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NFL Draft

3 Defensive Free Agents Jaguars Should Target

  • The Draft Network
  • March 2, 2021
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The Jacksonville Jaguars’ target list of defensive free agent targets is, well, whoever ends up on the defensive free agent market. With more cap space than anyone else in the NFL, a veteran coaching staff, and a need for starters at every defensive position not occupied by Myles Jack, the Jaguars will be suitors for any starting-caliber players who make it on the market.

So I didn’t just list the most expensive players that any team would like—Leonard Williams, Shaq Barrett, Melvin Ingram, Justin Simmons. Instead, I went for mid-level free agents who may not make the headlines in Jacksonville’s free agent classes, but make sense for their current timeline and needs.

But also, if Leonard Williams becomes available… they should sign him. 

Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans Saints

The biggest gap on the Jaguars’ defensive depth chart is safety. It may not be the most important position on defense—something the Jaguars have tacitly acknowledged with the talent they’ve traded away and not extended. Adding a corner (C.J. Henderson) and EDGE (K’Lavon Chaisson) was the smartest move last year, but with nobody besides Jarrod Wilson left on the depth chart, it’s time to plug the gaps.

I don’t think Justin Simmons makes it onto the market, and if he doesn’t, the best remaining deep safety is Marcus Williams. The Saints will struggle to reach Williams’ price tag, even if he signs a second-tier deal behind some of the recent and upcoming big extensions in the safety market. Williams has great ball production for a deep middle player and is only 24 years old as he looks for his second contract, so you can expect high-caliber play across the length of his deal.

Williams isn’t the big name (Simmons), but he could be the better value on his second contract when it’s all said and done.

Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans Saints

Sheldon Rankins is an odd one to slot on the defensive tackle market. He’s had stretches of dominant play in New Orleans over the course of his career, but the most impressive bit—2018, in which he had 15 QB hits from the 3-tech role—came before some major injuries. Rankins has seen injured reserve in each of the last three seasons with lower-body injuries, and accordingly had his starting role all but given away as he only ever became a rotational player.

The talent remains, even if the athleticism is waning. Rankins won’t be an expensive free agent, but he is a high-ceiling gamble when you consider his peak performance and draft capital. At the very least, he remains in the rotation for a weak position on the Jaguars’ depth chart—at best, he quickly becomes an impact starter and puts together 16 games worth of snaps.

Brian Poole, CB, New York Jets

The Jaguars didn’t have much of a solution for outside corner opposite C.J. Henderson last year, with neither Tre Herndon nor Sidney Jones offering a consistent, healthy option starting on the outside. It’s a difficult free agency class to solve that problem, though—there are few clear, starting-caliber outside cornerbacks on the free agent market this year under the age of 30.

So let’s solve another rising problem: the departure of D.J. Hayden. If the Jaguars aren’t able to return their consistent slot corner, they’ll have two gaps behind Henderson and not enough picks to address the problem. The slot corner market is great—Desmond King, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Troy Hill—but I think the best option in Jacksonville is Brian Poole.

Poole played at Florida when current Jaguars’ Player Personnel Coordinator Drew Hughes was with the Gators’ personnel staff, so there’s a personal connection there for a top-flight slot cover man who’s hitting free agency yet again while he’s still playing at a high level. The Jaguars will still need to draft an outside corner, but now at least they’re given flexibility and protection.

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