Richard Sherman rumors, Jaguars improving and NFL power rankings


The Jacksonville Jaguars once again dominated the offseason, but is there reason to believe they will finally see more wins come September?

Last year at this time, everyone was giddy about Jacksonville. After years of being a doormat, the Jaguars went great guns in free agency, adding Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara, Chris Ivory, Kelvin Beachum and others. The excitement was borderline breathless after the draft, which yielded Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack in the first two rounds, two projected cornerstones for the next decade to come.

After going 5-11 in 2015, a legion of pundits had the Jaguars vaulting to the top of the AFC South. Then, Jacksonville went 4-12, fired head coach Gus Bradley, and cut bait with both Amukamara and Beachum after the campaign closed.

The additions did nothing to help, mostly because of continuing issues that have plagued the franchise. Blake Bortles was once again too loose with the football, finishing fourth-worst in the NFL with 15 interceptions after leading the NFL with 18. For the third consecutive year, Bortles completed less than 59 percent of his throws, while tossing 12 fewer touchdowns than the year before.

With all that in mind, sweeping changes within Jacksonville were expected, but never came. Instead of cleaning house, general manager Dave Caldwell remains. Caldwell stayed within the old coaching staff for the new head man, promoting Doug Marrone. The only notable change was the front office addition of Tom Coughlin, who is working as the franchise’s executive vice president of football operations.

Coughlin has already made waves. He refused to commit to Bortles as the starting quarterback in a February press conference, leaving the door open for a quarterback being drafted early on in come late April. Then at the opening of free agency, Jacksonville was again aggressive, signing defensive end Calais Campbell (four years, $60 million) and corner A.J. Bouye (five years, $67.5 million) to large deals.

Even with those moves, the Jaguars still have more than $49 million of cap space, ranking only behind the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns in that category.

So how does a team that has spent lavishly in free agency retain so much space? Horrible drafting.

Few Jaguars have earned a sizable second contract because of bad picks throughout the decade. Since 2008, Jacksonville has selected 63 players. Only Allen Robinson has reached the Pro Bowl. The first round picks since 2010 are as follows…

2010: Tyson Alualu
2011: Blaine Gabbert
2012: Justin Blackmon
2013: Luke Joeckel
2014: Blake Bortles
2015: Dante Fowler
2016: Jalen Ramsey

The good news? The best pick is the most recent. Unfortunately, the first four men in that list are no longer with the club. Bortles is facing a make-or-break season, and the jury remains out on Fowler, who after missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL, notched four sacks.

Until the Jaguars draft better, they won’t win. The signings are flashy and provide hope in March, but will continue to lend themselves to disappointment in September without better scouting and decision-making while on the clock.

Jacksonville once again has a top-five pick and a full slate of selections in one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory. Coughlin, Caldwell and the rest of the brain trust have to turn the tide, and if they do, the results will follow.

In the NFL, the only way to build a champion is through the draft, supplementing the team through free agency and trades. The Jaguars have found that out the hard way.

Let’s see if they have learned their lesson.

Power rankings

Top 12 breakout prospects of 2017

1. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
2. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
3. Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
5. Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots
6. Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers
7. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
8. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
9. Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
10. Alec Ogletree, Los Angeles Rams
11. Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills
12. Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans


"“Gunther Cunningham is such a unique coach and person. He has always connected with his players in such a deep personal way, and his aggressive style of defense has always made him a player and fan favorite. The rare aspect of Gunther’s career is how this old-school coach has embraced today’s data analytics. It is the blending of that traditional football acumen with modern technical expertise that makes Gunther such a perfect fit for PFF.”"

– NBC commentator and PFF owner Cris Collisnworth said on hiring Gunther Cunningham

Cunningham had been working with the Detroit Lions in an assistant coaching capacity since 2009, but now will be watching film for a different reason. Cunningham’s hire gives Pro Football Focus continued credibility to both teams and fans, who have, at times, criticized it’s legitimacy.

Cunningham has been coaching in the NFL since 1982, where he broke in with the Baltimore Colts. He was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons, in 1999 and 2000.

Random stat

In 2016, the Giants and Cowboys made the postseason in the same year for the sixth time, but have only played each other once in January. That instance was 2007, when New York upset Dallas on its way to a stunning victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Info learned this week

1. Richard Sherman on the block?

The Seattle Seahawks are reportedly listening to offers on their All-Pro corner, something that comes as a shock. Sherman has two years left on his deal, and is only 29 years old. The tape doesn’t show that Sherman is slowing down, so why Seattle would be willing to jettison Sherman is a mystery.

Ultimately, don’t look for Sherman to be dealt. It would likely require a first-round pick and then some. If the Seahawks would truly move the future Hall of Famer, look for the Raiders to be a strong suitor. Oakland would be a great fit both in need and scheme with former Seattle assistant Ken Norton Jr. running its defense.

Speaking of former assistants, Dan Quinn and the Falcons would be a perfect opportunity for Sherman. However, it’s impossible to imagine Seattle dealing Sherman to an NFC contender.

2. Patrick Mahomes starting to build interest

Mahomes is part of what many believe is a weak quarterback class, but he’s beginning to gain some momentum. The Texas Tech product has recently worked out privately with the Bears, Chargers, Steelers, Saints, Cardinals and Browns.

At this juncture, it’s hard to see Mahomes slipping past Arizona at No.13 in the first round. If he doesn’t, however, he could fall right into the laps of the Texans or Chiefs, who pick 25th and 27th, respectively. Look for Mahomes to possibly be the first quarterback off the board on April 27.

3. Vance Joseph sets tone in Denver

Joseph is a first-time head coach, and he’s wasting no time letting a star player know his feelings. The Broncos’ head man called out Demaryius Thomas, stating that he wants more consistency from the two-time All-Pro. Thomas, 29, has enjoyed five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including two with Tim Tebow and Trevor Siemian.

Considering the other problems on Denver’s roster, this is a bold move by Joseph. Thomas could respond by dropping less passers — he had the third-most with seven in 2016 — or withdraw from his new boss. If it’s the latter, Joseph could be fighting an uphill battle before he gets to OTAs.

4. Jets could be pivot point of draft

There has been talk that the Jets would take a quarterback sixth-overall, despite already having a pair of young guns in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. While the move would make little sense, general manager Mike Maccagnan might be feeling the pressure and make a panic move in hopes of buying more time.

New York is in a full-scale rebuild, although don’t tell corner Buster Skrine that. Should the Jets take a quarterback, we might see an early run on the position. Another darkhorse to draft that position is the Redskins, who could take a signal-caller if they feel Kirk Cousins is determined to leave regardless.

5. Dolphins waive white flag on Jordan

After four years of trying to make it work, the Dolphins are moving on from defensive end Dion Jordan. Jordan, who was the third-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, only amassed three sacks in his career, matching that number with the amount of suspensions he’s garnered.

It’s tough to see Jordan getting another job in the league. He’s shown very little to make general managers take a chance on a player who has been one of the biggest busts in recent memory. Jordan’s story serves a reminder that just because a player goes earl yin the draft, doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed solution.

History lesson

The NFC North has always been dominated by the Vikings and Packers, dating back to its days as the Black and Blue Division. Since realignment in 1967, Minnesota and Green Bay have won 34 of the 50 division titles. Although they haven’t been in the division since moving to the NFC South in 2002, the Buccaneers have as many Central/North titles as the Lions with three.

Parting shot

The NFL allowed the Raiders to move to Las Vegas to a few reasons, and none of which has anything to do with the city of Oakland failing to step up. The Raiders, who on Monday became the third NFL team since Jan. 2016 to relocate, are picking up and moving because they got $750 million in public funding for a new stadium in Sin City.

In addition, the NFL wanted owner Mark Davis to hitch the Raiders to Las Vegas so it could host the draft and Super Bowl there in the future. It’s a financial sell for both team and league, and one that leaves excellent Oakland fans in the lurch … again.

The notion that the city failed the league is a joke. No city should have to pay for a millionaire’s — and in some cases billionaire’s — new venue. The citizens are already paying for tickets, merchandise and other expenditures. The least ownership can do is pay for a majority of its building.

Think of it this way. Would you agree to buy a house and then be charged escalating fees to enter it? No shot. Tack on how financially strapped California is, and you understand why Oakland — and San Diego — were never going to build new stadiums for their teams.

This is a shame, and one that could blow up in the NFL’s face.