Thomas B. Shea
Derek Cox has missed 17 games in his four-year NFL career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars can now decide if they'd like to franchise any players on their team, as the franchise tag window is now open. The best candidate for the tag seems to be cornerback Derek Cox, but after recently listening to Jaguars This Week, it doesn't sound like many believe he will get that designation.
When healthy, Derek Cox has been a good cornerback for the Jaguars for the most part, but the problem is he carries that caveat; when healthy. Cox has played all 16 games just once in his four-year career, his rookie season. Since that season, Cox has missed a total of 17 games, including missing 14 the past two years.
Cox is coming off an up and down 2012 season, where he dealt with injuries and was tasked with covering other team's best receiver. He finished the season with a -2.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, down from the +6.8 rating he finished with in just six games in 2011, the only season in Cox's career in which he's posted a positive grade. Last season, Cox was targeted 89 times and gave up 670 yards according to Pro Football Focus and gave up 1.68 yards per coverage snap, second worst on the team.
While the Jaguars defense as a whole in 2012 was woefully unimpressive, the Jaguars will need to think long and hard about what to do with Cox. The franchise tag for a corner this year is in the range of $10 million, which is quite a bit of guaranteed money to shell out to a player who's had issues staying on the football field.
The best bet for the Jaguars, if they wish to keep Cox, is to try to sign him to a short-term deal (2-3 years) before free agency begins. It should be a strong free agent market overall for corners, so the Jaguars could also possibly risk letting Cox test the free agent market and then bring him back, similar to what happened with Dwight Lowery and Jeremy Mincey last season.
The one thing that points to the Jaguars using the tag on Cox is the fact that he seems to have the skill set that Gus Bradley likes in his defensive scheme and the fact that four of the Jaguars six cornerbacks are scheduled to be free agents. They need starting caliber players at the position from somewhere.