Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee has been vocal about his new role on offense since signing his contract extension. After leading the team with eight dropped passes last season, one of Lee’s goals included being more reliable on the field.
“My main focus is making sure that everybody on that team as far as my teammates, know that when I step out there they can rely on me to get the job done,” Lee said.
With the Jaguars cutting ties with long-time veteran Marcedes Lewis and receiver Allen Hurns on Tuesday, the time is now for Lee to step up. Here’s why:
Moving On From Veteran Players
The decision to release tight end Marcedes Lewis was surprising, to say the least. As the Jaguars 2006 first-round pick, Lewis was the longest-tenured veteran on the team. Despite turning 34 before next season, he led the team with five receiving touchdowns and was a quality blocker.
The Jaguars had signed tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul earlier in free agency, and could draft another. Lewis expressed disappointment with the timing of the move.
“I wish they would have done it sooner,” Lewis said. “I think I deserved a little better than this.”
The Jaguars had already lost linebacker Paul Posluszny to retirement one week earlier. Posluszny was the longest-tenured defensive player, spending the past seven seasons with Sacksonville.
Lee, entering his fifth season, is now one of the older veterans in Jacksonville.
Inexperience at Wide Receiver
The team also released Allen Hurns after he missed eleven games combined in 2016 and 2017. He had more yards(1,031) and double the touchdowns(10) in 2015 than he did in the previous two seasons combined.
The Jaguars saved $7 million in salary-cap space by releasing Hurns and another $3.5 million from Lewis.
Lee needs to mentor sophomore receivers Keenan Cole and Dede Westbrook to fully replace Hurns production. In their rookie seasons, the Cole and Westbrook combined for 1,087 yards and four touchdowns, showing promise.
These releases along with Allen Robinson signing with the Chicago Bears make Lee the unquestioned number one option on offense. With Lewis and Posluszny both gone, Lee will influence the team more so than in any of his first four seasons in Jacksonville
“I’ve got a personal goal for myself as far as just being there for the guys in every situation regardless if I’m out there or not,” Lee said.
Lee’s responsibilities not only include having to make plays when his number gets called, but being a better teammate. He needs to lead the young offense and display professionalism. Lee also has the task of integrating newcomers such as receiver Donte Moncrief, Seferian-Jenkins, and Paul.
Whether Lee can successfully motivate the locker room will have a large part in determining whether Jacksonville can mimic last year’s success. The talent exists on both sides of the ball, but leadership isn’t always as easy to come by.