Who Are the Jaguars’ 5 Best Free Agency Signings Since 2013?
With the 2020 free agency cycle set to begin on Mar. 18, it is time to take a trip down memory lane and reflect the successes and failures of past Jacksonville Jaguars' free agency classes.
The Jaguars have been far from shy when it comes to writing big checks for other team's veterans since Dave Caldwell took over as general manager in 2013, with all but a few offseasons featuring the Jaguars signing one of the largest free agents in any given class.
Like any team, the Jaguars have swung and missed during the free agency period in recent years, but they have also hit home runs at times. Free agent additions played a large part in the team's run in 2017, in which they went 10-6 and advanced to the AFC Championship.
So, which free agents have Caldwell and the Jaguars signed since 2013 that were the best decisions? We identified the five we believe to be the best singings during the Caldwell-era.
Note: We are only counting players signed during the offseason. Kicker Josh Lambo was signed in the middle of the 2017 season and would have made this list otherwise, but we are going to focus in players signed during the standard free agency cycle.
5) CB D.J. Hayden
Contract: Three-year, $19 million contract with $9.45 million in guarantees.
Stats with Jaguars: 25 games played. 87 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, and 10 passes defended.
Overall: D.J. Hayden's stats with the Jaguars are far from gaudy, but it isn't an exaggeration to say he has consistently been one of the team's best defenders since Caldwell and former front office executive Tom Coughlin signed him in 2018 to replace Aaron Colvin as the team's nickel cornerback. Hayden has dealt with injuries at times, but he is a consistent performer in coverage, run defense, and as a blitzer. Hayden has provided an upgrade over Colvin in the last two seasons, all while doing so on a team-friendly deal.
4) DT Sen'Derrick Marks
Contract: Four-year, $22 million contract with $8 million in guarantees.
Stats with Jaguars: 52 games played. 16 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries.
Overall: 2013-2016 was far from a positive era of football for the Jaguars, but Sen'Derrick Marks was one of the team's brightest spots in his four years in Jacksonville. Signed to start at three-technique in Gus Bradley's 4-3 defense, Marks recorded 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his first two seasons in Jacksonville. His numbers regressed in his final two seasons due to an ACL injury at the end of 2014 and the signing of a new starting three-technique in 2016. Even with the unfortunate final two seasons, Marks was enough of a playmaker to earn a spot on this list. For a period of time, he was the Jaguars' entire pass-rush, and he reinvented himself for a short time with the Jaguars.
3) CB A.J. Bouye
Contract: Five-year, $67 million contract with $26 million in guarantees.
Stats with Jaguars: 43 games played. 175 tackles, one tackle for loss, eight interceptions, and 34 pass deflections.
Overall: A.J. Bouye lands so highly on this list almost solely because of the immediate impact he made upon the Jaguars' defense when he signed with the Jaguars in 2017 as an unrestricted free agent from the Houston Texans. Bouye recorded six interceptions and 18 pass deflections in his first year with the Jaguars, earning a Pro Bowl nod and helping elevate the Jaguars' defense to elite status. Bouye hasn't produced at the same rate in the past two seasons, but he has still been a solid starting cornerback.
2) DT Malik Jackson
Contract: Six-year, $85.5 million contract with $31.5 million in guarantees.
Stats with Jaguars: 48 games played. 18 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
Overall: Malik Jackson was Caldwell's biggest free agent signing of his tenure when he joined in 2016, and he quickly made Caldwell and the Jaguars' brass look smart for investing in him. Replacing Marks as the team's starting three-technique, Jackson recorded a career-high in sacks in his first season in Jacksonville (6.5) and then was even better in 2017. Serving as one of the most important pieces on the Jaguars' playoff team in 2017, Jackson recorded eight sacks and four forced fumbles, earning a Pro Bowl nod and vindicating Caldwell. Jackson's numbers regressed in 2018 (3.5 sacks) as the entire Jaguars' squad took a step back, but his three years in Jacksonville were far from a disappointment.
1) DL Calais Campbell
Contract: Four-year, $60 million contract with $30 million in guarantees.
Stats with Jaguars: 48 games played. 31.5 sacks, 44 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
Overall: This was always the obvious answer. Calais Campbell has established himself as not only the best Jaguars' free agency signing since 2013, but likely the best one in the team's 25-year history and is quickly on his way to becoming one of the top players in general in franchise history. Campbell recorded 25 sacks in his first two seasons in Jacksonville, with 14.5 of those coming in the pivotal 2017 season. Campbell earned All-Pro honors that season and has also made the Pro Bowl in every single season he has been in Jacksonville. Even with Campbell's age rising, he is still one of the team's better players, and will always have a legacy as one of the best acquisitions the Jaguars have ever made.
Any agreements or disagreements on our list? Let us know in the comments below!