Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agency 2017: Big name talent injections
Jacksonville Jaguars free agency in 2017 is going to be something special. With money to burn all of the top targets could be wearing the black and teal starting in 2017.
If the NFL thought the Jacksonville Jaguars went big in 2016, wait until they see what the team has in store for free agency in 2017.
The Jags don’t have the same kinds of glaring weaknesses that they had entering the 2016 season, but they still have some holes to fill. That will include some key positions, especially in underperforming spots like free safety, running back, tight end, and the offensive line.
With so many great players set to hit the free agent market (teams will likely make players for many of them to return), opportunity abounds. Almost every position that could be upgraded can be. Just looking over Pro Football Focus’ top free agents for 2017 yields plenty of enticing names already.
Without further ado, let’s look at the possible talent injections that, as of early February, are still scheduled to hit the market.
1) A.J. Bouye, pending Houston Texans free agent cornerback
A.J. Bouye has played impressively over the last three seasons, earning his spot as a nearly full time starter in 2016. Since 2013 he has six interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He also has one fumble forced, one recovered, and a sack. Last season he broke up 16 passes.
That is the kind of disruptive play the Jacksonville Jaguars desperately need in the secondary. For too long the Jags have struggled to get turnovers and shut down drives with big plays. Jalen Ramsey has helped to bolster the secondary in his rookie season and the sky seems to be the limit for him as he grows, but he can’t do it alone.
Which brings up an interesting conundrum for the Jags. Do they go after a top talent like Bouye to add to the secondary or do they hope and pray that returning defensive coordinator Todd Wash has a bigger departure from departed head coach Gus Bradley’s philosophy? If the latter, Wash needs to emphasize getting big plays from the secondary. The current talent on the roster could deliver, but having a more dominant player like Bouye would be nice as well.
The Houston Texans defense would miss Bouye if the let him hit free agency. He has been a strong contributor for the team, even among other strong contributors. It will be intriguing to see how hard they pursue him.
2) Jason Pierre-Paul, pending New York Giants free agent defensive end
The relationship between Jason Pierre-Paul and his former head coach Tom Coughlin could be the primary reason he comes over to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his new executive vice president for football operations role, Coughlin gets final say in talent acquisition and he has pull with plenty of players like Pierre-Paul who he cultivated in New York.
JPP has been a dominant defensive end for years, even after his fireworks mishap before the 2015 season that took part of his hand. He played in just eight games in 2015 while recovering but in 2016 he roared back to life and picked up an impressive seven sacks in just 12 games. He also forced three fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled to nail down the defensive end position seemingly forever. Draft picks like Derrick Harvey haunt the franchise and a revolving door of veterans like Aaron Kampman, Jason Babin, and Chris Clemons never helped guide young talent to growing into the position.
The hope now is that Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue are the future, but a productive veteran presence like JPP could do wonders in helping them grow and actually solidifying one side of the line. The former first round pick is still just 28 and has plenty of gas left in the tank to decimate opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks.
3) Eric Berry, pending Kansas City Chiefs free agent free safety
While the dominant, resilient Eric Berry would like to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, he will sit out if they use the franchise tag on him again. That is big news for any team hoping to upgrade the free safety position, especially if a deal between Berry and the Chiefs moves slowly or never fully materializes.
The Jacksonville Jaguars could be one of those teams. With money to spend ($38.5 million per Spotrac, third most in the NFL) the Jags can literally entice Berry to Jacksonville with plenty of green and a deal that locks him up for some time. Even after bringing in Tashaun Gipson in free agency during 2016, Berry is such a catch that it would be worth trying to lure him to Jacksonville. Gipson under performed his potential in 2016 and Berry consistently raises expectations with the Chiefs.
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Berry has not missed a game the last two seasons and has been highly productive, producing six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), one fumble forced, and 19 passes defensed. He’s the back end safety that a team can rely on to make plays any time a quarterback drops back to pass. He was also in on 77 tackles.
It’s nice to have Gipson on the team, but if there’s an opportunity to go after Berry, the Jags should take it. The Jags have missed out on big-name free safeties in the past and it continues to hurt the team.