Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Trent Williams, Leonard Williams. We have all seen the big names who are (as of now) set to be free agents on at 4 p.m. on March 17. These top-tier players will likely command the most attention on the market for good reason.
But what about the players who aren't considered locks to get massive paydays? In an era of football where we see lucrative contracts paid out at a high rate, the best teams are usually the ones who find add contributors on reasonable deals.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely do a fair amount of homework on the top free agents in this year's class for a number of reasons; they have the most cap space in the NFL and need to inject a 1-15 roster with veteran talent. But the Jaguars should look beyond just the first few tiers of free agents once the day comes.
So, who are some under the radar free agents who are good fits for the Jaguars? Here are five who make the most sense.
We have talked at length about the Jaguars' issues at tight end heading into 2021 already, but what if the Jaguars don't land one of free agency's big fishes at the position in Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith? A logical backup plan is Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett, who could end up being a great value signing in free agency.
A classic "move" tight end, Everett can function as a big-bodied receiving threat who can stretch the field. He had a limited role in Los Angeles that saw him share time with Tyler Higbee, leading to production that doesn't pop off the page (127 catches for 1,389 yards and eight touchdowns in 61 games). But he will be just 27 in Week 1 and has immense athletic upside, so it is reasonable to think his production could take a big leap with an expanded role.
The Jaguars would still need to add another tight end for blocking purposes if they signed Everett, but adding the former second-round pick would go a long way in terms of finding a receiving threat at the position. If the Jaguars don't want to pay Henry to be one of the league's most expensive tight ends, then Everett isn't a bad fallback option by any means.
The Jaguars simply need to add all the talent they can to their defensive line this offseason. The defense won't be able to function at a high level without more playmakers up front who can take some pressure off of the rest of the defense, so the Jaguars need to turn over every stone in search for potential addition.
One player who makes sense to fulfill that need but may not be a household name is Denver Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris. Harris still has a lot of untapped potential as well since he wasn't always a starter in Denver, but he flashed immense talent when on the field.
Harris isn't as much of a space-eater as he is a penetrating defensive tackle. He has collected 8.5 sacks, 45 pressures, two forced fumbles, and 22 quarterback hits over the last two seasons according to Sports Info Solutions, numbers that would make him by far the most productive member of the Jaguars' defensive tackle room.
The Jaguars should be players for the top cornerbacks on the market since they have two vacant starting positions on the current projected depth chart for 2021, but there is always the chance they opt to find a reasonably priced veteran to pair with CJ Henderson and other young players. If that is the path the Jaguars opt to go on, then Ronald Darby could be the most appealing option.
Darby's main sticking point has been that he has battled injuries throughout his NFL career, but he has been a solid player when healthy. He has recorded 81 pass deflections in 73 career games, hitting double-digits in all but one season. According to Pro Football Reference, he had a solid year in terms of coverage for Washington in 2020 as well, allowing just a 54.1% completion rate in coverage and 7.3 yards per target, which would have both led the Jaguars' cornerback group last season.
In the event the Jaguars added Darby, that shouldn't be the biggest move made in the secondary. The level of retooling needed in that unit is greater than that. But Darby would give the Jaguars a solid starter who has production and experience, with the only question being his durability.
A bit of a positionless player who does it all from the linebacker spot, Tyus Bowser doesn't receive the attention of teammate Matthew Judon. Despite this, he has shown the versatility to help a defense in multiple ways and could be an intriguing option to reunite with the Jaguars' defensive transplants from Baltimore such as Joe Cullen and Zach Orr.
Bowser isn't a player who would take third-down snaps over Josh Allen or K'Lavon Chaisson, but he is a consistent run defender and blitzer who also offers coverage ability from the outside linebacker spot. Bowser has just 10.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits over four years, but seven of those sacks and 24 of those quarterback hits have occurred in the last two seasons.
Bowser wouldn't be a player who would overhaul Jacksonville's pass rush, but he already fits the scheme perfectly and could help the defense in feasibly every area outside of getting after the quarterback while they transition to the Cullen era.
If the Jaguars don't want to be players for one of free agency's several big names at wide receiver, there are a number of players further down the pecking order who could provide a spark. One player who could potentially pay off as a value signing is Tyrell Williams, who is looking for a rebound to his career after a rough go of it with the Raiders after signing a four-year deal in 2019.
Williams missed of all 2020 with a torn labrum and battled other injuries in 2019, but the immense talent that made him a highly sought-after free agent a few years ago could still be there. When healthy, he is one of the NFL's most dynamic deep threats due to his blend of size, leaping ability, and speed. He has averaged 16.1 yards per catch and scored 23 touchdowns in 69 career games, so the big-play ability is there.
Williams has likely missed out on his chance to be a team's top receiver, but he could pay off in a big way as a role player. The Jaguars have three young receivers they like in DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Collin Johnson, so adding Williams wouldn't move any of them down the depth chart as much as signing a name like Chris Godwin would. He also has slot experience, which the Jaguars need in 2021.