Jacksonville Jaguars: Top 5 Free Agents to Pursue
The 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars descended to the bottom of the NFL, with only 1 win during the season. They were awarded the number 1 pick in this year’s draft. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson looks to be the pick. They also have the 25th pick in the first round as well. In total, the Jaguars have 11 draft picks, with five in the first three rounds. Hitting on some late-round picks would be beneficial as well.
While they are wealthy in draft stock, they are the kings of wealth when it comes to cap space. With the top amount of 73.6 million under the cap, Jacksonville has a dream recipe to immediately improve. Their focus should mainly be on the defensive side of the ball. They surrendered 30.8 points per game (31st in the league). They were also ranked 31st in terms of total yards. Here are the top 5 players the Jaguars should consider signing in free agency to get them back on track to be competitive for 2021.
5. Kenny Golladay
After leading the Lions in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2018 and 2019, Golladay only played in five games in 2020 due to injury. He had 20 catches on 32 targets, for 338 yards and 2 TDs. With Keelan Cole set to hit free agency, the 6 foot 4 receiver would give the presumed Trevor Lawrence a big-time weapon, while also drawing coverage away to help DJ Chark hopefully put up his 2019 production numbers (73 catches, 1008 yards, 8 TDs).
4. Hunter Henry
The fifth-year pro hits the free agency market for the first time in his career. While this most likely is a longshot as Henry has expressed wanting to return to the Chargers. In 2020, Henry posted 60 catches for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns. That bested both Tyler Eifert’s (36, 349, 20) and James O’Shaughnessy’s (28, 262, 0) production. Good tight ends are few and far between in the NFL, but adding Henry would add another weapon to a very young Jacksonville arsenal.
3. Carl Lawson
Last year’s 20th overall pick K’Lavon Chaisson only started 3 games and earned a 58.5 pass-rush grade according to PFF, along with a 39.2 run defense grade. He was the 104th graded edge rusher out of 109 at 49.6. Lawson, on the other hand, graded out at 76.3 overall, with a pass-rush grade of 84.9 and a run defense grade of 61.1. He also had 5.5 sacks on the season while starting 11 games. He would be an upgrade to a team that was 27th against the pass. While Chaisson is only 21 years old going into his second year, and 2019 7th overall pick defensive end Josh Allen being 24 years old in July, adding a defensive end wouldn’t be the best idea.
2. William Jackson
Grading out 71.4 overall via PFF, Jackson would provide veteran experience and an upgrade in the secondary. The 28-year-old had a 72.4 grade in coverage in 2020. He has become one of the best cover corners in the league in man-to-man coverage. If he can grade at his 2017 PFF numbers (90.2 overall, 90.4 coverage), look for a boost in the pass game.
1. Shaq Barrett
One of the top players on the defensive side, Barrett probably won’t make it to free agency. Barrett and the Buccaneers are discussing a new contract before the start of free agency. If the two sides can’t agree, the Jaguars need to pounce on the 28-year-old outside linebacker. While he only had 8 sacks in 2020, Barrett led the league in sacks in 2019. Barrett’s 16 QB hits would have been 2nd on the Jaguars squad last year, 1 behind Smoot’s 17. His 11 tackles for loss would have led the team. A scheme change would also have to be made by Barrett. Tampa runs a 3-4 defense, while Jacksonville runs a 4-3. Barrett should have no problem making the switch if need be.