Jaguars Mailbag: Which Underrated Free Agents Make Sense for Jacksonville?

In this week's mailbag, we take questions on trades, underrated free agents, Hard Knocks, and more.
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Each week during this year's offseason, Jaguar Report will take Jacksonville Jaguars-related questions from our readers across social media and answer them in a question-and-answer format, giving readers a chance to have their voices heard.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguar Report Twitter handle.

This week we take questions on potential trades, a rising cornerback, and underrated free agent names to watch.

Q: What are your thoughts on Greg Newsome at 25 hype that has been building amongst Jags Twitter?

A: I think it will be a lot more popular as draft night draws closer. People will likely criticize it a bit at the moment since Newsome isn't a player who has received a ton of praise all draft cycle, but it is clear that those in the draft industry have caught wind of his stock. 

One of my favorite current draft tools is 'Grinding the Mocks', a site ran by Benjamin Robinson. It takes the data that is the result of hundreds of mock drafts and breaks down what a true stock projection may look like for a player or position. And according to his data, Newsome is currently being mocked as the No. 4 cornerback in this year's class behind Patrick Surtain Jr., Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn. No. 25 overall doesn't seem like a reach to take the fourth cornerback in a class considering we saw four cornerbacks get drafted in the top-19 picks last season. 

Via Grinding the Mocks.

Via Grinding the Mocks.

In short, Newsome is a logical name to be tied to the Jaguars at No. 25. In fact, I think he will be one of the most popular names mocked to them at that slot once draft night officially comes around.

Q: What are your expectations for the defense? With money and picks, we should be able to bolster it. But what is your opinion on how last year's picks and our core of talent will do along with some additions?

A: I think the expectations should be a bit conservative for now, but that is mostly because the Jaguars are essentially starting from complete scratch on that side of the ball. They have a few pieces such as CJ Henderson, Josh Allen, Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, DaVon Hamilton, and Doug Costin, but the amount of roster holes outnumbers their amount of serviceable contributors as things stand today. 

As we saw with Schobert last year, it shouldn't be expected for every free agent to hit the ground running -- especially if this year's offseason and preseason is anything like 2020 was. It takes a legitimate adjustment to transition to a new scheme and team, even as a highly-paid free agent. 

With that said, I think adding a few top-tier free agents and combining them with the already solid (but small) group of exciting defensive players the Jaguars have now could have them at least get back to a level of average or slightly play. I look at it a lot like the 2016 and 2017 Jaguars. The 2016 Jaguars defense was good, but not great, a year after a terrible year defensively. This was with additions such as Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jalen Ramsey. 

But one more year and a few other big additions later, and the Jaguars had an elite defense on their hands. I could see them following a similar pattern this year in the sense that we see them take a jump but not a jump that will make them an elite unit. 

Q: Do you think Urban Meyer looks past Kelvin Joseph’s off-field issues and just sees a steal in the 2nd round?

A: It depends what kind of information the Jaguars can gather about Kelvin Joseph's departure from LSU. Joseph was suspended from playing in LSU's Fiesta Bowl win over UCF in 2018 for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He later returned to LSU before eventually entering the transfer portal and going to Kentucky.

Since there isn't that much out there, I am hesitant to call them "issues", but it is part of the evaluation process the Jaguars will have to dig into. If the Jaguars feel comfortable enough with their understanding of why Joseph and LSU parted ways, there isn't any reason to ding him much for it. 

Q: Why does it seem to be a foregone conclusion Keelan Cole is on his way out and why is Curtis Samuel considered a better option even though he has similar or worse stats?

A: This is actually an interesting comparison since both entered the NFL in 2017 and each has had mostly subpar quarterback play throughout their career. With that said, here are how they stack up numbers-wise: 

Keelan Cole: 159 receptions on 276 targets in 64 career games. 2,242 yards receiving (14.1 yards per catch), with 12 touchdowns, 110 first downs, a catch percentage of 57.6%, and a yards per target mark of 8.1. 

Samuel: 185 career catches on 293 targets in 53 career games. 2,087 receiving yards (11.3 yards per catch), with 14 touchdowns, 105 first downs, a 63.1% catch percentage, and 7.1 yards per target. 

So as a receiver, they are pretty similar, with Cole actually having better numbers in terms of efficiency. The difference is that Samuel adds more value than as just a receiver: defenses have to account for his deep speed, which isn't always the case with Cole. Samuel also has added another 478 yards and five touchdowns to his career as a rusher, with the Panthers frequently asking him to carry the ball out of the backfield. 

Q: We saw how vital a veteran DE (Calais Campbell) was for Josh Allen’s early development. Is there a FA veteran that could come in and have a similar impact on the 2021 Jags roster?

A: A few come to mind. I don't think signing Patrick Peterson would be a smart idea for the Jaguars when it comes to fixing the secondary in 2021, but there is no question that he would be able to step into Jacksonville and immediately become a top leader on the roster -- he just would not likely have close to the production Campbell had in 2017. 

Others I can think of include Matthew Judon, who knows the scheme and has always been known as a locker room favorite in Baltimore. Trent Williams and Richard Sherman fit this same theory as well. 

Q: How involved will Karim Kassam be in player evaluation and acquisition?

A: Good question. I addressed this when the hire was made, but it is prudent to go ahead and circle back to it now. Here is what I said last week:

I would imagine he will have a prominent voice, though not one on say the level of Trent Baalke or Urban Meyer. He will report to Tony Khan directly instead of reporting to owner Shad Khan like Baalke and Meyer (and Tony Khan) all will, which indicates some buffer between the parties.

With that said, Kassam's role seems like he will have some sort of tangible impact on Jacksonville's football operations. Whether that is any influence on major moves remains to be seen, but the Jaguars have valued analytics in past years and Meyer seems like the type of coach who wants every advantage he can possibly get.

In short, I think Kassam will play a big role. He may not be a decision-maker, but the team appears set to utilize him in a number of different roles to help give the Jaguars every possible insight and advantage they could get. 

Q: Which current Jaguar could be a surprise draft day/week trade?

A: This is a good question. Here are some who I think could potentially make sense. 

Right guard A.J. Cann has a ton of experience and has played good football recently. If the Jaguars want Ben Bartch of a free agent at guard, they could send Cann to an offensive line-needy team who needs a veteran presence in the middle. 

Taven Bryan comes to mind as well, though his market would obviously be pretty small considering his lack of production. He doesn't fit the Jaguars' new scheme and he won't be extended after 2021, but maybe teams who were high on him in 2018 would send a Day 3 pick for him. 

Then what about Cam Robinson? Maybe the Jaguars could sign him to a short-term deal or franchise tag him before him for picks on draft night if they secure a top left tackle prospect. Robinson hasn't been great in the NFL but he has loads of starting experience and will be just 25. There aren't a ton of players on the roster who could be surprise trades, but these are the three most logical ones to me

Q: There are numerous former urban players that are available or rumored to be available - Samuel, Lattimore, Dunlap, Haden, Hooker, etc. How many of these guys do you think are Jaguars this fall, and which ones?

A: I think the Jaguars go after a few of these guys, partially due to their connections to Meyer and partially due to the Jaguars' needs. The two that make the most sense to me are Curtis Samuel and Malik Hooker. The Jaguars have a need at slot receiver and safety and neither Samuel or Hooker are considered the top players at their position on the market, so the Jaguars may not have to fend off as many other teams. 

Q: What about a guy like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for safety in FA?

A: I wouldn't really consider it. You are better off giving snaps to Daniel Thomas over Ha Ha Clinton Dix, who didn't make the Cowboys' roster this season despite signing with the team last offseason. Before that, he played for three teams in two seasons. He had a promising start to his career but he isn't a player the Jaguars should look at as anything more than veteran depth. 

Q: Can you provide us an under-the-radar FA that could be a steal or have a big impact for us this season?

A: Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris. Harris has been one of the NFL's most underrated defensive tackles over the last several years and could see his production explode if ever asked to play a bigger role. He has 8.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 12 quarterback hits over the last two seasons, all numbers which would rank among the best of any Jaguars' defensive tackle in that span. 

Q: I predicted Michael Thomas to Jax when Myer was hired. Mike Florida recently floated (not reported) the same idea. Who could you see as a hypothetical trade that could come to fruition?

A: The names that make the most sense to me are Orlando Brown, Justin Simmons, and Chris Jones. All would fill major holes for the Jaguars while providing relief to the other teams. In the case of Brown, the Ravens could get quality picks for a top player who no longer wants to be in Baltimore. Simmons as a tag-and-trade makes sense if the Broncos feel no confidence in extending him after years of being unable to come to an agreement. And maybe the Chiefs look to unload Jones for picks in an effort to overhaul the poor state of their salary cap? Marshon Lattimore makes sense as well due to team need and the Meyer connection, though it remains to be seen if the Saints would be willing to move him. 

Q: Should the Jaguars do Hard Knocks this year?

A: Maybe? It would certainly help the Jaguars get more national recognition and overall attention, as well as give the fan's an inside look at Lawrence and Meyer's first season. But if Meyer and the Jaguars would be opposed to it enough to give a limited view like the Raiders did a few years ago, then it isn't worth it.