The Jacksonville Jaguars did well filling a lot of gaps in free agency. They've got their complementary running back in Chris Ivory. They've got one of the best interior defensive linemen in Malik Jackson. They signed a potential long-term fixture at free safety in Tashaun Gipson.
But their biggest need in edge rusher went unaddressed. In fact, they've likely lost their two starting edge rushers from last year in Andre Branch and Chris Clemons.
Relying on Dante Fowler (and likely another rookie) to carry the burden of rushing off the edge will be a tough proposition. So, where do they go from here? What are their options and what should they do?
They're going to have to figure something out, that's for sure. I ultimately think Fowler is going to be a good player for the Jaguars, but to expect anything more than around six sacks for him this season is blind optimism. He's for all intents and purposes a rookie, despite going through meetings and everything last year, and he might be worse off because he's coming off an ACL tear. Defensive end is one of those where you have to play to really learn, because it's got to be hands on and feel. I would expect that the team is currently exploring trading options, but for who I'm not sure. Maybe they explore the likes of Willie Young, Aaron Lynch, Michael Bennett, or even a Chandler Jones. They'll do to do something, because putting it on Fowler and a rookie's shoulders, even with the other additions, is a lot to ask.
I mean, I don't know what else they could possibly do outside of the draft. I really don't. They are highly unlikely to be able to get a serviceable edge rusher through a trade because most teams just don't make those players available. There are a ton of reasons why the Jags couldn't add an edge through Free Agency but the bottom line is they didn't and that dug them into a hole. I thought a Defensive End in Round 2 was likely to begin with but I could see Joey Bosa, Shaq Lawson, and Noah Spence all be added to the team in one way or another on day 1 of the draft, be it via trade down or with the 5th pick. But that is their only real option.
Dave Caldwell promised an "influx of pass rushers" then fell short in free agency. Barring some miracle trade (which, honestly, I have no faith in the Jaguars to get done), the team will have to create that "influx of pass rushers" through another channel. It's not ideal, but the Jaguars need to draft two or more edge rushers in April. As ESPN's Mike DiRicco pointed out, only 12 rookies have accumulated double-digit sacks since 2001. So, no, Fowler won't make a huge impact, nor will drafted rookies make a huge impact. But together as a young unit -- maybe they can make some kind of impact. Realistically, it's the Jaguars' best option.
You could package some later-round selections for a guy with one or two seasons in the league and who's shown he can do it, but is leaning largely on potential. I say give away the No. 5 overall pick and go after a proven player who's less than five years in the league... like Chandler Jones or Ezekiel Ansah. That's how big of a problem the edge rush is right now. I say you swing for the fences and try to upgrade your biggest need with the biggest weapon.
Specifically, I like Jarvis Jones as an option. You can bring him in for a mid-round pick and let him develop as a LEO, as he hasn't panned out as an OLB for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 3-4 defense. He could rotate with Dante Fowler as a LEO and allow Fowler to play OTTO, if needed. This would allow you to add a veteran and still address pass rush with your pick in the first or second round.
What do you think the Jaguars should do?