For the first three years of Jawaan Taylor’s career, the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle was mostly a disappointment. The 2019 second-round pick was in danger of losing his job over the summer and had to beat out Walker Little for the right tackle role in training camp.
Then in 2022, Taylor finally had a breakout season.
Taylor, 25, finished out his rookie contract by allowing only five sacks for the Jaguars’ top 10 offense last season. With his contract expiring, ESPN ranked Taylor as the 14th best free agent of the class.
But for the cash-strapped Jaguars, a contract extension might not be an easy call. Field Yates of ESPN projected it’ll take about $15 million per year for Jacksonville to keep Taylor.
Is that a contract the Jaguars should dish out?
Here’s the case for re-signing Taylor followed by the case for letting him walk into free agency:
The Jaguars should re-sign Jawaan Taylor
Only four teams allowed fewer sacks than the Jaguars this season and Jacksonville finished 10th in yards per rushing attempt.
Early in the season, the Jaguars lost one starter along the offensive line in Ben Bartch and then they lost left tackle Cam Robinson near the end of the year. Fortunately for Jacksonville, the team had a solid amount of depth already in place with Tyler Shatley and Walker Little able to step into those vacancies.
While the Jaguars could let Little take over as a starter, having three reliable offensive tackles is a much, much safer way to enter an NFL season than having just two.
At age 25, Taylor could be well on his way to becoming more than just a reliable tackle too. The talent that made him a second-round pick began to shine through in 2022 and his best years look like they’re ahead of him.
The $15 million per year figure that’s being projected as the price tag for Taylor could easily be viewed as a bargain in the future if he continues that upward trajectory. And although the Jaguars are a little cap-crunched for now, it shouldn’t be too hard for the team to clear space with a cut or two and a few restructurings.
Taylor wants to stay in Jacksonville and quarterback Trevor Lawrence doesn’t want his right tackle going anywhere. The Jaguars have a good formula on offense and now is not the time to let talent head elsewhere.
The Jaguars should let Jawaan Taylor walk
The Jaguars haven’t received a compensatory pick in the last 12 offseasons and that streak will undoubtedly reach 13 this March when picks are awarded for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Those selections are awarded to teams that lose more players than they gain in free agency. The Jaguars’ massive spending spree from the 2022 offseason will disqualify them from getting picks this year.
Mostly, the streak is indicative of a team that has failed to acquire adequate talent through the draft and has instead filled its depth chart through free agency.
While Jacksonville shouldn’t let high-value players walk into free agency just to get compensatory picks, there’s a chance for the team to finally make a philosophy switch. The Jaguars need to build through the draft and this is a great place to start.
With Cam Robinson already making $18 million per year and Walker Little proving himself to be a more than capable starter, a contract that commits more than $15 million per year to Taylor is too rich. Especially when Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson deserve so much of the credit for the team’s low sack numbers.
The Jaguars finished the regular season second-to-last in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Analytics. It was Lawrence’s pocket presence and escapability, as well as Pederson’s quick-pass offense that kept the sack numbers low.
That’s how Taylor managed to finish with a hum-ho 58.7 rating on Pro Football Focus while allowing just five sacks.
Jacksonville could find the same level of play or better in the draft at a fraction of the price.
Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire