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Will free safety Tashaun Gipson turn things around in 2017?

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After signing a five year, $36 million contract with the Jaguars in 2016, Tashaun Gipson didn’t live up to expectations. Expect him to turn it around this year.

NFL: International Series-Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley spent three years searching for his “franchise free safety” with general manager Dave Caldwell before signing Tashaun Gipson last year. After inking Gipson, who had 14 interceptions and 23 defended passes in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Bradley believed his philosophy for the Jaguars secondary had been fulfilled.

Oh, how wrong he was.

Bradley ran a strict cover 3 defense for the majority of 2016, where Gipson played the deep middle of the field as a “babysitter” of the defense: If anything broke deep, whether it be a run into the second level of the defense or a deep pass, it became Gipson’s responsibility to track the ball, across the entire field.

Gipson simply didn’t look comfortable in this scheme. He recorded only one interception and two defended passes in 2016 despite being labeled as a “ball-hawk” after his time with the Browns.

Many were quick to label Gipson as a bust of a free agency signing, but you should not write him off yet.

In fact, I believe his slate should be cleared following the 2016 season, and even that he’s in for a re-emergence among the top safeties in the league this year.

Sure, this may be a bit of hot take, but if you look back at his career before Jacksonville, he was a play-maker in a scheme more comfortable to him.

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash has noted that, although they’ll still use a single-high safety, there will be other coverages going forward, and that after signing strong safety Barry Church, the two safeties will interchange between the free and strong safety positions.

This should take some pressure off of Gipson, as he will be given more opportunities to make in various areas of the playing field.

Considering the Jaguars significantly upgraded the strong safety position in signing Church and choosing not to re-sign Johnathan Cyprien, as well as the cornerback position opposite of Jalen Ramsey in signing A.J. Bouye, Gipson has loads more talent around him in the secondary, and likely won’t have to “babysit” any longer.

Gipson has been viewed as a “ball-hawk” and a “see-ball, get-ball” player in the past before playing in the Jaguars strict defensive scheme last year. With flexibility and potential to play all over the field going forward, as well as talent around him to lift his play, I’m optimistic that Gipson will turn things around and prove he’s worth his $36 million contract this season.