Skip to main content

3 Takeaways on the Jaguars' Defense After Tyson Alualu Re-Signs With the Steelers

The Jacksonville Jaguars will have to hit the reset button in a way after Tyson Alualu changed course and opted to re-sign with the Steelers instead of signing with the Jaguars officially.

For the second offseason in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars won't be getting a key veteran addition on the defense after initial talks broke down. This time around, though, the impact is a bit more significant. 

After agreeing to terms with the Jaguars on a two-year deal during March's legal tampering period, former Jaguars and current Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Tyson Alualu changed his mind and agreed to return to the AFC North on Saturday. 

Alualu was meant to be one of the more important additions of the Jaguars' 12-player free agency class in head coach Urban Meyer's first year at the helm. He wasn't given a large contract and was the oldest player the Jaguars agreed to sign, but his veteran presence and versatility in a 3-4 scheme were going to be key to a young and rebuilding Jaguars defense.

So, where do the Jaguars go from here following Alualu's decision? We bring you three takeaways on the makeup of the defensive unit below.

Jarran Reed now makes a lot of sense

Before Alualu ended up officially not signing with the Jaguars, it didn't make a ton of sense for Jacksonville to be interested in former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed. Now, though, the Jaguars should at least explore adding the 2016 second-round pick who parted ways with the Seahawks earlier this week. There are now snaps to be found in Jacksonville's defensive line rotation, which wasn't the case when it appeared Alualu would still be coming to the Jaguars. 

Reed has flashed elite talent (10.5 sacks, 24 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for loss in 2018) and had a solid 2020 season when he recorded 6.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits. Adding him to a defensive line that already has Malcom Brown may seem like overkill, but the Jaguars could realistically have each on the field at the same time. The two of those players anchoring Jacksonville's interior defensive line would be almost as big of an upgrade as going from Mike Glennon to Trevor Lawrence.

The Jaguars will now miss out on a potentially massive impact on and off the field

While Alualu may not have eye-popping stats or a slew of awards since being drafted No. 10 overall in 2010, it shouldn't be confused what the Jaguars have lost in Alualu opting not to sign in Jacksonville. They have lost a valuable potential contributor both on and off the field. There is a reason Alualu's unofficial signing with the Jaguars was celebrated so widely in Northeast Florida and so frowned upon in Pittsburgh. 

Alualu would have been the most veteran player on Jacksonville's roster in 2021, let alone the most experienced player on the defensive line. Add in his scheme fit and high level of play in 2020, and this was a signing that would have likely played a giant role in the Jaguars transition to the Urban Meyer regime. This isn't to say it is the Jaguars fault that Alualu won't be signing in Jacksonville, but there is a tangible loss of a potentially great impact both on and off the field. 

Defensive tackle shouldn't be the favorite position to be the selection at No. 25 ... but Alualu's decision does raise the question once again

Before Alualu returned to Pittsburgh, it no longer made any sense for the Jaguars to look at a defensive tackle like Alabama's Christian Barmore with the No. 25 overall pick in the first round. There were simply not enough snaps to go around at defensive tackle to justify taking one so early, especially with all of the other needs along the roster. Now, though, it is likely fair to raise the question once again.

Teams should draft for talent and value and not needs in the first round, but it would have been hard for a first-round defensive tackle to see the field in 2021 if Alualu signed in Jacksonville. Now, the Jaguars could justify the selection because the player would have an infinitely clearer path to playing time compared to a week ago. Considering Barmore is the only defensive tackle worth taking in the first round this year, the Jaguars shouldn't force this pick. The position shouldn't now be the favorite to be selected. But the question can at least no be raise, a stark contrast from the last two weeks.