Darqueze Dennard was supposed to be one of the Jacksonville Jaguars' top free agency signings this offseason. The cornerback had versatility, experience, and toughness, and filled a key need for a veteran on a shaky cornerback depth chart.
But all of this changed Thursday when the Jaguars announced that Dennard would not end up signing his official contract with the Jaguars.
"CB Darqueze Dennard will not be signing with the Jaguars as the two sides could not come to an agreement on the final contract terms," the Jaguars said in a release. "He remains an unrestricted free agent."
Dennard was expected by many to compete for a starting outside cornerback spot in the Jaguars' defense, as well as give the roster some much-needed depth and insurance in case the Jaguars couldn't land a starting cornerback in April's NFL Draft.
Now, the Jaguars will have to go back to their original starting point and operate without Dennard on the roster. Here are our takeaways on the Dennard situation, and what it could mean for the Jaguars moving forward.
1) Dennard wasn't going to be a game-changer, but he would have been valuable
Dennard was never an elite playmaker in his six years with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was a steady and consistent technician who filled a number of roles. For a Jaguars' defense that has too many holes to fill in one phase of the offseason, Dennard could have been a valuable piece.
“We feel really good about his skill level to play outside,” coach Doug Marrone said when the team announced the addition last week. “He’s a press corner and wants to play outside. He wants to prove that he can do it, and we believe that he can, so it was a good fit for us. D.J. Hayden is our starting nickel corner. I talked to D.J., and we’re extremely happy with him in that spot.”
Dennard, who has three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 22 pass deflections in 77 career games, has experience on both the boundary and inside at the slot position. The Jaguars currently only have one starting-caliber cornerback on the outside in Tre Herndon, so Dennard could have filled the cornerback spot opposite from him in a pinch and been serviceable.
If the Jaguars drafted a corner early, they could have had Dennard and Herndon compete for a starting position. A cornerback group of Dennard, Herndon, D.J. Hayden, and an early-round rookie would have been quite the formidable and deep position group.
Dennard wouldn't have eliminated the Jaguars' need for another cornerback, but he would have been veteran depth that could have provided value in a number of ways. Now, this is no longer the case.
2) Jaguars will have to be creative in figuring out the cornerback position
With Dennard no longer in the picture, the Jaguars need to go back to square one and formulate a new plan for addressing their pressing need for a cornerback.
The addition of Dennard didn't mean the Jaguars would have no longer needed any help at the position, but the difference between the Jaguars' current group of cornerbacks, which consists of Herndon, Hayden, Parry Nickerson, Brandon Watson, and Rashaan Melvin, and a group that would have included Dennard is evident. Now, the Jaguars' big need at cornerback has become even more significant.
As a result of the Dennard deal falling through, the Jaguars are now left at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a different veteran cornerback. With free agency already into its second week, most of the starting-caliber outside cornerbacks have already been signed.
The Jaguars could take a cheap flier on another veteran with starting experience as they did with Melvin, but Dennard is unquestionably a better option than any of the corners currently on the market. To fill the void at cornerback, the Jaguars will have to get creative in their problem-solving.
Whether it is finding a diamond in the rough in free agency or moving up in the draft's first round for Jeff Okudah or C.J. Henderson at some point, the Jaguars should be open to all options. At this point, they have to be.
3) While strange, this situation isn't one the Jaguars are exclusively dealing with
These kinds of situations don't happen very often. For a player and a team to agree to terms of a deal one week and then have the deal fall through unexpectedly a week later, it is surprising and strange circumstances. But it isn't one only the Jaguars are dealing with.
Over a week ago, the Baltimore Ravens agreed to terms with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers for a three-year contract worth $30 million. But the deal hit a snag due to issues with Brockers' ankle following a 2019 injury and on Friday, the deal between the Ravens and Brockers officially fell through. Instead of signing with the Ravens, Brockers will now re-sign with the Rams.
That makes two instances in the last two days in which deals have fallen apart between teams and players they had previously agreed to terms with. While it is a unique situation, it is no longer one only the Jaguars have to deal with.
Of course, these situations are different considering the main issue with Brockers' deal was his ankle, while we are in the dark about the issues between Dennard and the Jaguars. But at the very least, the Jaguars are not the only team who won't be adding a key free agent they had previously agreed to sign.