The 2020 NFL season has yet to reach the quarter pole and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, and Atlanta Falcons have already parted ways with their respective general managers. While there are likely to be other general manager openings in the coming weeks, there is already a considerable amount to evaluate.
For prospective candidates to fill the vacancies, each of the current openings offers appeal but the Jacksonville gig is the most attractive on the market. Let's examine why.
Young Pieces Already in Place
Jacksonville’s roster is far from loaded and the lack of talent is a major contributing factor in the current 1-10 record, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of exciting young players. The Jaguars offense features potent young weapons in running back James Robinson to pair with wide receivers D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault. On the offensive line, Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson are an intriguing young pair of offensive tackles, while Brandon Linder, Andrew Norwell, and A.J. Cann are starting-caliber interior blockers.
Defensively, both 2020 first-round picks K’Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson are dynamic building blocks that have superstar potential. Myles Jack is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and Josh Allen is a budding star pass rusher, while cornerback Sidney Jones, safety Jarrod Wilson, and defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton have all shown flashes of being valuable pieces that can be better of a strong nucleus moving forward.
Loaded With Assets
Not only do the Jaguars already have a fair amount of talented young players to build around, they also have a healthy amount of assets at their disposal to significantly add to the mix in the coming offseason. Already for the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville owns a total of 10 draft picks, which includes two in the first round, two in the second round, a third-round pick, and two fourth-round selections. The next general manager has an immediate opportunity to put their fingerprints on the roster and assemble a franchise-altering draft class in year one. No other vacancy comes close to offering that type of draft capital to work with from the outset.
Likely to pick No. 1 or 2 overall in the coming draft, Jacksonville is primed to land its next franchise quarterback in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, or BYU’s Zach Wilson. Securing an exciting young franchise quarterback is a nice box to be able to check before your team plays its first game under your leadership.
Not only is Jacksonville loaded with draft capital, the Jaguars are brimming with available salary cap space. According to Over The Cap, Jacksonville is projected to have $82 million in cap space, which is the most in the NFL. In an offseason where so many teams are forecasted to be tight when it comes to cap space due to the reduced amount, Jacksonville is primed to be aggressive in free agency.
Pick Your Own Head Coach
Few things are more critical to building a consistent winner in the NFL than having a head coach and general manager that are in lockstep when it comes to the vision for the football operation. They must be on the same page to develop a roster filled with the right pieces that fit the organization.
While Doug Marrone is still employed as the Jaguars’ head coach despite Dave Caldwell’s firing, Marrone’s dismissal is only a matter of time. His Jaguars have already clinched a third consecutive season with at least 10 losses and he holds an all-time record of 23-38 with the team.
Jacksonville was smart to dismiss Caldwell first to jumpstart its search for the next general manager. Once that decision is made, the focus can then turn to finding the next head coach with the new general manager leading the search. The last thing Jacksonville needs is to find a spark by firing Marrone and the team rallying behind an interim head coach, winning a few games, and spoiling the opportunity to pick in the top two of the upcoming draft.
While other openings will also include the opportunity to pick the head coach, none combine that with the young pieces that are in place in Jacksonville or have the assets to build with moving forward.
Concerns With Other Openings
In addition to all of the aforementioned resources and benefits already in place to turn Jacksonville into a winner, a big part of what makes it more attractive than the other vacancies is the question marks and issues with those other opportunities.
Houston is without a first- or second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and is currently projected to be about $10 million over the cap entering the offseason. While Deshaun Watson is appealing to have from day one, the Texans have made only one selection in the first round of the draft spanning from 2018-2021 with that being offensive linemen Tytus Howard. The lack of draft capital, cap space, existing talent, and the oddities that stem from Jack Easterby’s involvement with the organization makes the Texans job lose some luster.
Outside of the general concern that winning has never been synonymous with the Lions, Detroit has considerable work to do in terms of building the roster and the problem is that so much of what is already in place only schematically fits Matt Patricia’s style of play when it comes to defense. Offensively, the decision to continue with Matthew Stafford or not is a challenging one to consider while there are plenty of question marks surrounding his receivers and offensive line. In addition, Detroit only has about $14 million in cap space for the coming offseason. Also, Detroit’s decision to fire Jim Caldwell after one of the most successful stretches in franchise history which included a winning record in three of four seasons with two playoff appearances to hand the keys over to Matt Patricia is cause for hesitation.
The Atlanta opening is intriguing, but it pales in comparison to what is available to take over in Jacksonville. To start, the Falcons are projected to be $25 million over the cap entering the offseason. Secondly, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Alex Mack are on the wrong side of 30 and there are plenty of holes to fix already on the roster. Lastly, Raheem Morris’ efforts so far as the interim head coach may cost the next general manager their chance to pick the next head coach. While it can certainly be argued that Morris deserves that chance, not having the option makes the job less appealing.