The Jaguars need pass rush help. Generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks is key to getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers, two areas of the game the Jaguars have struggled with in recent years. Even with Joe Cullen dialing up blitzes throughout the year, the Jaguars finished 27th in the NFL in sacks and finished dead last in turnovers forced.
Josh Allen, who is entering his fourth year, is a bonafide starter in the NFL with Pro-Bowl upside. He should be in the short and long-term plans for Doug Pederson and the Jags as one of their primary edge defenders. Allen is effective as a rusher and run stopper but needs to develop more consistency from game to game in 2022.
Dawuane Smoot has proven to be an effective rotational pass rusher, and with an expanded role in 2021, he performed at a reasonably high level, registering 50 QB pressures and six sacks. But with a large sample size over the last three seasons, Smoot appears to be much more effective as a third or fourth pass rusher rather than a front line guy.
2020 first-round pick K'Lavon Chaisson failed to show enough improvement over his first two seasons to rely on him as a starter or heavy contributor in 2022. The Jaguars shouldn't cut bait, but Chaisson remains a project.
The edge group behind those three doesn't inspire much confidence. With Josh Allen and Dawuane Smoot, the Jaguars have a starter with upside and a quality rotational player, respectively. That means they should look to add at least one starting-caliber edge rusher in free agency.
Fortunately for the Jags, they've got over $58 million in available cap space, and several impending free agents could fit the bill.
Harold Landry, for my money, makes the most sense for the Jaguars. His combination of age, production, talent, and scheme fit is tough to ignore. Landry will turn 26 later this year, but he's already shown the ability to produce at a high level as a pass rusher in a multi-front scheme that relies heavily on edge rushers winning from a two-point stance. He's delivered 26.5 sacks and 191 QB pressures over the last three seasons. With Mike Caldwell — a Todd Bowles disciple — taking the reins of the Jaguars' defense, Landry's skill set as a speed rusher who can also perform in space seems to be a perfect fit. And stealing him away from the division rival Titans is the cherry on top.
Chandler Jones also seems like a great fit. He's long in the tooth at 32 years old, but his former defensive line coach, Brentson Buckner, currently has the same role in Duval. Beyond the dot-connecting, Jones has been one of the most dominant pass rushers off the edge in recent memory. He's coming off of a 10.5 sack season in which he also registered 47 quarterback pressures and six forced fumbles — sacks, pressures, and turnovers galore. Jones would undoubtedly be a positive influence on Josh Allen and would give the Jaguars a potentially lethal one-two punch on the edge.
Haason Reddick is more of a specialized player at 6'1" and 235-pounds, but his skill set could fit with what Mike Caldwell wants to do. He fits best as a stand-up edge rusher in a blitz-heavy scheme. Reddick got off to a slow start in the NFL, but he's tallied 23.5 sacks, 100 quarterback pressures, and eight forced fumbles over the last two seasons. At 27 years old, Reddick's arrow is still pointing up.
Derek Barnett isn't one of the hotter names on the market, but his connection with Jaguars' head coach Doug Pederson is real. While there's a clear drop-off from the top four names on this list to Barnett from a pass-rush standpoint, Barnett is the best run-defender of the bunch. He'll also cost significantly less and would be another rotational piece, in my estimation, rather than a clear starter. At 25 years old, Barnett's best days could still be ahead of him.
Randy Gregory dealt with off-the-field issues for the better part of his pro career. But with marijuana no longer being on the banned substance list, Gregory has been able to develop into a productive pass-rush specialist in the NFL. He's already 29, but he's a young 29, considering the lack of tread on the tires. As a rotational player for the Cowboys, Gregory has stacked up 15.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and 113 quarterback pressures over the last three seasons.
Less heralded, but perhaps just as intriguing as anyone else, Uchenna Nwosu is coming off of his first season as a full-time contributor in the NFL. He's shown the ability to rush from the edge and drop in coverage. At just 25 years old, Nwosu is trending in the right direction after a season in which he started 15 games and produced five sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended, and 40 QB pressures. Nwosu has the speed to threaten the edge and change of direction to work back across the face of pass protectors.
While I think these options are within the realm of possibilities and make sense for a variety of reasons, there are certainly a number of other edge rushers who could find their way to Duval in 2022.
Von Miller seems likely to continue to ring chase, so the chances of him landing in Jax seem slim to none. Jadeveon Clowney is an elite-run defender and provides some support as a pass rusher, so he could be an option if Mike Caldwell values that skill set. Emmanuel Ogbah turned in his best season as a pro in 2021, and at 28, he could make sense as a balanced option on the edge with the versatility to move inside. Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Jerry Hughes are all extremely long in the tooth, but if Doug Pederson and company value a one-to-two-year stopgap option, all four could be in play.
Assuming he hits the market, Harold Landry is the obvious choice for me, but if the Jaguars want to swing for the fences with Chandler Jones, I wouldn't blame them. For me, Haason Reddick and then Uchenna Nwosu are next in line. Signing more than one of these options shouldn't be ruled out either, as the Jaguars need a lot more talent and depth on the edge.
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