The Jaguars were definitely more active on the second day than the first, bringing in talent on both sides of the ball without considerably breaking the bank.
Here are my reactions to Day 2 of the Jaguars NFL Free Agency Period:
It’s been heavily emphasized that new Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen comes from the Baltimore Ravens, who are known to have one of the NFL’s top defenses. A lot of their philosophy is blitz-heavy, with a lot of man coverage involved. Meyer himself has also picked the brain of legendary defensive coaches. He said this about speaking with Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick (via Steven Ruiz of USA Today):
“He is one of the few coaches who starts from the backend forward. So he’s always going to take away your best receiver. And he says ‘A team legitimately can’t run the ball at you consistently and win the game nowadays.’ You have too good of defensive linemen, you can scheme up to stop the run. It’s hard to scheme up to stop the pass if that guy’s better than your corner.”
The Jaguars seem to be embodying both philosophies in the building of this Jaguars defense through free agency. Fans wanted a big fish? Enter former Seattle Seahawks DB Shaquill Griffin, who signed a three-year deal with Jacksonville worth $44.5 million. According to Next Gen Stats, Griffin was fourth in the league in snaps played in press coverage, first being Ravens DB Marlon Humphrey. Griffin is also massively successful in press coverage, with Next Gen Stats recording that Griffin is almost 60 percent successful in press coverage, a huge leap from giving cushion.
Add on run-stopping stalwarts like the returning Tyson Alualu (who played extremely well at nose in Pittsburgh), and trading for Malcolm Brown (who was a run stopper for the Saints who played well), and Jaguars fans can see the Ravens-style defense coming to life.
DJ Chark is WR 1
The Jaguars have been linked to Kenny Golladay and Curtis Samuel(who are still available), but the big name WR signing they made yesterday was former Lions wideout Marvin Jones Jr. Still a productive receiver at 31 years old, Jones has experience with OC Darrell Bevell, and is a productive complimentary wideout.
Emphasis on “complimentary.”
By signing Jones, this is a sign from the front office that they believe in DJ Chark’s ability to be a top tier WR1 in the NFL. For what it’s worth, I believe too. I wrote this last season analyzing why Chark’s play fell off so much, but I strongly believe that Jones can have the same affect on Chark as he did Kenny Golladay in Detroit. Add in a QB who can actually throw the ball past 15 yards accurately, and Chark will blossom into a top tier wideout.
What is the plan at Tight End?
In Meyer’s pre-free agency press conference, he emphasized the need to overhaul the tight end position, yet in free agency there hasn’t been that much overturn. The Jaguars signed former Panthers tight end Chris Mahnertz to a two-year deal yesterday, but he’s primarily a blocker and has only caught 12 passes in seven years. They were also outbid by the Patriots on both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, which caused many to panic. There’s really a couple of options left for the Jaguars in free agency at the position: former Rams TE Gerald Everett and former Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister. Hollister has the experience with Jaguars QB Coach Brian Schottenheimer, but Everett is the better player. It would be a whiff if the Jaguars don’t get a receiving tight end in free agency, but I also think there are still some good options in the NFL Draft, like Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth(who new Jaguars TE coach Tyler Bowen coached at PSU) and Miami’s Brevin Jordan(who many draft pundits compare to Jonnu Smith).
The Jaguars could also trade for Eagles TE Zach Erts. Gus Logue of SI Jaguars wrote about the possibilities here, but I wouldn’t do it at all. Ertz isn’t the same as he was in 2017, and is often injured.
There are still many good free agent targets left out there, so here are my top 5 for the Jaguars specifically entering Day 3: