The Jacksonville Jaguars reportedly lost out Robert Ayers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of playing time and role in the defense. The Jaguars and general manager Dave Caldwell made several runs at big-name defensive ends in free agency this week, but lost out on both Olivier Vernon to the New York Giants and Ayers to the Buccaneers.
Rob Ayers was offered a large role in the Bucs defense, per source. With Fowler coming back, Jags likely weren't as open to offer the same.— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) March 12, 2016
Caldwell has talked up first-round pick Dante Fowler, who missed his rookie year due to injury, all offseason so it's no surprise that Ayers knew his role in the defense would be more limited than if he went somewhere like Tampa Bay.
"Let's not forget we used a third pick on Dante Fowler, Jr. last year who is a LEO," Caldwell said on Wednesday. "In our scheme only one Leo can play on the field at a time, especially in base packages. So we need some depth there behind Dante, and he's doing extremely well."
It looks like Ayers didn't want to be that "depth" and opted to go somewhere he'd get more snaps.
Putting so much faith in Fowler is a mistake, in my opinion. Look at the top ten pass rushers (regardless of whether they're a LEO or not) and how many sacks they had in their rookie season:
J.J. Watt (5.5)
Khalil Mack (4.0)
Ezekiel Ansah (8.0)
Carlos Dunlap (9.5)
Chandler Jones (5.0)
Muhammed Wilkerson (3.0)
Whitney Mercilus (6.0)
Geno Atkins (3.0)
Von Miller (11.5)
Kawaan Short (1.5)
Can Fowler match the rookie production of a Von Miller or Carlos Dunlap? Sure. But it's more likely he'll be on the high end of the average, which is 5.7 sacks in a rookie season. That means that the Jaguars and Caldwell are hitching their ride to a guy who will probably get somewhere between 6-8 sacks next year and grow from there.
It's time for the Jaguars to swing for the fences and go for a big trade leading up to the draft. If they don't? Well, then it's time to panic.