The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely be big spenders in March, that much we all know.
One year removed from a franchise-worst 1-15 record that came at the hands of the NFL's youngest roster, the Jaguars need to add serious firepower to the roster to turn it into a team capable to contend on Sundays in head coach Urban Meyer's first season.
But just because the Jaguars have numerous voids in the depth chart, and the most available cap space in the NFL to help fill those voids, doesn't mean every free agent is a fit. The Jaguars need to spend this offseason, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't spend smartly.
So, which free agents do we think the Jaguars should be wary of adding this offseason due to their fits? We examine five below.
There is zero questioning the Jaguars' need for a left tackle solution in the coming weeks and months. Cam Robinson, a former 2017 second-round pick, has started 47 of the last 64 regular season games for the Jaguars at left tackle but he is set to be a free agent in March and it remains to be seen whether the Jaguars retain him or replace him in free agency or the draft. With that said, one of the biggest free agent left tackles, Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Alejandro Villanueva, doesn't seen like the best option to replace him when you include all of the factors.
Villanueva has been a stalwart at left tackle for the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, starting all but six regular season games for the team since 2015 and earning two Pro Bowl trips in the process. With that said, Villanueva showed some signs of slipping as a pass protector last season, with his worst games coming against the best pass-rushers. Carl Lawson feasted on him in Week 15, with Villanueva allowing seven total pressures. He has functioned well inside Pittsburgh's system for so long that one has to be curious about how recent struggles suggest how he would look in a different unit, much like the situation with Kelvin Beachum several years ago.
The Jaguars will have several high-ceiling options on the table with Orlando Brown, Trent Williams, and this year's deep offensive tackle class. Villanueva makes much more sense for a team like the Steelers to re-sign than it does for the Jaguars to pursue him, especially when you consider the fact that he is also largely a non-factor as a run-blocker. He has put out good tape with the Steelers, but the Jaguars should be cautious at the idea of making him their new blind side protector.
There is zero denying the impact T.Y. Hilton has made on the Colts since being drafted in 2012, catching 608 passes and 50 touchdowns through peaks and valleys at quarterback. But with the number of promising young receivers both in the draft and free agency, the Jaguars would be wise to not pay Hilton for his reputation and what he did in the past.
The Jaguars will need to invest in a wide receiver at some point this offseason -- three of their six receivers from last year's initial 53-man roster (Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley) are free agents. Cole appears to be the only one who has a logical shot to return, but even that is a question since the Jaguars have a new regime in Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke in place.
But Hilton isn't the receiver the Jaguars should target. Hilton, who turns 32 in November, hasn't had the recent production of ascending free agent receivers such as Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Curtis Samuel, and Kenny Golladay. Over the last two seasons, he has caught 101-of-161 passes for 1,263 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hilton still has talent, but he doesn't have the upside that other free agent receivers have, nor would he provide the cost-controlled contract of a rookie receiver.
Few edge rushers got to the quarterback more frequently in 2020 than Saints' defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson is set to cash in on his big season as well since New Orleans isn't in position to retain him, meaning he'll be able to hit the open market one year after tying for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks. That is just 4.5 fewer sacks than the Jaguars' entire defense recorded in 16 games last season.
But while Hendrickson has the gaudy sack numbers to make one curious if the Jaguars' should add him to bolster a lackluster pass-rush, there are a number of red flags about the potential fit. For one, the Jaguars are likely moving away from the standard 4-3 defense, the same scheme Hendrickson played in with the Saints and in college. He rarely stood up in a two-point stance in New Orleans, something that would almost certainly change in Jacksonville.
There is also the fact that Hendrickson is more of a pass-rush specialist; he struggles against the run and is best as a sub-package defender. The Jaguars already have two edge defenders who can perform in that role, and instead need a more traditional and balanced edge rusher who can play on the first two downs. Hendrickson exploded in 2020, but his production doesn't mean he is a fit with the Jaguars.
We weren't trying to include multiple Saints on here, but that is how it shook up. The Jaguars' need for a veteran tight end is evident following the projected decline of Tyler Eifert's team option in 2021, but the Jaguars should learn from their past mistakes and refrain from bringing in Jared Cook as that veteran.
Cook, who will be 34 in Week 1, has had a terrific career that has seen him produce with the Titans, Rams, Raiders, and Saints. But the Jaguars have gone the journeyman route at tight end in each of the last three offseasons, with each experiment failing in a more spectacular manner than the last. Cook has caught 16 touchdowns the last two seasons but the tape shows a player who has clearly slowed down and benefits from the passing scheme. He isn't the reliable possession target he once was, and there is no real reason to add him instead of a younger tight end like Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, or Gerald Everett.
If the Jaguars want to make multiple veteran additions at tight end, Cook makes a lot of sense as a veteran backup. But the Jaguars should hesitate before attempting to turn him into a starter and focal point of the offense.
One of the best cornerbacks of his generation, Patrick Peterson now finds himself on the backslide. He was still a solid cover man for the Arizona Cardinals last season, but the elite cornerback he once was is not the cornerback who will hit the free agent market in March.
While the Jaguars should look into adding veteran voices to the cornerback room, they need to focus on two things: versatility and ability to make a quick impact. Adding a leader to the cornerback room like Peterson works in theory, but the Jaguars have countless other free agent options who could step in and provide a better fit for the Jaguars' from an on-field perspective right away. Signing Peterson as opposed to adding a younger cornerback who is more capable of handling a starting outside role would be misguided.
The Jaguars also need to fill more than just the one cornerback role. They need to find outside cornerback depth as will as a new starting slot cornerback. Cornerbacks like Troy Hill, Mike Hilton, and Desmond King would give the Jaguars more flexibility in the backend than Peterson would, while each is experienced in their own right.