Over the past four years, the Jaguars have been relatively conservative in building their roster through free agency. While you’d think a team who had gone six straight seasons without going over .500 would be a bit more aggressive in building the roster, the Jaguars have been a top-5 team in cap space ever since Dave Caldwell took over as general manager, and the team now sits at ten straight seasons without breaking .500.
An example that shows how, in harsh terms, cowardly the team has been in spending money in free agency: Malik Jackson has the highest cap earnings for 2017 with $15.5 million. After him? Jared Odrick, who might end up being cut before free agency, with $8.5 million, just over half of Jackson’s earnings.
The team needs to not be afraid to upgrade. Are there players on the team that are valuable? Yes, but at the same time, four years into the new regime, the team went 3-13. No one should be safe, and with the cap space that the team has this offseason — projected to be around $65 million after cuts — Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell should begin to toss their money.
So, considering the Jaguars are in position to spend and upgrade, what positions should they target in free agency?
One position is cornerback opposite of Jalen Ramsey. Prince Amukamara was signed to a one year “prove it” deal in 2016 and didn’t prove much of anything besides that he isn’t reliable in short-to-mid coverage. Amukamara was targeted much more in coverage than Ramsey because teams weren’t afraid to throw his way as they were with Ramsey, and when they targeted Amukamara near the first down marker, Amukamara was usually yards away from the receiver and the offense converted the first down.
Amukamara is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, however I believe the Jaguars will offer him a contract before he hits the open market. Based off of last season alone, I wouldn’t mind a deal somewhere around three years, $15 million, to keep him around as a rotational CB, however I’d guess he will be looking for a bigger deal as a team’s CB2.
The team can get better at CB2 this offseason, easily. In my most recent mock draft, I had six cornerbacks drafted in the first round. Now, there may not be that many drafted in the first round in the actual draft, and if that’s the case, one of those CB’s will likely fall to Jacksonville at the 35th pick.
If not in the draft, look at free agency. Trumaine Johnson, A.J. Bouye, Logan Ryan, and several other cornerbacks are scheduled to be a free agent. While I believe Johnson and Bouye will demand CB1 money, a guy like Logan Ryan is definitely worth a look.
Ryan, the 5-11, 195 lb, 26 year old CB fresh off of a Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots this year, is a creator in coverage and is vastly underrated in the NFL, most likely due to being the CB2 on a Patriots defense that features Malcolm Butler as CB1 and ranked 1st in the NFL last year.
In his two years as a starter in New England, Ryan intercepted six passes and defended another 25, along with a forced fumble and 131 tackles. All in all in his four year career, Ryan has 13 interceptions, 42 defended passes, four forced fumbles, 202 tackles, and one pick-six.
Ryan often shadowed big receivers in New England and thrives in man coverage. When asked to follow DeAndre Hopkins when the Patriots played the Texans in week 3, Ryan limited Hopkins to four catches for 56 yards on eight targets, one of Ryan’s biggest matchups to date:
Ryan is also a quick, physical player when he comes down against the run or short passes:
Ryan has no issue reading the QB. Here, he kept his eyes on the QB until the ball was out and from there he made a jump on the ball — an easy pick. Ryan’s vision leads to most of his turnovers and plays on the ball:
As I said before, Ryan is special in man coverage. Unlike Prince Amukamara, Ryan doesn’t leave receivers space to make plays on the ball, especially near the sticks. Here, Ryan plays tight man near the first down marker from the slot and breaks up the pass:
While guys like Johnson and Bouye will likely look for contracts similar to what Janoris Jenkins got last year in free agency — five years, $60 million + range — Ryan will likely be offered contracts in the $30-$45 million range. Considering the Jaguars are currently projected ~$65 million in cap space before cuts, the Jaguars shouldn’t hesitate to spend in free agency to improve this roster, and Logan Ryan should be high on their list.