The Jacksonville Jaguars missed out on another defense end in free agency, as despite having him in town for nearly 24 hours, veteran pass rusher Robert Ayers opted to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than the Jaguars. It wasn't a deal that made you agree the money was too much either, because it was only a two-year deal with about $10.5 million guaranteed. But losing out on Vernon and then Ayers, means the Jaguars are left wanting at the edge rusher position.
Back in January, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell indicated there was going to be an "influx" of pass rushers added this offseason. And while the open market has only been open for roughly three days and the draft hasn't happened yet, it's difficult to see where the "influx" is going to come from.
in - flux
the arrival of a large number of people
: the arrival or inward flow of a large amount of something
I understand how the Jaguars missed out on Olivier Vernon and after reading how it went down and hearing Dave Caldwell speak on it, it made sense why he ended up in New York and the team didn't break the bank to force his hand. And while Robert Ayers certainly isn't a world beater, he's a proven commodity. Not adding a proven commodity to the edge rush in free agency is a massive concern, because it means you're likely going to be relying on a guy who's never played coming off a major knee injury and a rookie.
Sure, it's only March 11th, but when Andre Branch is starting to look like the top of the free agent scrap heap, it's time to be concerned. Many will argue the team can add to the pass rush in the NFL Draft, but there's something funny abou that... because the lack of true edge rushers in the 2016 NFL Draft is one of the big reasons the team pulled the trigger on Dante Fowler Jr. last year.
"Young edge rushers are hard to find. We look forward to next year's draft to be quite frank with you and it's not a great year for edge rushers. I hope we're not in a spot where we're picking high in the draft," Caldwell said last May, following the team's selection of Fowler.
As we all know, Fowler tore his ACL and missed the entire season in 2015. Caldwell is optimistic about Fowler's return this year, but if you're entering the season with Fowler as your best option and Ryan Davis as you most proven NFL edge rusher, something went very wrong. I do think Fowler will be a good player, but you can't rely on him in 2016 to be your water carrier.
The Jaguars have to win games in 2016 and while adding Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara is great, how much better is that really making your pass rush? Your best pass rushing came from the interior in 2015 and you've upgraded that, but the real missing piece was an edge rusher and now you're going forward with a huge void in that area.
Sure the team can wait on cuts and hope someone ends up a cap casualty after the draft or they find a diamond in the rough on the waiver wire, but as good a free agent haul the Jaguars had, and I really like what they did, there's still that giant gaping void at the LEO end position. They need to be aggressive with adding a proven body there. They've whiffed so far and it might be time to pick up the phone and see what you can get.