One of the biggest needs the Jacksonville Jaguars will need to address in the 2016 NFL offseason is their pass rush. However it may come, it needs to be improved dramatically. The good news is that general manager Dave Caldwell isn’t blind and knows that, in fact he even kind of hinted they will use a heavy hand to address the problem in the offseason.
On Jaguars Thursday with Jeff Lageman on 1010XL, Caldwell sat in on The Gus Bradley show and spoke a bit about the season and going forward. Lageman asked Caldwell if it was safe to assume that pass rusher was the team’s number one priority, while talking about the 2016 NFL Draft, and Caldwell interrupted him to say he wouldn’t call it the number one priority. A hint at Jalen Ramsey, perhaps? But, anyway, Caldwell did follow that up saying that there will be an "influx" of pass rushers added to the team.
I’m glad Caldwell used to the word influx because it’s a nod to what the Jaguars are going to need to be replacing in the offseason. Sure, they’ll get back Dante Fowler and Sen’Derrick Marks from injury, but they’ll also be likely losing two players who were in heavy rotation at the LEO position for the team last season. It’s not that the team just needs to add a front line starter in free agency, it’s that their defensive line could take on quite a bit of reshaping.
It’s pretty clear that Andre Branch won’t be re-signed, and he shouldn’t be, and the assumption is that Chris Clemons will be released. That’s two players that you’ll need to replace on the roster who logged tons of snaps last season, snaps that Fowler on his own cannot fill. Not to mention that Caldwell indicated Fowler isn’t going to be a full time LEO (more on that in another post later), so you’re going to have to replace those snaps. Ryan Davis and Chris Smith aren’t those guys and the former is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no guarantee any of them will be back.
I would expect, based on hearing Caldwell speak on the pass rush issue, the Jaguars to sign at least one upper tier free agent at the position, another mid-tier player and then someone in the upcoming draft in the first two days. I don’t think "pass rusher" is limited to just LEO either, as Caldwell continuously just stated pass rusher. That could be a linebacker, a big end who can rush, or even an interior lineman.