The Jaguars do not have a long history of success at the corner back position. Fernando Bryant was never really a star, Scott Starks has been a career backup, and Brian Williams was little more than a flash in the pan on this team. There is, however, one Jaguars corner who has had a long enough, good enough career to make Jaguars fans happy. I mean Rashean Mathis. The 2003 2nd round pick has spent his entire 9 year career in Jacksonville and his teammates and coaches love him. Heck, I even went to a practice and got my (then new) Marcus Stroud jersey signed by Rashean back in 2007. He holds team records for interceptions (29) and total takeaways (33), and in 2006 was the only Jaguars cornerback ever named to the Pro-Bowl.
Unfortunately, it's been five years since his 8 interception year in 2006. Mathis held out of optional training camp activities as a way of asking for a new contract. The Jaguars did not cave. There is an ever-growing group of fans who believe that Rashean has lost a step. Rashean is certainly still a better option at this point in his career than someone like Scott Starks or William Middleton, but how much better? Would he be better than whoever the Jaguars draft or sign in free agency? Rashean has one more year remaining on his contract. So, what are the Jaguars going to do with Rashean Mathis?Probably until someone significantly better comes along, Rashean will keep his spot at corner. The "I didn't have safety help" excuse, paired with him still having one more year under contract will influence the team to keep him around. Still, he was not at his 06-07 level of production. He was used this past season mostly in zones, which can effectively hide his lack of speed. He only had one interception, and lets not kid ourselves, opposing QBs were afraid of no one in the Jaguars' secondary. Who knows though, maybe with improved safetly play, Rashean can turn his game around.
Of course, things change if the Jaguars do sign a quality corner in free agency. Of the Jaguars two starting corners from last year, Derek Cox saw more man to man coverage, and flashed the closing speed and ball skills to show he belongs on the field. If the Jaguars bring in a solid corner, there are some who think Rashean should be moved to free safety.
Personally, I am on board with this idea. Rashean, for those who don't remember, was a FS when he came out in the draft, and actually played the first six games of his career as the Jaguars' FS in 2003 before being replaced by Deke Cooper. The transition from Corner to Safety has been made by many quality players in the past. Heck, Charles Woodson said a few days ago that he, a pro bowl caliber corner, would move to safety if the team wanted him too. He didn't at all think changing positions would be an issue for him. For a physical corner, making the transition isn't very difficult. There is less pressure on a Safety to turn his hips well while running with a WR. It requires good field vision, and enough speed to make plays on the deep ball, and most importantly really solid tackling. I think Rashean can adapt his game to the safety position with little difficulty, and I feel that he would be better served to play safety if it is at all possible. He certainly didn't set any world records at corner this year...
Given that Rashean is in the last year of his contract and would like to get paid a pretty penny, I'd imagine that this next year will likely be his last here. He has had a great run in Jacksonville, and I'm very glad the Jaguars drafted him. Still, the question remains, what will Rashean be for the Jaguars next year?