Doug Marrone sees challenge, opportunity with ever-changing Jaguars roster

After Aaron Lynch's retirement, team has seen 4 free agent signees opt-out or retire in camp

Aaron Lynch of the Chicago Bears anticipates a play during a game against the New York Giants at Soldier Field on November 24, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Giants 19-14. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) (Stacy Revere, 2019 Stacy Revere)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Marrone looks at the number of players dropping off of the roster and knows what people are thinking.

All of these moves are devastating for one of the league’s youngest teams. Has Marrone experienced a period of time like this during his coaching career?

“Probably not, no. But, [it’s] part of the challenge,” the Jaguars coach said Monday.

And that was hours before the next roster move broke that defensive end Aaron Lynch, who signed with the team in early May, announced that he was retiring for personal reasons. It continued a steady training camp exodus for the Jaguars, who have been picked apart by injuries, two retirements and three opt-outs for COVID-19.

Earlier this week we told you about Rodney Gunter, the Jaguars free agent signing who announced his retirement after learning of a heart condition. News4Jax sports anchor Cole Pepper Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone who is very sympathetic for Gunter's situation.

Lynch had been in the NFL since 2014 and has been with San Francisco and Chicago in that span. He had 20 career sacks.

Although he wasn’t in line for a starting position, Lynch would have added much-needed depth to a unit that is in dire need of it. Jacksonville dealt Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell to the Ravens and cut tackle Marcell Dareus in the offseason. End Yannick Ngakoue remains a no-show and has yet to sign his franchise tender.

The Jaguars did add an area native, Columbia High School graduate and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan on Monday, but the needs are greater than what he’ll provide.

Defensive tackle Al Woods, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and end/linebacker Lerentee McCray all opted-out due to COVID-19 concerns. Defensive tackle Rodney Gunter was placed on the reserve/retired list Monday after he announced a condition with his aortic valve. Linebacker Quincy Williams had surgery for a core muscle injury and is out indefinitely. Gunter, Lynch, Melvin and Woods were all free-agent signees this year.

Defensive tackle Dontavius Russell, a seventh-round pick in 2019 and defensive tackle Brian Price were both placed on injured reserve. Price was waived and received an injury settlement on Monday afternoon. Russell had four tackles in his rookie season. Second-year tight end Josh Oliver, who missed the bulk of his first season due to injuries, broke his foot in a non-contact drill Sunday. He was set to undergo surgery on Tuesday.

Marrone said Monday that all of the roster shakeups with injuries and opt-outs is challenging because they’ve come so close together, but those holes now create opportunities for others.

“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s scrambling or like high-anxiety, it’s a matter of, listen, some of the young guys that we have are going to have to step up and we’ve got to get them ready to go,” he said.

“I think that there’s opportunities from now throughout the start of the season where you can acquire players, whether it’s the other players’ positions that are loaded on some teams. We’ll have to make some moves, or maybe it’s a trade? There’s a lot of options out there. I don’t think we’re in that mode yet of scramble. We’re in that mode of planning.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.