This offseason, the Jaguars shipped high-price free agent signing TE Julius Thomas after a disappointing two season stint in Jacksonville. In return they received a seventh round pick in the 2017 draft. This deal was formally separate to, but not unconnected to, the Jags acquiring veteran LT Branden Albert from Miami to shore up the left side of their O line.
However, Albert sat out voluntary workouts in the hope of securing a new deal. This seemed to take Jacksonville by surprise. They didn’t budge and Albert reported to other offseason activities. However he has now decided, during the first week of camp, to retire from the league. It’s a blow for the Jags.
Why? Well, as you may have read on these pages, whilst the Titans have been savvy this offseason (and the Colts busy in a productive and no-drama way), this is another setback for a franchise in need of stability and development.
A first-round pick in 2008, Albert established himself as a solid LT for the Chief before moving to the Dolphins in 2014. His two seasons in Miami were blighted by injury and so his signing by the Jags represented a risk but they could not have seen this coming. Or maybe they should have.
In a market where O-line salaries are escalating rapidly amid demand vastly outstripping supply, Albert could fairly be assuming to get a new deal from his new team to reflect his, presumed, status as the team’s starting LT. The Jags drafted Alabama OT Cam Robinson in the second round of this years’ draft but the consensus is that he will need time to develop in the NFL. Albert clearly wasn’t simply going to play out his deal as a placeholder.
So now, hot on the heels of much maligned QB Blake Bortles throwing FIVE interceptions in practice, the Jags have lost their presumptive blindside protector. The Jags can’t afford unrest and turbulence in an increasingly competitive AFC South.
HC Doug Marrone has come out talking about running every play, that’s hard to do behind a bad line. Whilst the Jags have options, it doesn’t speak well to the sort of accord needed to win. Teams in organisational turmoil (or intrigue, for that matter) rarely win on the field when they can’t win off it.
Though they have yet again made waves in free agency, and with some of the most talented young players in the league on their roster, the Jags don’t feel like a team poised to contend. Allowing situations like the one involving Branden Albert is an example of poorly-thought through planning. It’s sound from a roster construction point but if the player never sees the field, well, it’s kind of moot.
The Jags have all the promise, they just feel like they will fail to deliver.
All that said, it is appropriate to feel a little sad for the latter part of Albert’s career. He was never a star but in one of the most important positions in football, he was very, very good at his peak. He will be missed by the Jags, and he deserves the tip of the cap his play over nine seasons deserves.
Though….it is reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport that he will owe some of his salary back should he formally process his retirement papers. Does this mean there may be further intrigue in this story? Only time will tell.