The Jacksonville Jaguars made several changes this offseason, but one area that remained the same was the general manager role. Fans were hoping for sweeping changes as Urban Meyer had already been fired in December, and firing Baalke would have completed that process.
However, this did not happen and owner Shad Khan retained Baalke. This led to a lot of skepticism from fans earlier this year and some of it remains, although some fans are making the decision.
As for Baalke’s offseason, it was far from perfect. However, he had some good moments along the way that could possibly turn the tide for the Jags. That said, over the next few days we’ll be looking at the best and most questionable moves he’s made this offseason.
To start on a positive note, here are four moves that we think were his best this offseason:
4. Signature of LT Cam Robinson
September 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson (74) against the Denver Broncos at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
There are several fans who are probably ready to talk about this decision already, but it was a wise move for the simple fact that the Jags were horrible at keeping their early-round draft picks. Simply put, that’s not a good look for an organization and is one of the main reasons fans have seen their beloved Jags slandered over time.
Early-round picks Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue and CJ Henderson have all been traded in recent offseasons, Leonard Fournette has been waived outright and Taven Bryan has not been retained beyond his rookie contract. For the league and the players to take the Jags seriously, it’s an issue they need to work on and Baalke is well aware of that. A good place to start was retaining Robinson, a former second-round pick, who the team initially crossed for the second straight time this offseason.
Robinson ended up getting a three-year contract worth $54 million, with $33 million guaranteed. Total value ranks him 14th among tackles on the left and guaranteed amount ranks him 10th. Sure, the Jags would have been cheaper drafting a tackle, but even in that scenario, an argument could have been made to keep Robinson.
In 2021, Robinson only allowed one sack and had a blocking rating of 76.6, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s certainly something fans can live with when it comes to protecting Trevor Lawrence and it looks like new coach Doug Pederson thinks he’s a player the Jags can build on.
3. Move away from a frugal approach to the offseason
JACKSONVILLE, FL – JULY 29: General Manager Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on during training camp at TIAA Bank Field on July 29, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Jaguars fans entered free agency with low expectations as Baalke had a reputation for not spending. However, they were pleasantly surprised as the Jags spent the most money ever by a team in an NFL offseason. As of March 28, they’ve given away a total of $175.3 million in guaranteed money after making several notable additions in the first few weeks of Free Will.
Additions the Jags made early on included receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram, linebacker Foysade Oluokun and defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, to name a few. And while none of them were the best at their jobs, they certainly make the Jags better than they were in 2021.
The Jags had the league’s worst record in the past two years, so a spending spree honestly made sense to avoid wasting another year of development from Lawrence. Still, many of those covering the Jags were skeptical whether this would change Baalke’s approach to free agency, but he has wisely moved away from the approach that has repeatedly failed him in the past.
Now the big question is whether or not he has the right players.
2. Trade for LB Devin Lloyd
April 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the twenty-seventh overall pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports
The Jags decided to move on from Myles Jack on free agency week after adding Oluokun. That said, with the former second-round pick gone, the Jags had a void to fill alongside Oluokun, but luckily the draft had several options for them.
After taking Travon Walker with the first overall pick, Baalke also saw an opportunity to come from the back of the first round for another player who represented good value for a late first round and had the skills to replace Jack. That player was Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, who was expected to be a top-21 pick in the eyes of many.
For some reason, Lloyd was still on the board beyond that point and the Jags set in motion a plan to call the Tampa Bay Bucs the No. 27 pick to get a deal done. This allowed them to skip the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots to tackle a significant portion of their defense.
All it took for the Jags to advance was their second-round pick (#33), a fourth-round pick (#106), and a sixth-round pick (#180). Considering the Jags had 12 picks to start with, it was a small price to pay to get a player of Lloyd’s caliber who could lead the defense for many years to come.
1. Hire Ethan Waugh
September 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Detail view of a Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Denver Broncos football helmet at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Jags said they would bolster their front office by potentially hiring a president of football operations and an assistant general manager. This would put the team in a position where they have someone above and below Baalke.
However, fans who wanted someone on Baalke ended up disappointed as owner Khan put the search for a chairman of football operations on hold. He apparently liked the cohesion between Pederson and Baalke this offseason and didn’t want to spoil it. That said, they simply opted to hire an assistant general manager instead.
The executive who ended up getting the job was former San Francisco executive Ethan Waugh, who worked with Baalke with the 49ers for several years. Some fans may see this as a bad thing, as Baalke’s tenure was a disaster in San Francisco after 2014.
However, it’s also worth mentioning that Waugh was also part of the 49ers’ rebuild after Baalke’s run. That means he played a part in helping John Lynch fix the mess Baalke made before he was fired after the 2016 season.
During the post-Baalke era, San Francisco was impressive for the most part. They recorded two 10-or-more win seasons under Lynch and picked notables like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Fred Warner and Nick Bosa to name a few. They also made some notable deals, acquiring players like Trent Williams and Jimmy Garoppolo in the process.
The 49ers organization has earned a lot of respect from their league peers and the addition of a member of their current roster like Waugh is huge. It’s possible he could help Baalke in areas he’s struggled in, like bringing in better players and pulling the trigger on notable trades, two things that could help the Jags immensely.