How the Jaguars' Needs Have Changed Following 6 Free Agency Signings
With the major portions of free agency now concluded, it is time to examine just how much the Jacksonville Jaguars have changed the direction and complexion of the team through its moves during the open market frenzy.
Jacksonville mostly attacked the defensive side of the ball in this year's free agency period, with defenders making up five of Jacksonville's six signings. Most of the Jaguars' signings were about improving the depth of the team, though a few players look primed to carve out large roles for Jacksonville in 2020.
Entering the offseason, the Jaguars' biggest needs were at cornerback, nose tackle, inside linebacker, tight end, offensive line, and wide receiver. Through the first week of free agency, the Jaguars have signed players to fill either starting or depth roles at most of these positions. Below are the Jaguars' signings:
Update: Darqueze Dennard will no longer be signing with the Jaguars. More to come, but this story has been edited as a result.
- ILB Joe Schobert: Set to start at middle linebacker in 2020.
- DL Rodney Gunter: Most likely replacement for Calais Campbell at the 'big end' spot, but can also play inside.
- DT Al Woods: Nose tackle depth who can start if needed.
- DL/OLB Cassius Marsh: Depth at defensive end and strongside linebacker, most likely a special teams player.
- CB Rashaan Melvin: Veteran depth at cornerback, though not a lock to make the roster due to the numbers game.
- TE Tyler Eifert: The favorite to start at tight end in 2020, or at least share a big role witH Josh Oliver.
So, how have the Jaguars' needs changed now that they have added a number of veterans to their roster? We examine which roles the Jaguars have now filled, and which ones will still require some attention, whether through more free agency signings or with one of the team's 12 draft picks in April.
- Inside linebacker: Jacksonville could still use some depth at linebacker, but they now have two players with extensive starting experience at middle linebacker with the addition of Joe Schobert and the prescence of Myles Jack. Schobert is a lock to start for the Jaguars at middle linebacker in 2020 due to the contract the Jaguars gave him (five-year, $53.75 million) so consider this need filled.
- Starting tight end: While Tyler Eifert has dealt with a long list of injuries throughout his career, missing 53 games in seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. But Eifert also has a Pro Bowl season from 2015 under his belt, and he stayed healthy for the entirety of the 2019 season, making it the first season he has ever played 16 games. The Jaguars already invested a top-100 pick in the position with 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver, so it appears more likely than not the Jaguars will roll with Eifert and Oliver in 2020.
- Cornerback depth: Rashaan Melvin won't be handed starting jobs on the outside, but they will provide the defense with some badly-needed depth at cornerback. Dennard has six seasons and 40 starts under his belt, which is exponentially more experience than the Jaguars' cornerback depth of Brandon Watson and Parry Nickerson, the team's backup corners before the Dennard and Melvin signings.
- Interior defensive line depth: Jacksonville badly needed to add at least one nose tackle this offseason following the team declining Marcell Dareus' team option for 2020. They did so by signing 33-year-old nose tackle Al Woods, a veteran run-stuffer who has started 13 games over the last two seasons. Woods could either serve as a top backup for a nose tackle the Jaguars draft, or he could step in as a short-term starter. They also signed versatile defensive lineman Rodney Gunter, who could take snaps at either the 'big end' spot vacated by Calais Campbell or at three-technique.
But even with these additions, the Jaguars still have a number of needs that need to be considered during the rest of the offseason. Jacksonville has mostly put its focus on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, so the offense will still need to be retooled at some point, while other defensive spots still need more investments.
With 12 picks in this year's draft, including two in the first-round (No. 9 and No. 20), including seven picks in the first four rounds, the Jaguars are in a good position to address the rest of their various needs. But which ones specifically still require attention?
- No. 1 cornerback: The Jaguars have two starting-caliber cornerbacks on the roster in Tre Herndon, D.J. Hayden, but they still need a true No. 1 cornerback who can follow opposing No. 1 wide receivers around the field. Jacksonville's cornerback depth is serviceable throughout, but it isn't nearly as top-heavy as it has been in prior years. Ideally, the Jaguars could draft a new top cornerback in the first round and then roll with the group of Herndon, Hayden, and Dennard behind him.
- Offensive tackle: Right tackle Jawaan Taylor solidified himself as the Jaguars' right tackle of the future, but the status of left tackle Cam Robinson is less certain. Robinson is maybe the best run blocker on the roster, but he had major issues in pass protection in 2019 following his return to the field from a 2018 ACL injury. With Robinson in a contract year, the Jaguars need a backup option for the blindside.
- Defensive end: Josh Allen is a core part of the Jaguars' future, but they badly need to find a complement across from him since Yannick Ngakoue has made it clear that he doesn't see a long-term future in Jacksonville. For the Jaguars' pass-rush to remain effective, they will need to find another option off of the edge.
- Wide receiver: DJ Chark is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver for the Jaguars, but more depth is needed at the position. Dede Westbrook is entering a contract year, while Chris Conley and Keelan Cole are more equipped to be role players. Another starter across from Chark is needed if the Jaguars are going to prevent defenses from simply keying in on Chark in coverage each week.
- Tight end depth: While the Jaguars will presumably start Oliver and Eifert at tight end in 2020, more is needed at the position. The only other tight ends on the roster are James O'Shaughnessy, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5 last year, and Charles Jones, who has one career catch.
- Starting nose tackle: While Woods is a serviceable starter if needed, he has only spent one season as a full-time starter in his lengthy career. Woods is a solid insurance option if the Jaguars can't land a starting nose tackle early on, but the need for new talent at the position is obvious.
- Safety depth: When Ronnie Harrison missed a few games with a concussion in 2019, the Jaguars' safety play suffered dramatically because they had no capable No. 3 safety. Andrew Wingard was below-average as a starter, while Cody Davis has signed with New England.