On Monday morning, just hours after the official conclusion of the 2020 NFL season, Matt Verderame of Fansided reported that the Arizona Cardinals and legendary cornerback Patrick Peterson are "parting ways barring a significant change in stances."
Jaguars Twitter has been abuzz, with fans of the Big Cats clamoring for the Jaguars to pursue the eight-time pro bowl cornerback.
So, here I am, to answer the question: should the Jaguars pursue Patrick Peterson in free agency?
The answer, sadly, isn't all that simple.
At 30 years old, how much does Peterson have left in the tank? Is he still playing at a high level? Does he value signing with a perennial contender? What's his price tag? Do the Jaguars need secondary help? Is a position change in his future?
Let's start with where Peterson is at as a cornerback. He's 6'1'' and 203 pounds, and while Peterson isn't the dynamic athlete he once was, he still has the physicality and athleticism to compete. His last two seasons in Arizona have been a bumpy ride. Peterson certainly isn't playing at the Pro Bowl level we're used to seeing from him. He's allowed a completion percentage of just over 66 and a QB rating north of 100 in each of the last two campaigns. Those are certainly not the type of numbers you expect from one of the top cornerbacks of the last decade. Still, Peterson managed to pick off three passes in 2020 and was stout against the run. He's not the elite cover man he was once was, but in a different situation, perhaps Peterson could more closely resemble his younger self.
The Jaguars need cornerbacks. Tre Herndon, DJ Hayden, and Sidney Jones are all set to hit free agency, leaving the team with just CJ Henderson, Luq Barcoo, Chris Claybrooks, Brandon Rusnak, and Josiah Scott under contract for 2021. Outside of CJ Henderson, who was the ninth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, those names don't inspire much confidence. The Jaguars might (should) attempt to bring back Sidney Jones, a talented outside cornerback that shined during his time with the Jaguars in 2020. But beyond Jones, it doesn't seem likely that any of the Jaguars' free-agent cornerbacks return.
So, there is a need for talent, experience, and leadership at the cornerback position. Patrick Peterson possesses all those traits and could be a fantastic mentor for CJ Henderson.
Would Peterson be interested in signing with Jacksonville? Money talks, and the likely reason for his departure from Arizona is a discrepancy in perceived value. According to Spotrac, Peterson's market value is $10.4 million, a number the Jaguars could easily afford, with the team expected to have $77.5 million in 2021 cap space. And it might not be as tough of a sell as you think. If Urban Meyer and the Jaguars plan to put together a big-time free agent class, Peterson would probably be interested in being a piece to the puzzle, especially with him growing up in Florida. And the lack of state income tax wouldn’t hurt.
But would spending upwards of $10 million per year on a two-three year deal for a declining star be the best application of the Jaguars' salary cap space? It might just be, as long as it doesn't inhibit Jacksonville from adding some elite talents at other positions. Giving CJ Henderson an example to follow could be worth its weight in gold. And Peterson might be rejuvenated by a change of scenery.
I wouldn't blame him if the Jaguars aren't high on his list of destinations, and that very well could be the case. But if Jacksonville is on the table for Patrick Peterson, and he doesn't command more than roughly $10 million per season (or less), I'd be willing to take the risk over a three-year deal (two years guaranteed). That is, assuming he's a supporting piece to the free agency plan and not one of the top two to three prizes that Urban Meyer covets. There are a few other aging big-name cornerbacks also set to hit the market, such as Richard Sherman and Josh Norman, but I'd value Peterson a bit more than the field.
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