With free safety being a top priority for the Jaguars, who should the Jaguars target?
If, somehow, the Jaguars come out of free agency and the draft empty handed at free safety, their best option is to see what cornerback, Dwayne Gratz could do at the position. He has the size and speed to make the transitionto free safety. He has also shown good ball skills and above average tackling ability for a corner in his two year career. Let’s not forget, McCourty started his NFL career at cornerback before transitioning to free safety.
The free safety has become one of the premier positions in the NFL. For Gus Bradley’s defense to be most effective, there needs to be a very good free safety on the field. He needs to be fast, instinctive, have ball skills, and be able to make big tackles. Finding this combination of skills in one player can be a difficult task. The Jaguars, to this point, have not found that guy. On their roster they have some depth guys, with the best being Josh Evans, who should be a back up at both safety positions. An elite, or at least very good, free safety would allow John Cyprien to play in the box, where he is most comfortable. With free agency and the draft just around the corner the Jaguars have some options.
Free agency starts in less than a week (March 10), and there are some very talented free safeties that will likely be available. Devin McCourty is the guy, who all Jags fans are screaming for, and for good reason. He is a player, who possesses all of the skills that an elite FS needs, and he has shown he can perform at the highest level, winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots last year. McCourty is in the prime of his career at 27 years of age, and has the ideal height (5’11”) and weight (195) to be the perfect addition to the Jaguars. He will cost a pretty penny for the Jaguars, but the Jaguars have more than a few pretty pennies at their disposal. The Jaguars only had 6 interceptions all of last season, and were ranked 22nd in Pass Yards Allowed Per Game. McCourty would improve the Jaguars’ secondary, and the defense as a whole. He will be the most sought after free safety on the market, but the Jaguars should push hard to attain the 5th year pro who has 17 career interceptions, more than any one on the Jaguars roster.
If the Jaguars are unable to obtain Devin McCourty, their top priority should be Tashaun Gipson, who is, for my money, the most undervalued free agent this offseason. Gipson is an emerging star, who had 6 interceptions last year (2 off of Blake Bortles) in only 11 games. He is 24 years old and is an absolute playmaker. Gipson, did suffer a knee injury which caused him to miss the last 5 games of the season, but he is expected to make a full recovery. Gipson already has 12 interceptions in his short career, and may be an even better player than McCourty. He is a restricted free agent and the Jaguars would likely have to give up a first round pick to get him. If the Jaguars were forced to give up their first round pick, they would surely shy away. Either player would drastically improve the Jaguars’ pass defense.
The Jaguars need to address free safety. They should push hard for Devin McCourty and/or Tashaun Gipson, who are both ready to step in and contribute on the field, yet they are both young enough to have long careers in front of them. McCourty would be easier to attain, being an unrestricted free agent. With the addition of one these players, the Jaguars would appear ready to boast a top 10 defense in the league.
If the Jaguars decide not to push hard for either of the aforementioned players, they may look to the draft to address the free safety position. Landon Collins, is the best safety in the draft, but the Jaguars would likely have to move down in the draft to acquire him. He projects to be a strong safety in stead of free. They won’t be taking the 6’0” safety with the third pick in the draft. Collins is not particularly fast, and is not great in coverage, but he has shown some elite skills. In 2014, he was able to intercept 3 passes, and brake up 7 more. He will likely go in the middle of the first round.
Gerod Holliman is another option for the Jaguars in the draft. He will likely be a second round pick. He led the nation last year, with 14 interceptions. He, like Collins does not possess elite speed.
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