Jaguars riding with Gardner Minshew, but QB could be in their 2020 NFL draft plans

Leonard Fournette makes his pitch for the Jags to pursue Cam Newton (0:33)

Leonard Fournette tells the First Take crew why Cam Newton would be a great addition for the Jaguars. (0:33)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Gardner Minshew became the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback the moment the team traded Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears last month, and coach Doug Marrone said he’s excited about that.

But the Jaguars are definitely going to add at least one quarterback to the roster within the next few weeks or months. While general manager Dave Caldwell said it could be a veteran signing, he didn’t rule out taking one in the 2020 NFL draft.

“I know Coach Marrone likes to bring three quarterbacks to camp for rep purposes [in practice] and I think we can look at that situation,” Caldwell said. “We’ll get through the draft and see what comes out of the draft. If one presents itself, we’ll pull the trigger. If not, we’ll look to see what’s on the street.”

The Jaguars, who also have fourth-year QB Joshua Dobbs under contract for 2020, have much more pressing needs than quarterback -- such as defensive tackle, cornerback and defensive end -- and could address two of those with their two first-round picks (Nos. 9 and 20). Marrone and Caldwell both say they are confident in Minshew leading the offense in 2020, but if a scenario for a top quarterback were to present itself this week, they wouldn’t hesitate to draft one.

A scenario such as Tua Tagovailoa still being on the board when it’s their turn to pick, maybe?

Don't discount the Jaguars trading up in the first round to draft a quarterback, whether it's Justin Herbert or Tagovailoa. Both of those players at one time over the past two years were regarded as potential No. 1 overall picks, and the Jaguars, with two first-round picks and 12 overall, have the capital needed to make a move to go get one. It might take a move into the top four to ensure they get the one they want the most, because Miami is expected to take a quarterback at No. 5.

If the Jaguars don't make a move for a quarterback early, they could opt to grab one in the middle rounds (such as Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts or Georgia's Jake Fromm). And if they don’t find a player they like in the draft, there are still several veterans available (Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Joe Flacco top the list), and the expectation is that Cincinnati will release Andy Dalton after drafting LSU's Joe Burrow on Thursday.

Newton and Winston might be cost-prohibitive because the Jaguars have only $15 million in salary-cap space and, per OverTheCap.com, they will need approximately $14 million to sign their rookies if they use all 12 picks. The Jaguars can create an additional $4.8 million in space by cutting receiver Marqise Lee, so there is a bit of flexibility if adding a veteran is the way the Jaguars decide to go.

The team, however, has no problem rolling with Minshew in 2020.

“The one thing about Gardner is that he showed some good things last year,” Marrone said. “We did win six games with him. He’s a guy right now that’s working his ass off. We’re working on getting a better football team and, like Dave said, if we can bring someone in, cool. Or the other thing is bring some people around him that can help that position at quarterback.

“... When people talk about, hey, do you have confidence in this player, well, when you put a player on that field and he’s a starter, what you’re saying is that you have total confidence in this player. Because if you don’t, you’re really selling the team short, the organization short and selling the fans short. If you’re asking me if I’m happy with Gardner, absolutely.”

He has good reason to be. The 2019 sixth-round pick filled in for an injured Foles and won more games (six) and had the highest passer rating (91.2) and fewest interceptions (six) of any rookie quarterback. He led the Jaguars to come-from-behind victories on the road in Denver, Cincinnati and Oakland. His 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdown passes were franchise rookie records, and he threw nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in six road games.

But Minshew also had some pretty bad performances, especially against New Orleans, Houston and Atlanta. It’s the kind of ups and downs you’d expect out of a rookie.

The Jaguars are hoping he makes strides in his second season while playing for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who runs a version of the West Coast offense built around three-step drops and getting the ball out quickly. It will be Minshew’s fifth offensive system since he left high school, but his football IQ was one of the things former Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and Caldwell raved about in news conferences moments after the team selected Minshew with the 178th overall pick last April.

Minshew won a junior college national title, spent two seasons at East Carolina and was headed to Alabama to be a backup quarterback before getting a phone call from Mike Leach. Minshew got to Washington State in June, won the starting job two months later and ended up being among the nation's passing leaders in 2018.

The Jaguars are willing to give him the same chance in 2020.