The Jacksonville Jaguars are staying busy following the first wave of free agency, continuing to add pieces to their depth chart following the initial wave of nearly a dozen additions.
The latest addition? Former Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson, who has started 29 games for the Chiefs and started two Super Bowls over the last two seasons.
Wilson isn't an earth-shattering addition, but he does give the Jaguars a veteran linebacker who gives them options and flexibility on defense. So, what does the addition of Wilson mean for the Jaguars and how they view the defense?
Urban Meyer, Trent Baalke, and Joe Cullen clearly didn't like the depth of the defense entering March
Of the 13 players the Jaguars have added in free agency, seven have been defenders. Had Tyson Alualu gone through with signing his Jaguars contract, that would have made it eight of 14. The Jaguars have added 30 years of NFL experience in those additions, giving them a significant boost of veteran depth to a defensive roster that was filled with mostly rookies, second-year players, and journeyman free agents in 2020.
The additions of so many defenders, with several of them, like Wilson, set to be depth pieces, is an overhaul of the Jaguars' defensive identity. The Jaguars have returned a few depth players such as Adam Gotsis, Dawuane Smoot, Sidney Jones, Josh Jones, and Tre Herndon, but their spending in free agency so far shows how seriously the key decision-makers took the challenge of injecting experience and improved depth to the Jaguars' roster. Urban Meyer, Trent Baalke, and Joe Cullen have remade the Jaguars' defensive depth chart in a matter of weeks, with more changes coming during April's draft.
Wilson gives Jaguars an experienced and physical inside linebacker who fits scheme, brings competition
Adding Damien Wilson to Jacksonville's defense isn't a move that will change the complexion of the starting unit by any means. He won't push either Myles Jack or Joe Schobert for a starting gig since those are two of the Jaguars' most talented and highly-paid defenders, but he does give the Jaguars a veteran linebacker who is in a different mold than any other on the roster. He is a solid scheme fit thanks to his toughness and physicality inside, even if he does lack range.
While Jack and Schobert are two athletic linebackers who thrive on forcing turnovers, Wilson is a thumper in the middle of the defense who thrives on being physical in the run game. He is a reliable tackler who has shown the ability to stack and shed, giving the Jaguars a veteran thumper at linebacker if they ever need a substitution for either Jack or Schobert. He also gives the Jaguars competition in training camp for their two young backup linebackers in Quincy Williams and Shaquille Quarterman, each of whom saw limited snaps on defense last season.
The fact that Wilson is only the second off-ball linebacker added this offseason speaks volumes
Counting all of the players the Jaguars re-signed, signed to contracts for the first time, and franchise tagged, the Jaguars have inked 24 players to contracts this offseason. Among those players have been only two off-ball linebackers: Wilson and Chapelle Russell, who was claimed by the Jaguars off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason. Most of the additions have been in the secondary, at receiver, and along the defensive line, but the Jaguars have mostly left the linebacker position alone.
This says a considerable bit about what the Jaguars have perceived as the strengths and weaknesses of the roster. They knew they had to add to the receiver room after three players became free agents, as well as completely revamp the secondary and defensive line. But the Jaguars were clearly mostly content with their linebacker depth, which is headlined by two high-caliber players in Jack and Schobert and flanked by Williams, who has started eight games in his career, and Quarterman, a highly productive collegiate linebacker who fits the scheme as a physical linebacker with a similar skill set to Wilson.