Free agency starts on March 9th, which is exactly one month away from today! The Jaguars will likely have in between $50 and $60 million dollars in salary cap space when Free Agency starts, which means they will have a ton of money to spend in order to try and become a contender in 2017.
The Jaguars have spent a fair amount in Free Agency over the past several years, but this year could be the biggest spending year that we have seen from the Jaguars in some time - maybe ever. There are a ton of impressive players set to hit the open market. Will the Jaguars win the offseason (again)?
This post will serve as a guide for Jaguar fans as we near the Free Agency period.
Here are some key terms to know:
Free Agency - a set period of time when teams can sign free agents.
Free Agent - a football player who is eligible to sign with any team in the NFL.
Now, there are several different types of Free Agents. They are as follows:
• Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA): A free agent that has no limitations or contractual ties to his former team. Every team in the NFL has the opportunity to sign these guys.
• Restricted Free Agent (RFA): A free agent whose former team still has some rights in terms of retaining him. This type of free agent can sign with any team in the NFL, but his former team has the right to match any contract that this player signs with another team, and if his former team does decide to match a contract that said player signs with a new team, then his former team gets to keep him. Former teams can also place tenders on RFAs that they wish to retain. Which means according to the tender that if a new team wants to sign said RFA that the new team would also have to give up a draft pick based on what type of tender the former team assigns to said RFA. Essentially if a former team wants to keep an RFA, it can be very difficult for a new team to pry them away.
• Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): A player whose former team has the right to sign said player to a one year deal that said player is required by rule to sign. If his former team doesn't offer him a deal then he will hit the open market.
Franchise Tag: these are handy little tools that allow teams to keep their players without offering them a long term deal. A franchise tag can be applied by any team that wishes to retain a player for the next season. Each team gets only one franchise tag every year. Generally speaking players do not like being franchise tagged as it leads to a big pay day for one year but provides no long term stability for players.
Legal Tampering Period: a 48 hour period prior to the official start of Free Agency where teams and players representatives can begin to talk about contracts. While teams can't officially sign players during this period, for all intents and purposes this is the real start of Free Agency.
Luke Joeckel OL - The former second overall pick, Joeckel never developed into the player the Jaguars expected. He struggled at tackle and was moved to left guard in 2016, but unfortunately sustained a season ending injury early on. Joeckel will have a decent market and could be a starter somewhere in 2017.
John Cyprien SS - Drafted one round after Joeckel in the 2013 draft, Cyprien had by far his best year as a pro in 2016. A sound tackler that struggles in coverage. His future may hinge upon what type of defensive scheme the Jaguars decide to run in 2017.
Abry Jones DT - The 25 year old run stuffer filled in for the injured Roy Miller in 2016 and played admirably. He may have been even better than Miller. Jones will have a nice market and is a guy the Jaguars should do their best to retain if they hope to continue developing their already strong defensive line.
Denard Robinson RB - Denard was drafted by the Jaguars out of Michigan. A quarterback turned running back, Robinson never developed into a player that could carry the load at the position and never became the big play spark that the Jaguars had hoped. He may never wear black and teal again.
Tyson Alualu DL - Labeled a bust early on by Jaguars fans based on where he was selected, Alualu has been a solid yet unspectacular player for the Jaguars for some time. He possesses the versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive front and is a valuable asset.
Bryan Walters WR - The epitome of consistency. Walters won't wow you with his speed or athleticism, but he has sturdy hands and provides value as a punt/kick returner. Walters may not be a Jaguar in 2017, but he'll find a home somewhere if the Jaguars do decide to part ways with him.
Arrelious Benn WR - Benn lacks speed but has good size and provides value as a blocker on the edge. He's also one of the better special teams guys on the Jaguars roster.
Patrick Omameh G - Omameh has some legit starting experience around the league and played well enough when filling in for Joeckel at left guard in 2016. Like Joeckel, hesuffered a season ending injury.
Joe Banyard RB - A training camp star in 2016 Banyard was on and off the Jaguars roster during the season. At 28 years old he's no spring chicken, but could provide value as a back up running back again in 2017.
Jordan Hill DT - Hill has had some success in the NFL. In 2014 he recored 5.5 sacks for the Seahawks, but since then has fallen into relative obscurity.
Restricted Free Agents (RFAs):
Peyton Thompson FS - Thompson is one of the more valuable backups for the Jaguars and was a special teams ace in coverage last season. He likely won't have a major market and should be retained by the Jaguars.
Tyler Shatley OL - One of the most versatile young lineman for the Jaguars, Shatley has been a coaches favorite for some time. He is a plug and play guy at almost every position on the offensive line.
Daryl Richardson RB - Yep, another running back. Richardson doesn't seem likely to remain with the Jaguars in 2017. Despite having some success in St. Louis during his rookie year, Richardson hasn't been able to find the field much since 2013.
Josh Wells OT - Another young offensive lineman that coaches like. At only 25 Wells still has the potential to be a starter or at the very least a solid back up in the NFL.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs):
These players are unlikely to go anywhere or have much of an impact of the team, but here they are:
Tony Washington WR, Shane Wynn WR, Alex Ellis TE, Marcus Rush DE, Bronson Hill RB,
Jeremiah Poutasi RT, Akeem Davis SS
Now that we've taken a look at the Jaguars in house free agents we can take a look at some positions of need for the Jaguars and how they might address them in Free Agency:
Let's start with the offensive line. The Jaguars were weak as a unit in terms of run blocking in 2016, particularly at the guard spot. A.J. Cann was expected to take a step forward at right guard, but the third year pro seemingly regressed in 2016. The left guard spot was a revolving door in 2016 with several players being lost for the season due to injury. So how can the Jaguars fix their run game in free agency? Sign a legit guard or two. Here are some options:
Kevin Zeitler (UFA) has elevated himself to near elite status when it comes to guards in the NFL. At 26 years old he has been an anchor for the Bengals since he was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft. The Bengals generally don't spend big money on retaining interior lineman, so many believe he will hit the open market. He may become one of the highest paid guards in football.
T.J. Lang (UFA) has been a starting guard for the Green Bay Packers for over five years. He was on the 2009 Super Bowl Champion Packers squad and made his first Pro Bowl in 2016. He is widely considered one of the best guards in football. At 29 he should still have some good years left in him. He should certainly be a target IF he gets out of Green Bay.
Larry Warford (UFA) is a 26 year old guard who has spent his entire career in Detroit. It's believed that the Lions won't attempt to retain the guard, who would be a big upgrade over what the Jaguars currently have at the position. He may be the free agent guard that is most likely to end up in Jacksonville in 2017.
Jabaal Sheard (UFA) is coming off of a highly disappointing season for the Patriots in which he recorded only 5 sacks and was even a healthy scratch for the Patriots matchup with the 49ers. He seems to be on the outs in New England and could provide a spark to the Jaguars for some time as he is only 27. Sheard has recorded over 7 sacks in a season 3 times in his career and has recored at least 5 sacks in 5 of his 6 seasons as a pro.
Finally we get to the Jaguars defensive backfield. 2 of the Jaguars 4 starting defensive backs are UFAs, which means the Jags may have to look to Free Agency to retool their secondary. There's a number of options available to the Jaguars if they are forced to move on from cornerback Prince Amukamara and Strong Safety John Cyprien. We'll start with some cornerbacks that are set to be available:
A.J. Bouye (UFA) Despite going undrafted in 2013 Bouye has the prototypical size, speed, and athleticism of an NFL corner. He struggled with consistency over his first three years, but in 2016 Bouye may have been THE breakout player at the corner back position in the entire league. He only picked off one ball in 2016, but regularly matched up with some of the best WRs in the league and more than held his own. At only 25 Bouye could be in line for a big time deal.
Stephon Gilmore (UFA) famously called Allen Robinson "average" following a contest in which Robinson burned Gilmore all day. Gilmore has the confidence (some would say arrogance) to believe that he is one of the top cornerbacks in football and he expects to be paid that way. While he may not be an elite corner, he is a very good one and will certainly receive a nice sum of money wherever he ends up in 2017.
Trumaine Johnson (UFA) could end up getting the most money out of any free agent CB in this year's class. He played under the franchise tag in 2016 for the Rams, but will be looking for a long term deal in 2017. Johnson stands 6'2'' and weighs in at nearly 210 lbs. Add in the fact that he's only 27 and teams will be clamoring to add Johnson to their defensive backfield.
As for strong safeties, 2 of my favorite players in the entire potential free agent class come from this position. Here we go:
Eric Berry (UFA) is my favorite safety in all of football. His versatility is other worldly. He regularly shows the ability to play physical at the line of scrimmage but also has the athleticism and range to perform well in coverage. He is THE prototypical strong safety in football. The Chiefs will want to retain him but they have quite a few other big names that they will have to worry about retaining this season and next. If Berry hits the open market he should be tagged #1 for the Jaguars.
Tony Jefferson (UFA) had a breakout season for the Cardinals in 2016. His slow 40 time left him undrafted in 2013, but what he lacks in straight line speed he makes up for in quick twitch ability, awareness, and BIG hits. He appears to be a heat seeking missile in pursuit of ball carries and always knocks his target backwards. Jefferson would be a welcome addition to the Jaguars secondary.
That's going do it for this free agency guide. There are certainly other positions and names that will linked to the Jaguars and the Jaguars may not end up with anyone on this list (that would be surprising), but this should be a reasonable starting point for any Jaguars fan who is preparing for Free Agency.
Thanks for reading and happy offseason!
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