2021 Free Agency: Why Dalvin Tomlinson Could Be a Top DL Option for the Jaguars

It remains to be seen if the Giants will be able to retain both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson in their front; if the latter hits free agency, here is why the Jaguars should make him a top target.
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As we continue to inch closer toward the start of the 2021 free agency cycle, which begins at 4 p.m. on March 17, we will take in-depth looks at potential Jaguars targets.

The Jaguars have already undergone a lot of change this offseason, hiring a new head coach in Urban Meyer and a new general manager in Trent Baalke. Now the Jaguars will have to undergo even more change by overhauling the roster. The first step of that will come in March during free agency.

Jacksonville leads the NFL in available cap space, so it can be reasonably assumed they will be big spenders on March 17 and beyond. Until that day, we are going to take a look at top free agents who may or may not fit the Jaguars' rebuild.

Next, we are moving onto yet another New York Giants defensive lineman -- this time it is nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, one of this year's unsung free agents. 

What does Tomlinson bring to the table and should the Jaguars pursue him? 
We take a look here. 

Overview

A member of a long line of Alabama defensive line prospects to enter the NFL as a top draft pick, Dalvin Tomlinson hasn't disappointed in New York. 

A member of four National Championship teams at Alabama (he was a redshirt freshman in 2012), Tomlinson entered the NFL as a productive run defender who projected as a pro-ready nose tackle. So far, he has been just that. 

Picked by the Giants with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Tomlinson, 27, has played in all 64 possible games of his career, making a start for the Giants in every game since he was drafted. During that time, Tomlinson has never played fewer than 53% of the Giants' defensive snaps in a season, making him a model for durability. 

In four years in New York, Tomlinson has recorded 207 tackles, eight sacks, 21 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and 20 quarterback hits. Seven of his sacks, 15 of his tackles for loss, and 19 of his quarterback hits have come in the past two seasons, suggesting he is an ascending player who is on an upward trajectory. 

What Does Dalvin Tomlinson Do Well?

Tomlinson is truly a throwback at the nose tackle position. Watching him control the point of attack in the middle of the Giants' defense, it makes sense why the sense seems to be that the Giants would love to retain Tomlinson if possible. 

Tomlinson is the definition of a space-eater and the Giants put him in a position to do just that. He frequently lined up directly over the center but the Giants also asked him to shade the center as well as line as the two-technique/2i defensive tackle. Essentially, the Giants asked Tomlinson to control several gaps to free up the defenders around him, especially in their multiple and exotic scheme in 2020. 

The reason why Tomlinson did this to such success is clear when watching him. He is stout at the point of attack thanks to his combination of strength and size, but he also has more range than one would expect from a nose tackle. He has good lateral agility for his size and frequently showed the ability to shed a block and chase down a running back near the line of scrimmage.

As a pass-rusher, Tomlinson will win with effort or by simply overpowering the lineman in front of him. He doesn't have the get-off or natural flexibility to threaten much as a pocket collapsing defensive tackle, but he does a good job of letting stunts develop and timing his attacks into the backfield. 

It is unlikely that Tomlinson will ever put up huge sack or pressure numbers, with his single-season high in sacks coming in at 3.5. Despite that, he can still be a valuable piece of the defensive front on third down due to how much of an impact he can make on stunts. 

How Dalvin Tomlinson Would Fit With the Jaguars 

Is Tomlinson the penetrating three-technique who could threaten double-digit sacks that so many want the Jaguars to add? He isn't, and it is important for expectations to never be for him to be that type of player. Most importantly, it doesn't eliminate Tomlinson as an enticing potential target for the Jaguars. 

While the main focus of the offseason talk about the Jaguars' defensive line so far has been about the efforts to improve the pass-rush, it is still important for the Jaguars to focus on fixing their run defense. The Jaguars allowed the third-most rushing yards, fifth-highest yards per carry average, and fourth-most rushing touchdowns just last season. 

Tomlinson is a plug-and-play free agent who is elite at what he does best, which is stopping the run. He also fits the mold of past Joe Cullen defensive linemen due to his ability to eat blocks and free up other playmakers in the defense. Baltimore's defensive tackles frequently had similar roles and play styles to Tomlinson, so he is an easy projection to the defense. 

The Jaguars have two solid interior run defenders in DaVon Hamilton and Doug Costin, but the Jaguars need as much help as they can get in the middle of their defense. Each of those two players deserves reps next season, but Tomlinson is already one of the NFL's best run-stoppers. 

The Jaguars also have someone familiar with Tomlinson on staff. Jaguars defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, who was on Alabama's defensive staff for the final three seasons of Tomlinson's college career. 

"He’s a high-energy coach and he likes to motivate the outside linebackers and the whole defense. He just comes around when you need him around, and you just get excited. It makes you want to practice harder than you already are," Tomlinson said about Lupoi in 2015, according to BamaOnLine.com. 

Verdict

Tomlinson may not be the type of pass-rusher the Jaguars need at defensive tackle but is Jacksonville in any position to not explore adding players of his caliber? Tomlinson would have been the hands-down best defensive lineman on last year's Jaguars team, after all. 

Expect for Tomlinson to get a major payday, similar to D.J. Reader's four-year, $53 million ($20.25 million guaranteed) contract he signed with the Bengals last year. Still, the Jaguars should explore signing Tomlinson even with the price tag and lack of pass-rush because he is a dominant run defender, and they are currently a defense that is severely lacking in that area. 

Adding Tomlinson wouldn't be the final step to rebuild the Jaguars' defensive line, but it would be a potentially monumental one considering his scheme fit and ascension to becoming one of the NFL's top run-stuffers. 

For the other free agent breakdowns conducted so far, click below.