Free agent defensive end Olivier Vernon followed the money this offseason, and the money steered him to New York. It's no secret that the Jacksonville Jaguars coveted Vernon early on in free agency, and it's no secret that the team fell short in securing the high profile edge rusher.
And now, I'm writing to expose another secret -- Olivier Vernon was the only edge rusher targeted by the Jaguars in free agency.
The majority of local media shifted their attention to veteran free agent Robert Ayers when the Jaguars failed to seduce Vernon. And by now, we all know that Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell did the same. The Jaguars invited Ayers to Jacksonville a day after losing out on Vernon, but Ayers ultimately decided to take his talents to Tampa.
Dave Caldwell, as it turns out, viewed Ayers in a very different light than many local media personalities. Based on information recently presented to me, I have learned that the Jaguars sought to bring Ayers to Jacksonville in an inside rusher role.
Ayers was never going to be an edge rusher for the Jaguars. Period. He would have been positioned somewhere into the inside rusher rotation -- a unit loaded with Sen'Derrick Marks, Abry Jones, and Malik Jackson.
This newfound information isn't necessarily momentous, but boy, is it loaded.
For starters, the Jaguars went Vernon or bust -- contrary to what we originally thought, the front office did not have a "Plan B" free agent edge in mind after losing the Vernon contest.
Also, the fact that the Jaguars looked to plug Ayers into the interior (a densely occupied unit) rather than utilize his edge rushing ability in a position group that is gasping for quality depth is thought-provoking as well. It says a lot about the interior rushers already in the Jaguars' possession, as well as the direction the defensive line may be heading in scheme-wise.
Finally, this information may go quite a long way in explaining why Robert Ayers ultimately found the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be a more suitable fit than the Jaguars.
According to Jordan Ranaan of NJ Advanced Media, Ayers had just two sacks last season from interior pressure with the remaining 7.5 coming as an edge rusher. What benefit could he possibly see in switching roles?
Of everything that has occurred this free agency cycle, the Ayers episode is by far the most... interesting.