Houston’s Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins, perhaps? — the Bills should enter the 2021 season as favorites to defend their division title. They don’t need major construction on either side of the ball; but that’s not to say they’re ready to run it back next season.
The backfield duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss was not effective enough in 2020. Beane will need to give the pair another go next season or address the position this offseason. Cody Ford‘s return from a torn meniscus should help solidify the offensive line, but Beane will likely have to decide between re-signing Jon Feliciano or Daryl Williams, both of whom can become free agents soon.
Linebacker Matt Milano is Buffalo’s biggest pending free agent and should be high on Beane’s priority list. The Bills might consider changes in an effort to tailor their defense to stopping Kansas City, which is clearly the looming obstacle standing in the way of any AFC team’s hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.
“At the end of the day, this is our measuring stick,” McDermott said. “If you lose in the AFC Championship Game, that’s the team we’ve got to beat. So, we’ve got to do everything with that in mind this offseason.”
It got them this far — Beane traded for Diggs and drafted two wide receivers last offseason in an effort to keep up with the AFC’s other high-scoring teams. Maybe that means adding even more weapons and speed on offense. Buffalo tied with the Tennessee Titans for the league’s second-best offense behind Kansas City this season, but still seemed like it was on a completely different tier.
“They’re a great football team for a reason, they’re defending champs for a reason,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said. “They’ve got weapons all over the field. Obviously, a lot of people try to limit them, giving up explosive plays up top, so they just run the ball. We tried to stop the run, and they’ve got guys on the outside [Kelce) and [Hill] who can kill you.
“You saw tonight, [Kelce] was open, [Hill] was just catching these little short balls or whatever and going off. It was difficult.”
Beane probably didn’t sleep much Sunday night; the idea he hasn’t given McDermott and his coaching staff enough to work with keeps him up at night, and the Bills certainly didn’t look like they had enough against one of the NFL’s best teams.
But they’re close.
Stefon Diggs is on the field after the Bills’ AFC championship loss to watch the Chiefs’ trophy presentation.
And as Diggs stood by himself after the game, watching the Chiefs celebrate their second consecutive conference title, it’s not difficult to imagine red and blue confetti surrounding an elated Bills team at this time next year.
“It’s going to fuel us. I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back,” Allen said. “We’re still young and we’re only going to get better. That’s one thing I take from this. We’re close. The results weren’t good tonight, but I’m super proud of how our team fought all season and how we bonded together.”
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