Urban Meyer is the new voice dictating how business will be conducted at TIAA Bank Field, a move the Jacksonville Jaguars made official on Thursday when they struck an agreement with the championship-winning college coach.
With the addition of Meyer, the Jaguars will now shift fully toward a coach-centric model. Owner Shad Khan has been alluding to his desire to do this for some time, but now he has the CEO-type coach to truly live out his vision.
“My whole aspect—and this started really about 15 months ago—that we need to be a coach-centric team and organization, where the head coach really has to lead the kind of players he wants, the kind of team we need to be. And the general manager, myself, we have to support that mission,” Khan said on Friday during Meyer’s introductory press conference.
“And somehow, someway, that had been lost. The idea here is really more about transparency, collaboration, teamwork and accountability. So I think this would lead to the natural question. I mean, I’ve talked to Urban about our general manger, who it ought to be and we’re working together on it. I hope we’ll have an announcement or something in the next week or so, but the objective is going to be that—and I’ve shared this with Urban, he’s on board—both of them will be reporting to me. But everybody in the organization, I mean, we’re going to be carrying out Urban’s vision of the team and the kind of players we want.”
As a result, it is clear that Meyer is going to have a heavy say in what kind of players the Jaguars acquire, whether through the draft or free agency. One way or another, the Jaguars’ future roster construction is going to center around Meyer’s vision for how a team should be built.
With that in mind, it may be a worthwhile exercise to look at impending free agents with ties to Meyer from college. Meyer knows the kind of players and people he wants in his program, so any current NFL players who have gone through his organization would likely catch his eye again as he looks to build a culture in Jacksonville.
So, which impending free agents in the NFL this year have connections to Meyer’s college career? We look at a few examples here.
Connection with Meyer: Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel committed to Ohio State while Meyer was the head coach and went on to play for Meyer for three seasons. Samuel was among the most versatile of any weapons Meyer had in his time with the Buckeyes, scoring 24 total touchdowns (15 rushing, nine receiving) and accumulating over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards during his college career.
Potential fit with Jaguars: Samuel, a second-round pick for the Panthers in the 2017 NFL Draft, had arguably the best year of his career in 2020 by catching 77 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns, along with two touchdown carries. If the Jaguars don’t bring back Keelan Cole, who is a free agent in March, then they will need a slot receiver to surround DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault. Samuel has the quickness and versatility to win from the slot, and his connection to Meyer makes this potential addition at least feasible.
Connection with Meyer: Considered by many to be a favorite of Urban Meyer when he left Ohio State for the NFL Draft, Malik Hooker was a terrific safety for the Buckeyes for three seasons. He was a member of Meyer’s national championship team in 2014 and was an All-American for Meyer in 2016, so Meyer knows just how well he would fit into his vision for the backend of the defense.
Potential fit with Jaguars: Things haven’t gone smoothly for Hooker since the Colts drafted him with the No. 15 overall pick in 2017, mostly because of injuries. Hooker tore his ACL and MCL in Week 7 as a rookie, ending his first season. In 2020, Hooker suffered a torn achilles in Week 2. Through Four seasons, Hooker has played in just 36 games. With that said, the Jaguars badly need a playmaking ballhawk at safety to either compliment Jarrod Wilson or serve as an upgrade over him. It is hard to trust Hooker as that answer due to his injury history to this point, but it would at least make sense for the team’s depth to add him.
Connection with Meyer: Another Meyer recruit, Jordan Reed is one of the few current NFL players with connections to Meyer that don’t involve Ohio State. Reed was recruited by Meyer and his staff to the University of Florida, where Reed played for Meyer for two seasons (2009-2010). Reed didn’t make a big impact until after Meyer’s departure, but there is at least a tie of him to Meyer.
Potential fit with Jaguars: Jordan Reed is set to be a free agent after one year with the San Francisco 49ers. He played 10 games and caught 26 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns, the most touchdowns he had caught since 2016. The Jaguars have a giant need for both a tight end starter and for depth at the position after getting almost nothing from the position group yet again in 2020. Reed still deals with injury issues and will be 31-years-old in 2021, though, so his fit with the Jaguars would likely simply be as a depth piece behind a more dynamic and reliable starter.
Connection with Meyer: First-team All-Pro center Corey Linsley wasn’t recruited by Meyer, but he was a part of the Buckeyes program when Meyer took over the program. Linsley went from an afterthought to a pivotal piece of Meyer’s offense, with Meyer himself referring to Linsley as one of the foundational pieces of the offense during his first two years at Ohio State.
Potential fit with Jaguars: On one hand, Linsley is one of the best players at his position in the entire league. He is a big reason why the Green Bay Packers have fielded one of the NFL’s best offensive lines for the past two seasons and his boost to both the running and the passing game is clear. With that said, the Jaguars already have a stalwart at center in Brandon Linder. Linsley may be seen as the NFL’s best center, but it isn’t like the Jaguars are hurting at the position.
Connection with Meyer: Johnathan Hankins played for Meyer for just a single season at Ohio State, but it was by far his best season as a college player. His connections with Meyer aren’t as deep as others on this list as a result, but he did spend his entire final season at Ohio State on Meyer’s squad.
Potential fit with Jaguars: Jacksonville badly needs veteran defensive tackle help this offseason. By the end of 2020, they were starting a pair of undrafted free agents at defensive tackle due to his bad their already limited depth had become due to injuries. Hankins has started 102 games since being drafted in the second-round in 2013, and while his numbers for his career aren’t staggering, he still has enough talent and experience to be part of a rotation.
Connection with Meyer: Anyone who reads up on Meyer’s first season with the Buckeyes will come away with the obvious and clear impression that Meyer loved coaching defensive end John Simon. Yes, it was just for one season, but Meyer once said after a game, “If we have another child I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that.” So, yeah, that says it all.
Potential fit with Jaguars: It really depends on what kind of defensive scheme the Jaguars will run in 2021. Simon would clearly make sense for the team as a culture setter for Meyer considering he has spent the last few seasons with the New England Patriots and Meyer and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick are close friends. He isn’t much of a pass-rush threat with 21 sacks since 2013, but he could function as an outside linebacker in the right scheme.
Connection with Meyer: Another player who was on the roster during Ohio State’s 2014 national championship run, Conley played for Meyer for several seasons after the coach helped convince him to change his commitment from Michigan to Ohio State. He served as a captain for Meyer’s Buckeyes team in 2016.
Potential fit with Jaguars: The Jaguars badly need veteran depth at cornerback. Most of their cornerbacks under contract for the 2021 season are going to be second-year players, with veterans Sidney Jones and D.J. Hayden set to be free agents. Conley didn’t play in 2020 so it may be buyers-beware, but chances are the Jaguars could bring him in as a redemption depth player like they did with Jones in 2020.