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Who is the next Jaguars Defensive End: Jared Allen or Justin Smith?

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Jared Allen. Could he be a Jaguar?

Today, for the record, is Friday, February 15th. That means that there are only six (6!) days for teams to use their "Franchise" tags. After the 21st, no more tagging, and we'd only be days away from the excitement and glory of Free Agency!  This is very important in the hunt for the next great Jaguars Defensive End because some of the top players that we could get are likely targets for the tag.

The biggest prize out there is clearly Chiefs Defensive End Jared Allen.  Why Allen?  He's only going to be 26 when the season starts, he's a former top draft pick that actually worked out (though with  some off the field problems), and in four seasons with the Chiefs he's racked up 43 sacks, 15 of which came last season.

There is some debate about his value, the likelihood of him making it past the 21st without getting tagged, and what the Jaguars can risk in order to get him.  Now, I'm going to piss some people off here, because I'm seriously deviating from my normal approach toward contracts and draft picks, but hear me out.  While I'd never mortgage the future of the team for the present, I see the team as a dynamic institution that is sometimes closer to and other times further from greatness.  Right now we are clearly closer to greatness than we've been since 1999 and things must adjust accordingly.  Jars on the shelf are a little less valuable (just a little) and things that have an immediate impact are intensified.  Understanding that the Jaguars can make a run at the Super Bowl next season means that what we do this off-season needs to have as quick of an impact as possible.  One element of this means the consideration of using draft picks to acquire top flight talent when it's available.  

That said, let's look at what we'd get out of Jared Allen.

His Scouting Report:

He is one of the best players on the Chief's defense and has averaged just over seven sacks per season over his career. He is not a pure speed pass rusher, but he has an excellent motor. Even though he has some off-field issues, when he steps onto the field, he is all business. He is a high-motor, tough, competitive football player who gives 100 percent on every snap. He has above-average first-step quickness. Allen is going to beat the top tackles in the NFL off the snap, but he shows enough initial burst to put pressure on the edges. He shows very good lean once he gets on the edge to turn the corner. He can make himself small when turning the corner and does not allow the offensive tackle to get a clean stab on him. He also has developed his rush and counter moves. He has shown improved hand use to counter blocks. He doesn't have top closing quickness when he beats the offensive tackle, but his relentless motor allows him to get a lot of hits on the quarterback. He has improved his ability to play the run. He shows excellent instincts to find the ball. He is an explosive hitter and tackler. He is solid at wrapping up and finishing. He is very good playing the run away because of his backside chase effort. He can really close down the line. He is aggressive to penetrate and disrupt in the backfield. He can come off the ball quickly, shoot gaps and make the back re-direct. He has improved his ability to play with leverage at the point of attack, but he still does not have great strength. He is the type of player who has to win with quickness. When an offensive tackle gets his hands on him, Allen struggles to shed quickly and make plays at the left offensive side. He is not real explosive in terms of his quickness or his strength. Overall, he is a solid defensive end who gives 100 percent effort every time he steps onto the football field. .

Yeah, he'd be a pretty good improvement on our defensive line.  But what are the Chiefs going to do with him?  You see, Allen has made it clear that if he's tagged, he won't sign a long term deal with Kansas City.  Ever.

"It's the worst-kept secret in the NFL that the Chiefs are going to franchise him," Harris said. "But Jared has already said that if he plays on the franchise tender, he will never do a long-term deal with them."

So what does this mean for our Jaguars?  First off, little birds tell me that the Chiefs are planning on using the non-exclusive franchise tag on Allen, which means that while he would cost the Chiefs less money (last years average, vs this season's average), there is also the chance that another team would offer him a contract.  Were the Jaguars to offer Allen a Contract, the Chiefs would have the right to either our first round draft picks for 2007 and 2008 OR to match the contract.  

Now, I don't like this for a couple of reasons.  First off, if you're the Chiefs and you're really not going to try and lock Jared Allen up for the long term right now, why use the Exclusive Rights tag?  What this does, in essence, is the Chiefs are risking having another team do all the contract negotiations and risk losing their best player in the process.  It might not be Jacksonville, but there could be SOME team out there who's willing to gamble two first rounders to lock up the defensive end position for the next five years.

In fact, I'll go so far as to conclude that getting a 26 year old proven talent at defensive end just might Be Worth Two First Round Draft Picks!.

Why?

Because we have pick 26 this year, and (more than likely) a higher one next year.  We're so high up in the draft order that the value lost, in this case, doesn't seem all that huge.  Now, I know this is a risk, what if the Jaguars were to flop or Allen were to get injured, and god knows what sort of contract he'd want, and all those serious and important variables, but it's worth considering.

I'm not saying run out there and throw away all of our draft picks, believe you me, I'm as conservative as it gets with contracts and draft picks as far as things normally go.  But sometimes there are opportunities that you have to seriously consider.  Knowing that the Jaguars have a full compliment of picks this season.  Knowing that we'd be losing a 26th overall and a 26th or higher  next season (optimistically, I know), for a young, proven, and marked improvement at a position that desperately needs addressing, I could sleep at night.  Especially if you consider that we might not have a great shot at a first round Defensive End ANYHOW, and that our history with First Rounders is shady at best.  

Of course, tomorrow the Chiefs could use the exclusive tag and this whole conversation is irrelevant, but it's something to think about over the weekend.

Let me make this clear, I know the value of first round draft picks.  I know that they are the key to keeping a team strong and moving in the right direction.  I'm just not buying that there is no circumstance where the Jaguars aren't going to get better value out of trading their picks than holding on and hoping they work out.

Think of it this way, we're (more than likely) using our first round pick on a Defensive End, if one's available. We'd also be using cap space to sign our first round draft pick. Last year's 26th pick, Anthony Spencer of the Cowboys, received a 5 year 9 million dollar contract with a 6 million dollar signing bonus.  If you assume that prices go up about 20% each year, you can figure that our 26th pick will get about 11-12 million dollars and a little over 7 million in signing bonus.  Were we to trade for Allen, we'd save the money spent on the draft pick, so whatever huge contract he gets is de facto smaller, simply because we'd eliminate the need to draft a first round DE.  

In essence, two first round picks from the Jaguars for Allen is really just one first round pick, because we'd use the pick on a DE anyhow, if one was available.  

I'd imagine that many of you probably disagree.  In fact, I don't even see this happening.  The Chiefs should do the smart thing and use the exclusive tag.  Really, that makes everything easier for the Jaguars.

It turns out, one of our fellow fans has done a little research for us about another potential fix at defensive end, this time its Justin Smith.  

NASF Reports:

Well Chris, I did a thorough research on Justin Smith, and there is a reason why I spent the time gathering info on him, which I will explain here in a moment. Here is the scoop from scouts, fans who have watched him play over his career, and a couple reporters.

Here are the Pros: Everyone is in agreement that he has a high motor, relentless in getting after the ball carrier, very good against the run, has the quickness to get upfield after the snap, and is very durable in that he hasn't missed but a few games or suffered anything more than minor injury.

The Cons: Not athletic enough to get to the QB, usually the QB sidesteps him and he blows by QB, Struggles against athletic LT's, doesn't make big plays, and hasn't produced more than 8 sacks in a year. Has limited pass rush moves, relies too much on his quickness at snap.

Comments have been a lot of fans don't think he is worth the 8 million cap number he has from being franchised, is not an elite DE to have that number,and doesn't produce enough sacks. Scouts think he is being asked to do too much, is being hurt by lack of talent around him. Is not playing his natural left DE position.

Now the reason I spent the time finding all this out, is that I talked to a reliable source who tells me that Justin Smith is the Jags number one target in free agency. I don't think its really that big of a secret considering Vic Ketchman has mentioned his name several times, who by the way has a good relationship with Del Rio(wink wink) and no my source is not Vic. The plan is to switch him to the left side where the DE's primary goal is to stop the run and cause the QB to move into the right DE which is the QB's blindside, which should be a speed rusher, ala Brian Smith, Hawkins etc...This plays into Justin Smith's strength, and he should make a much bigger impact with the Jags, and Gregg Williams scheme. Also that leaves Hayward, who has a high cap number, and I found out his other achilles is bad as well, to either take a paycut or be released.

The word on Antwan Odom is from the majority that he benefited greatly from having played along side Haynsworth and opposite Vanden Bosh, and won't be worth the money it will take to get him.

So there you go, two views about how free agency COULD go.  I'd love to hear what others think.

-Chris