Evidently, the Jacksonville Jaguars have not given up on Justin Blackmon just yet. According to league sources, the team is considering keeping the troubled wide receiver when he is reinstated by the NFL from violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for the third time. The talented receiver is entering his third year with the team and has yet to play a full season.
But the thought of Blackmon, who showed flashes of extraordinary talent when on the field, combined with Cecil Shorts and rookies Marquis Lee and Allen Robinson, has apparently become a vision this franchise cannot get out of its head.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday morning that the Jags are open to taking back Blackmon and playing him if the NFL reinstates him this season, according to a source with knowledge of the team's plans.
ESPN first reported the Jags' thinking.
Blackmon missed the first four games of 2013 due to a violation of the substance-abuse policy. After just four games the NFL suspended the receiver again -- this time indefinitely -- for the same violation.
What the violation is has never been revealed by the NFL.
The Jaguars have no sense of when -- or even if -- Blackmon will ever be eligible to play in the NFL, said ESPN’s Michael DiRocco.
The Jaguars don't expect Blackmon to be available this year -- he sat out the first four games and the last eight games of 2013 because of suspensions.
In between, Blackmon made 19 catches for 326 yards in his first two games back from the first suspension. Should the team cut Blackmon, it receives nothing in return on its investment. Deciding to keep him as a viable receiving option does not cost the team a thing and adds another explosive dimension to an offense that could be one of the most improved in the NFL.
The former No. 5 overall pick has shown loads of talent when he's on the field. Any team would covet his combination of size, speed and playmaking ability.
However, it's his off-field trouble that has his future in doubt.
"I think it's an absolute tragedy. ... I think he's such a talented guy," Jags owner Shad Khan said in May. "The best years (are) ahead of him but after a while, it's out of your control."
What is not out of the Jags' control is the ability to dangle a carrot out in front of Blackmon. By being open to his return, the organization is giving the 24-year-old -- who clearly has substance-abuse problems -- incentive to seek assistance, get clean and work toward a return (when and if the NFL allows that).
Shorts has been the team’s leading receiver the last two seasons, but has also been injured and has finished the season on the injured reserve two years in a row. Ace Sanders, a talented, yet smallish slot receiver is now in his second season and caught 50 passes last year. He figures to be in the mix as well for a spot in the rotation, but will be used more in the return game.
While the thought of Blackmon in a No. 14 teal jersey this season would be nice, the team’s officials are not holding their breaths and do not know when he will return to action.