The Jaguars, according to GM Dave Caldwell, have a “mountain of cap space” and will be “aggressive” this offseason in free agency — and they should be as their defense is a mess right now.
March 15, 2016 - The League Year and Free Agency officially begin
For the first three years of Dave Caldwell’s reign in Jacksonville the Jaguars have only targeted young players in free agency, with a few exceptions, including Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, and haven't been able to bring in any true high price players. That will likely change this year as the Jags have an enormous amount of cap space and are now in the fourth year of their rebuild — the year that they have to start winning. The Jaguars will need to target several players on both sides of the ball if they are to compete for the playoffs in 2016.
On offense the Jaguars, according to most "experts", are set in terms of weapons, but they still have work to do on the offensive line as the run game was largely ineffective in 2015 and the pass blocking was subpar, as Blake Bortles was sacked 51 times. Despite the unimpressive season as a unit, the offensive line is built, for the most part. The two guard spots would appear to belong to Brandon Linder, who was out for most of 2015, and A.J. Cann, who played well as a rookie. It also, appears, to the chagrin of many fans, that the Jaguars are stuck at the two tackle positions with Luke Joeckel and Jermey Parnell. That leaves center as they only spot where there could likely be a new starter in 2016. The Jaguars’ current starting center, Stephan Wisniewski, had an underwhelming season, giving up lots of pressure and snapping the ball over the head of Bortles several times. The Jaguars MUST bring in another center AND bring in competition at left tackle.
On Defense the Jaguars have a lot to do. They will need to add another pass rusher or two, another linebacker or two, and potentially three new defensive backs. It is likely that some of these issues will be addressed in the draft, but the Jaguars need to win now and will be spending some money on defense in free agency. Fortunately for the Jaguars, two potential impact players will be returning to them in 2016, the beastly defensive tackle, Sen’Derrick Marks, who should be back at 100%, and last year’s first round pick, Dante Fowler, who should also be back to full strength. For the Jaguars to compete next season, both of those players will need to play at a high level. In addition to the return of both Fowler and Marks, the Jaguars will need to upgrade their talent at the before mentioned spots.
The Jags could add another pass rusher in free agency, such as Bruce Irvin, who knows the Jaguars’ system and has averaged over 5 sacks per season in his four year career. Alternatively, the Jaguars could look to add more of an established veteran, like Tamba Hali, who has 86 career sacks. Either way the Jaguars should look to add another pass rusher in free agency.
At linebacker, the Jaguars will probably stick with Paul Posluszny in the middle for at least one more year and have one outside linebacker spot locked down with the emergence of Telvin Smith. That leaves them with one starting spot to fill. Dan Skuta was slotted as the starter this year, but battled injuries and wasn't used properly. He has a special ability to rush the quarterback, as evidenced by his sack production when he was in San Francisco. The Jaguars would probably be fine leaving him as a starter and adjusting his role a bit, but they should bring in some competition, maybe someone who excels in pass coverage. There doesn't appear to be a ton of talent in free agency at the outside linebacker spot, so this could be a position that they address in the draft.
This leaves us with just the secondary to deal with. The Jaguars in all likelihood need to add a free safety — and not just any free safety — they need someone who knows what they’re doing and knows how to do it at an elite level. Sergio Brown hasn't worked out and the jury is still out on James Sample. The best and most prudent option for the Jaguars is to bring in veteran safety Eric Weddle. Weddle is excellent in coverage — Pro Football Focus gave him the second highest grade of any safety in pass coverage. If the Jaguars finally land a safety that can cover, then they can put John Cyprien in the box to see if he can excel in a role more suited to his talents. The Jaguars could add another cornerback, too. At this point they have two reliable cornerbacks in Davon House and Aaron Colvin, but in the modern NFL, teams need more than just two reliable corners. As of right now there is some serious talent set to be available once free agency begins, including Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers. If Norman becomes available the Jaguars MUST push for him. He is a shutdown corner and he isn't afraid to tell anyone that he’s the best. He had by far the best season of any corner in the league in 2015 and will command a major contract, but the Jaguars need not worry about money, they need to worry about winning.
It’s winning time in Jacksonville and with “a mountain of cap space” and an “aggressive” mind set going in to free agency, coupled with what appears to be a very talented free agent class, the Jaguars could come out as the big winners of the 2016 free agent frenzy.
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