The Jacksonville Jaguars quietly made the decision to enter their third year of paying Julius Thomas, which makes little sense at this point.
It was just six months ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars were a buzzworthy NFL team. After arguably the best haul (at the time) of the 2016 NFL Draft, big moves in free agency and years of building, the time for the Jags to take the next step seemed upon us. As they now prepare to pick fourth in the 2017 draft, it’s clear that was not the case for the AFC South bottom-feeders.
While a young defense still had their shortcomings and holes, they showed promise. Where they truly missed the mark, though, was with the Blake Bortles-led offense. Though there is a case to be made that weapons like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee were enough, it might’ve at least been somewhat beneficial to have tight end Julius Thomas on the field a bit more. Alas, that wasn’t the case.
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In the second year of a five-year contract Thomas signed with the Jaguars, he played in only nine games. That brings his total missed games through two seasons up to 11. For a player hauling in approximately $9 million per year in his contract, that’s simply unacceptable. However, the Jaguars had an out this offseason that they could’ve taken.
If Thomas were cut within a five-day window following Super Bowl LI, the Jaguars would’ve avoided him being owed any guaranteed money. Instead, the Jaguars let Thomas be, per Pro Football Talk, thus guaranteeing $3 million of his salary. As Pro Football Talk also notes, Thomas will be due $7 million guaranteed if still on the roster five days into the new league year in March. At this point, though, that seems like a formality as he’s already guaranteed near half of that.
Frankly, this feels like another misfire in a long list of them for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sure, there are reasons to be optimistic with this team. Tom Coughlin returning to help run football operations, new life at head coach with Doug Marrone, and the young talent on the roster all provide hope.
However, they are still a team that won three games in the 2016 season. Thus, it doesn’t rightly make sense to keep a veteran player who can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been overly productive when healthy when he’s costing a fairly substantial cap hit for this year. This isn’t a team in a position to make luxury signings or keep players of that same ilk around. Comparing production to salary at this point with Thomas, that’s what he is.
At his best, there’s no need to take away from Thomas. We’ve seen the veteran tight end be a force that few defenses can hope to contain. While that may result in the occasional touchdown and highlight, it’s not necessary for the Jaguars in their current state. He’s sticking around, though, which surely will prove to be a curious decision moving forward.