Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
There could be a starting quality defensive back the Jaguars sign in free agency.
Now that the NFL franchise tags have been handed down and we know which free agents will actually hit the open market, we can begin looking at the players who are going to be available. The Jaguars have just two cornerbacks under contract in Aaron Ross and Mike Harris, so they will need to find starters somewhere be it in the draft or free agency.
Like the offensive tackle position in free agency, there are quite a few starting quality defensive backs (corner and safety) on the open market. The free agency period in 2013 is going to have some quality players on the open market, but only a handful of teams will have the cap room and willingness to spend, so some of these players may come a lot cheaper than what they expect.
Here is a break down of some players who could be on the Jaguars radar once free agency starts:
Tier 1: Expensive
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB: After being acquired in a trade that looked like the Eagles fleeced the Cardinals, DRC had two disappointing seasons with the Eagles. Some feel he was misused a bit, but when you lay it all out he didn't play well the past two seasons and will now be looking on the market. Rodgers-Cromartie is still thought of as a possible top talent at the corner position, so I don't expect him to come on a cheap deal anywhere even if he may not deserve the big pay day.
Dashon Goldson, S: The hard hitting safety has been a big part of the dominating San Francisco 49ers the past few seasons and will be on the open market. The 28-year old safety would be a good fit in Gus Bradley's defensive front, which used a "bandit" safety in the box, like a fourth linebacker, but he's going to carry a heavy price tag which will likely keep the Jaguars away. There are reports that Goldson is looking for Eric Weddle type money.
Sean Smith, CB: Smith is going to be a player most Jaguars fans want the team to go after, but the reality is a player with his size and skills is going to be looking for top dollar on the open market. He's a long corner who has the ability to play in press coverage, even expressing the desire to play in a system like Seattle ran, but reports are he's looking for big money on the open market and has already been linked to the Chiefs.
Derek Cox, CB: I only put Cox in this category because I think he will be too expensive for what the Jaguars are looking to spend this offseason. Cox's agent is talking like there will be multiple teams in play for Cox, which there should be if he can stay healthy, but I think the Jaguars are ready to move on and bring their own guys in. I don't expect Cox back with the team.
William Moore, S: Surprisingly it looks like Moore is going to hit the free agent market, despite playing well for the Atlanta Falcons the past few seasons. The 27-year old safety has dealt with some minor injuries the past two years, missing eight games, but new general manager David Caldwell should be very familiar with the type of player he is and if he will be worth spending money on.
Tier 2: Moderate
Keenan Lewis, CB: Lewis was a bright spot on the Steelers defense in 2012 but because the team is cap strapped he's unlikely to return. Lewis led the Steelers in pass break ups in 2012 in his fist season as a starter and has experience playing aggressive on the outside in press and man coverage in the Steelers 3-4 defense. If the Jaguars are willing to pony up some in free agency, Lewis could be a guy to spend on.
Kenny Phillips, S: Phillips has dealt with injuries during his time with the Giants, but when he's on the football field he's been a good safety. The 26-year old played just seven games last season but could fit perfectly in that bandit role that Gus Bradley used in Seattle on defense. With Phillips coming off an injury and the safety market looking a little deep, especially in the draft, Phillips might come cheaper than most expect on the open market.
Antoine Cason, CB: The former first round pick for the Chargers is slated to hit free agency and the Jaguars reportedly had a lot of interest in him in the 2008 NFL Draft. While the front office is different now than it was then, there could still be some familiarity with Cason in the building. Cason had an up and down career with the Chargers after taking over the starting job in 2010, but he could fit better in another defensive scheme.
Patrick Chung, S: Chung has had an up and down career with the Patriots, but he's a young player who could be very affordable on the open market this season. I don't know if the Patriots intend to bring him back or not, but they've never really been a team to overpay and let guys go who don't fit their system.
Greg Toler, CB: Toler has been a solid player for the Cardinals in his short career, but has been banged up for much of it and has only started two seasons. He missed the entire 2011 season with an injury, but rebounded in 2012 playing well for much of the year. The 27-year old is a hot "under the radar" name among a lot of media folk, but he's a potential affordable option at the position.
Louis Delmas, S: Delmas was another player the Jaguars had shown interest in in the NFL Draft, but again the front office is a bit different. Delmas has been a good safety when he's on the football field, but that's his biggest problem. Delmas has been banged up with injuries his entire career, missing 14 games the past two seasons. When he's on the field he's been a playmaker however, so some team might be willing to risk paying him in free agency.
Leodis McKelvin, CB: McKelvin was a hot small-school name in draft circles entering the league, but the former first round pick has had an up and down career with the Bills and will be hitting free agency. McKelvin is talented and it's possible he might thrive in a press scheme being as he likes to get physical with receivers. He also offers ability in the return game, an area the Jaguars have lacked.
Tier 3: Budget
Marcus Trufant, CB: I'm listing Trufant for just familiarity sake. I don't think the Jaguars will sign many older place holder veterans, but a defensive back who's familiar with Gus Bradley's message and scheme could be a decent fit for a season as the young bucks learn what's going on. Trufant can likely be had on a one-year vet minimum type deal at this point given the cornerback market.
Captain Munnerlynn, CB: Munnerlynn played a lot of off coverage for Carolina last year and some think he might fit best as a nickel corner, but he's young and talented and likely won't command much on the open market and could be a better fit in man coverage because of his play style. He also has return ability, which is an area the Jaguars will need to upgrade.
Stevie Brown, S: Brown will likely be on his fourth team in as many seasons after being drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders, but he played well last season for the Giants in his 11 starts and could finally be "getting it" at the NFL level. The 25-year old may draw a lot of interest, but he's unlikely going to command a big contract until he can show some consistency on the field and stick with a team.