It’s something Jacksonville Jaguars fans have long suspected. It may even be something they feel they have “knew”. But, they rarely had verifiable proof that, yes, some players turned down the Jaguars to go play somewhere else because they wanted to win. Plain and simple.
In the 2014 offseason, the Jaguars were thought to have great interest in free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, even going so far as to bring him in for a visit. Eventually, he would sign elsewhere. When this stuff happens, fans are left to their own speculation as to why. It’s possible the Jags didn’t offer the most money. Perhaps the player had a relationship elsewhere. Or maybe the player wanted to win and didn’t see the Jaguars organization as a likely place to do so.
Sanders recently appeared on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and, as an aside, confirmed Jaguars fans’ fears:
As a reminder, the Jags were coming off a horrendous 3-13 record heading into their second season under head coach Gus Bradley. While many fans subscribe to the idea that “money talks” in NFL free agency, surely the ability to win also comes into consideration, as seen here. But hey, the Jags still managed to land their crown jewel of this class of free agency in the form of Toby Gerhart.
Why is this important for Jaguars now?
You might be thinking, “that’s ancient history,” and in terms of impact on today’s team, that particular whiff of free agency has no impact. However, the idea that it’s not always about the money, that sometimes players want to go where they feel they will at least have a chance of winning, is still relevant.
Most Jaguars fans entered the last offseason practically salivating at what the team could accomplish. After all, they had just ousted the previous, failing regime, and although many observers had reservations about new NFL head coach Urban Meyer, the team was still on the verge of selecting a generational talent. in Trevor Lawrence. Plus, the team had a huge pile of space available to go out and buy several new starters. Fans couldn’t wait!
And then, free agency opened up and the Jags landed…tight end Chris Manhertz. No offense to Manhertz, but he wasn’t exactly the splash fans were expecting. Free Agency continued to leave Jags fans less than impressed in 2021, and they would be right as the following season unfolded. In addition to several other factors… hum – Urban Meyer … The Jaguars’ lack of talent has clearly been a major contributor to their poor record.
Many Jags fans would point to Trent Baalke along with Meyer as the source of the Jaguars’ offseason futility. Was he targeting bad players? Was he too tight with the team’s portfolio? Why wasn’t he getting new big players? At the end of the season, Jags fans were furious with Baalke.
Well, we don’t know for sure why the Jags’ free agency haul in 2021 was so anemic. But we know that players actually care about winning. And, if most free agents across the league looked at the Jaguars’ situation in the 2021 offseason and thought, “Yeah…I don’t know if I want to go play with a rookie quarterback and a first head coach” , Trent Baalke may have had nothing to do with last year’s free agent futility.
That seems especially plausible now, given that the same general manager has seemingly morphed into a different person in 2022, handing out contracts like they’re candy bars on Halloween. And with a Super Bowl-champion head coach to introduce rather than a guy with a checkered past in college football, Baalke may have had a lot more to work with when approaching potential free agents.
Win account. And a winning culture matters. Doug Pederson probably represents that for many people, including NFL free agents. After the Jacksonville Jaguars free agency bonanza of 2022, Trent Baalke is perhaps witnessing it more than anyone right now.