In 2020, Baalke was Dave Caldwell’s assistant. Personnel-wise, Caldwell and Baalke’s performance was nothing short of a disaster. Caldwell’s newfound focus on youth and culture left Jacksonville without any depth behind its key players. This included never finding a kicker after Josh Lambo’s injury and fielding one of the worst quarterback rooms in the NFL.
Shad Khan realized that Caldwell wasn’t developing into the front office force he hoped for in 2013 and fired him in the middle of the 2020 season. This gave Baalke the chance to prove himself to Khan as interim General Manager of the team. In a surprising turn, Baalke did well enough in his interim role to win the full-time GM job after Khan and Urban Meyer vetted almost every front office candidate available.
Trent Baalke Doesn’t Suck; He’s Actually Solid
One reason for Baalke’s victory was the stability and familiarity he could provide the organization. Since Baalke helped construct the 2020 roster, he knew exactly where to start during the franchise’s most important rebuild ever. Coach Meyer has capitalized on this knowledge ever since; and Wednesday’s joint press conference presented the GM as more of a collaborator and mentor than initially believed.
Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke’s Joint Press Conference
The Defensive Line
During their latest press conference, Baalke and Meyer established the defensive line as a major priority. That isn’t surprising at all, as both men rode potent pass rushers to conference championships in the past. Josh Allen is a former Pro Bowler at the 4-3 defensive end position, but Baalke and Meyer are invested in multiplying the force of their frontline moving forward.
6 of the 17 free agents/trade targets brought into the organization were defensive linemen. However, the failed acquisition of Tyson Alualu’s services created a large hole heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Since the 25th and 33rd overall picks are still premium selections, there is a strong chance the Jaguars find another pass rusher to turn Urban Meyer’s vision into reality.
Drafting an edge rusher in the 1st or 2nd round is one of the safest choices a GM could make. Even though he’s associated with fast, high-flying spread offenses, Urban Meyer believes that every championship season starts with the construction of a dominant defensive line. At the same time, Meyer is aware that football is a sport reliant on quarterbacks.
Based on his remarks during Wednesday’s presser, Trent Baalke agrees with Meyer and is well prepared in this area of scouting and acquisition as well.
When asked about Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Baalke said “there are no negatives” and “with all the research we’ve done… the stars all align and that’s what you’re looking for.” Baalke’s metaphor means Jacksonville’s finally gained access to its dream quarterback. In an even dreamier scenario, Jacksonville possesses a wealth of draft picks which can be used to support Lawrence and instantly build around him.
Believe it or not, this literally sums up the entirety of what both Baalke and Meyer had to say about Trevor Lawrence this time around. Oops, he also called Lawrence’s recent interactions with the Jaguars’ fan base “awesome.”
Okay, that was everything.
Analyzing Baalke’s Management
It’s reasonable to conclude that Baalke’s management put the Jaguars in a position to finish the offseason on a very high note. How this pans out during the regular season remains to be determined. However, the main objectives of Baalke’s job description would have already been fulfilled by the time Jacksonville kicks off in December.
Salary cap room to work with? Check.
Franchise quarterback? Check.
Revamped defensive line and secondary? Check.
Stability on the offensive line? Check.
Upgraded speed at the wide receiver position? Check.
Current projections still show a hole at tight end. While the Jaguars are expected to draft one in the first three rounds, Kyle Pitts is the only prospect who is guaranteed to be a Day One contributor to an NFL offense. On the bright side, Trevor Lawrence completed 48 of his 231 total completions to his starting running back Travis Etienne in 2020. This gives James Robinson and the rest of the running back room a chance to slowly bring the short passing game along as the season progresses.
All things considered, Trent Baalke has managed the Jaguars as well as anyone could expect him to thus far. The cap is fine, the needs are being met, and, ultimately, he is helping the head coach build towards his on-field vision as much as possible. He might not get an “A,” but he’s still grading pretty high.