The Jacksonville Jaguars have tried to make a splash in free agency in the David Caldwell era with the organization. The fifth-year general manager has certainly hit on a few players – most notably Malik Jackson, Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, and Jeremy Parnell.
Then there are the ones he would just like to forget.
Toby Gerhart, for one. The jury is still out on defensive back Tashaun Gipson and tight end Julius Thomas. Right now, the Jaguars need to improve both their offensive and defensive lines, with many players for the taking. The Jaguars have had plenty of cap space in recent years, but have not spent the necessary cash to secure top-flight talent.
In the new Tom Coughlin era of this organization, this should change.
If you read Sean Naylor’s piece on the teams with the most cap space in free agency this season, the Jaguars are right there with $73 million. A new head coach and a general manager on the hot seat could be the onus for this team to finally spend at will.
“The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team that is in dire need of o-line help. They need to make sure they keep QB Blake Bortles upright. New Head Coach Doug Marone is sticking with the 4th year QB as his guy. If it is to work they will need to spend some money on that protection. They could also look at trying to add another running back,” Naylor writes. “The money spent on last year on Chris Ivory may prove to be a waste. But then again, a failure in pass protection can also mean a troubling running game. This team is young and vibrant and could be a major player in the AFC South with the right moves.”
I am not sold on the notion that Ivory is a waste just yet, but things have to change. The Jaguars will be major spenders this offseason. Here is a look at six players that should be on their radar.
Jason Pierre-Paul – The former New York Giants defensive end figures to be one of the top pass rushers in free agency and should also be at the top of the Jaguars’ list of “got-to-have” superstars.
So much was made last season that the Jacksonville Jaguars did not land a top pass rusher in free agency last season, but came away with Malik Jackson.
This year, look for Tom Coughlin and David Caldwell to reach out to one of Coughlin’s former players. Pierre-Paul brings a skill set that would work effective with Yannick Ngakoue and could also move Dante Fowler to outside linebacker. Pierre-Paul gives an improving defense instant credibility.
Offensive Tackle – I left this as a vague situation because it is unclear at the moment.
Jacksonville appears to be in the market for Branden Albert, via trade. If he is healthy and agrees to a new deal here in town, Albert is an upgrade over Kelvin Beachum. Still, there are plenty of variables to consider if Albert does not come to Jacksonville.
Russell Okung, Riley Reiff, and Ryan Clady could all be in the mix to sign with the Jaguars. Jacksonville must also make a decision on whether to re-sign Luke Joeckel or let him walk in free agency. While it is unlikely he will leave New England, I like Sebastian Vollmer as well and think he would be a solid piece to the Jaguars puzzle.
Calais Campbell – If the team does not go after or cannot sign Pierre-Paul, Campbell also makes sense. The long-armed sack artist from Arizona is 30 years old and was a second-round pick out of Miami. He has been a steady performer out west. I would love to see him on the right side of the defensive line.
Campbell is a two-time Pro Bowl performer (2014, 2015) and two-time Second-team All-Pro (2014, 2016). He has 56.5 sacks in his career. There is talk the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins could be in line for his services. The Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons could also open the Brinks Truck as well.
Kevin Zeitler – I think this is a player the Jacksonville Jaguars have on their radar but have not spoken much about it. Zeitler would help solidify the interior of the line. While the team proved to be better at providing protection for Blake Bortles last season, the run game still suffered. Zeitler helps improve the cause. He could also be considered for a center, where the team could move Brandon Linder back to left guard. Cincinnati’s loss could be a huge gain for this offensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds, he adds more bulk to the line and helps move the pile forward.
Tony Jefferson – The word is Jefferson and the Cardinals are going to test free agency. That means for $7 million per year, the Jaguars could have the safety’s services. According to Pro Football Talk, The Cardinals have plenty of cap space already devoted to the secondary, with big contracts previously given to cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu. They need to smooth out the cap burden among all positions, and they can’t afford to get top heavy on the last line of defense.
Bringing in Jefferson would almost assuredly mean the Jacksonville Jaguars look defensive line or running back with the fourth pick in the Draft.
A.J Bouye – I heard a conversation on 1010XL and 92.5 FM here in town during Super Bowl week on Jaguars Today. The UCF product said all the right things in the interview. He and his agent are going to prepare for free agency. The Chicago Bears are already said to be interested and after a solid season in 2016, I suspect others will step up to see if the money is worth the acquisition. Cornerback, like safety, is still a concern for this team. Jalen Ramsey is a demon, but the team does not have four of him roaming the secondary. The Jaguars could sign both Bouye and Jefferson and go hunting for a pass rusher and running back in the first two rounds of the Draft.
Melvin Ingram – I read this past week that one NFL analyst had Ingram listed higher than Malik Jackson and Olivier Vernon in terms of his value in free agency.
That’s hogwash. But in Ingram, someone will get a solid pass rusher. The former first-round pick out of South Carolina immediately offers the Jaguars another outside pass rusher who can stand up on an end. He fits the team profile. San Francisco, Indianapolis, and Chicago all figure to be suitors. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a nice group of middlemen with Paul Posluszny, Telvin Smith, and Myles Jack. I think Ingram comes in and plays the role of a rush end/stand up linebacker. If he can provide pass rush off the end, he will be worth his weight in gold. I do not see the team forking out another $97 million to obtain a lineman, however.