Now that the Super Bowl has been played and free agency is approaching in early March, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team. In this article, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the focus.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, and are looking to add a franchise caliber player who can help the team become more competitive in 2016. Even though the Jags are come off of a disappointing 5-11 season, it is important to note that they were only eliminated from play-off contention in Week 16, when they faced the New Orleans Saints. If the right steps are made this off-season, there is the potential for the Jaguars to command what, in 2015, was a dismal AFC South.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
I combined these two positions as a point of emphasis for one reason: Jalen Ramsey. He is on track to own the scouting combine this year and cement himself as the stand out prospect of this year’s draft. The talented defensive back is a player with the physical attributes and skill set to be a difference maker at both free safety and cornerback in the NFL. The former FSU star will likely be a hugely sought after prospect, but it isn’t unlikely that Ramsey falls to the Jaguars at number five on April 28th. Ramsey is not the only prospect who is capable of providing secondary help from day one next year, with both Mackensie Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves both projected to be first-round selections. Ramsey, Alexander and Hargreaves look as though they could be impact players in Gus Bradley’s young defense.
Although Aaron Colvin and Davon House had productive seasons they have very little backup help, and the Jaguars secondary was not able to perform at a consistently high level. However, if they are willing to spend, there are plenty of premier cornerbacks who could become stars in Jacksonville. Prince Amukamara, Sean Smith and Casey Hayward are examples of valuable additions that could be made this off-season.
If the Jaguars’ staff prioritize the corner position with their first pick there are a variety of free agents who could offer safety help. Eric Weddle and Tashaun Gipson are both Pro Bowl safeties who would be able to make Jacksonville’s defense more competitive. Other players are also availalble, like George Iloka, who would be a clear upgrade from both Josh Evans and Sergio Brown. Eric Berry is also a free agent this off-season, which could make for interesting watching if teams outbid Kansas City for the All-Pro defensive back.
Stefan Wisniewski is a free agent, and if not re-signed, there will be a gaping hole in the middle of Jacksonville’s offensive line. The Jaguars have found their franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles, who took a huge step forward in 2015. But Bortles’ protection needs to be much better in order to allow him to become a more consistent performer. Better protection of their quarterback would hopefully reduce the number of turnovers Bortles has because his turnovers cost his team dearly down the stretch last year. If the Tennessee Titans somehow don’t take Laremy Tunsil as the first overall pick then there is the possibility that he falls to the Jaguars. The Jags signing Tunsil would allow Luke Joeckel to move to right tackle. A.J Cann had an impressive rookie season, and it seems as though he has the potential to play both guard positions and in the center of the line.
There are many big free agent names who could help shore up the offensive line. Kelechi Osmele could be a hefty investment, but he would offer better protection from the inside, and give the Jaguars another dimension in run blocking. Hopefully that better run blocking would allow T.J. Yeldon to have a more productive second NFL season. The Cleveland Browns have a huge issue this off-season, as both Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz are free agents. If the Jaguars were able to sign either of them their line would improve drastically going into next season. Other notable free agents include Evan Mathis and Geoff Schwartz, who could offer immediate protection at the guard position. If Cann is able to transition to center, and any one of these names is picked up in the free agent market then the Jacksonville Jaguars will be a much better offensive unit going into 2016.
One reason why the Jaguars might want to invest heavily in their offensive line is the number of elite running backs who would be able to offer help to T.J. Yeldon going into next season. Matt Forte has announced that he will not be returning to the Chicago Bears organization and he could be tempted to join the Jaguars if they’re willing to pay more than a legitimate Superbowl contender. Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory are other talented backs who are testing the free agent waters this spring. If the Jags could obtain a better running back core, that would take the pressure off Yeldon.
With Dante Fowler coming back after losing his rookie year, what was a shaky Jags defensive unit last season should be improved in 2016. It seems as though Andre Branch won’t be re-signed and neither Chris Clemons nor Jared Odrick will help make the Jaguars competitive going into next season. The defensive front was a competent run stuffing force last season, but help will be needed to ensure there is enough strength and depth to get after opposing quarterbacks consistently next season.
There will be prospects available, to the Jaguars at number five, who would improve their front seven drastically. Edge rusher Joey Bosa has generated a lot of hype before this year’s draft, and he has the potential to be a threat for any NFL team on the edge. Bosa’s numbers seem as though he will automatically transfer into NFL production, and if the Dallas Cowboys opt for a quarterback in this year’s draft then there’s every possibility that the Jacksonville Jaguars will have one of the youngest, most dynamic rush duos in the league going into 2016. Both DeForst Buckner and Joey Bosa could potentially be options early in the draft, but there are other prospects in the later rounds who could be difference makers coming out of this year’s class. Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah and Shawn Oakman are all elite athletes who have the potential to provide depth to a pass rush in desperate need of help.
There are many defensive ends who are entering free agency who would make Jacksonville’s defense much more dangerous. Elite players such as Malik Jackson and Bruce Irvin are available, and both players would help make the Jaguars much more competitive. Both of these players are Super Bowl winners, and are capable of rejuvenating the Jags defensive front. Other players are available, such as Miami Dolphins Oliver Vernon, and the enigmatic Jason Pierre-Paul. If Pierre-Paul is not re-signed by the New York Giants, there is every possibility that he may be worth the gamble on what would be a relatively cheap contract. Despite having a finger amputated as a result of a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015 the ceiling is still high for such a phenomenal talent, but it remains to be seen as to whether or not he can be an impact maker in 2016.
If they are able to solidify any or all of these roles before the 2016 season begins, look for the Jacksonville Jaguars to be a much more productive team on both sides of the ball next season.