Free agency officially, unofficially begins today with the negotiating window opening at 12 p.m. ET. And the Jaguars are one of the teams expected to be the most competitive within the market, with good reason.
Starting today, teams may negotiate with the agents of players set to hit the market, and cannot officially speak to players nor sign a contract until Wednesday, March, 16 at 4:00 p.m. ET, when the new league year officially begins.
Currently, the Jaguars will enter the free agency period with $39,603,306 in cap space, the fifth-most in the league. This space already includes the money set aside for left tackle Cam Robinson’s franchise tag of $16,662,000, the largest cap hit on the team entering the year.
Though Robinson’s franchise tag likely changes the team’s strategy in both free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, there remain plenty of needs, including along the offensive line.
Among the starters from 2021 slated to be free agents in Jacksonville are offensive guards Andrew Norwell and AJ Cann, wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Laquon Treadwell, linebacker Damien Wilson and tight end James O’Shaughnessy.
For a full list of Jaguars players set to have their contracts expire, click here.
The team might also lose a couple of key depth pieces such as defensive lineman Adam Gotsis, defensive tackle Taven Bryan and cornerback Tre Herndon.
That leaves the franchise with plenty of work to do in order to replace its impending free agents, though some are likely to re-up with the team once the period begins.
For the purposes of this post, however, we will assume none of the players return to Jacksonville and their needs are represented as such. But, what position groups and players make the most sense for Jacksonville this time around? How do they fit, and what exactly is their background?
Players are sorted in their positional categories and there isn’t any rhyme or reason to the order they are listed in.
For the sake of brevity (editors note: lol), we included only starter-level players to fill needs, and not every player will be broken down individually.
Currently on roster (6): Marvin Jones Jr., Jamal Agnew, Laviska Shenault, Tim Jones, Jeff Cotton Jr., Josh Hammond
Allen Robinson, 28, Chicago Bears
Career stats: 496 receptions, 6,409 yards, 40 touchdowns
Robinson’s name will be rumored for multiple teams around the league as one of the last true No. 1-type players on the market. As such, his interest from the Jaguars wouldn’t be surprising, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’re unwilling to match top-dollar with what Robinson is asking for.
Robinson’s final season with the Bears didn’t go well. He was stuck with a learning quarterback room and an offense that simply didn’t cater to his skillset with other emerging receivers entering the fray. Add injuries and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list and you get Robinson’s last year in Chicago.
He accounted for just 38 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown over 12 games played. That would mark his worst season in the NFL since tearing his ACL just several plays into the 2017 campaign with the Jaguars.
Prior to this year, Robinson accounted for the bulk of the Chicago offense, exploding onto the scene with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a row in 2019-20. In four years, Robinson accounted for a total of 293 receptions for 3,561 yards and 18 touchdowns with the Bears.
After being drafted by Jacksonville in 2014, it’s possible he reunites with the team under completely new management. If he were to return to the city, Robinson wouldn’t do so without a familiar face as Jaguars receivers coach Chris Jackson was the Bears’ assistant receivers coach with the Bears from 2020-21.
The question will be, does Robinson have enough tread left on his tires to continue as a No. 1 receiver in the league?
How he fits: Robinson is one of the few remaining No. 1 receiver-like players left on the open market, and that’s not a sure thing. Players such as Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams and Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin were franchise tagged, while others such as Dallas’ Michael Gallup and Chargers’ Mike Williams, signed long-term extensions.
That leaves Jacksonville with few options, and they’d be wont to get a player like Robinson, even if he comes with a major red flag. At the very least, perhaps it is justice for letting him walk years ago in the first place.
DJ Chark, 26, Jacksonville Jaguars
Career stats: 147 receptions, 2024 yards, 15 touchdowns
Of course, Jacksonville is familiar with its own free agent in Chark who is coming off of a lost season, breaking his ankle just four games into the Urban Meyer era. Chark’s career in Jacksonville has been completely up-and-down. During his rookie campaign in 2018, Chark was a nonfactor, not able to contribute much and seemingly out of his element coming out of LSU.
His second year, however, would be quite different. Chark burst onto the NFL stage with one of the more outstanding receiving years that Jacksonville has seen since perhaps Robinson was with the team in 2016. Chark accounted for 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns.
Though he wasn’t always used this way due to a weak-armed Gardner Minshew II leading the way, his deep-threat ability didn’t go unnoticed and Chark appeared to be on his way to becoming a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
Then, in 2020, it appeared Chark came back down to earth - as did the entirety of the Jacksonville offense, which struggled mightily in Doug Marrone’s final season as the team’s head coach. Marred with troubles at the QB position, Chark was only able to muster up 53 receptions for 706 yards and five touchdowns.
Still, it appeared Chark would get one final chance to prove he was more like his ‘19 self than ‘20 and certainly ‘18. However, after suffering an injury his season would be cut short to just seven receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns. That came after a stellar offseason working with Trevor Lawrence at QB.
Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke opted not to apply either the franchise tag or the transition tag on Chark, allowing him to explore his options. He’s expected to draw some interest, at least from one team out west.
How he fits:
The fit for Chark is obvious, he doesn’t know the system but does have a familiarity with Lawrence and provides elite speed on the outside for an offense that is in desperate need of it. The issue, however, will not only be his lack of production in two out of four of his seasons in the NFL, either due to injury or otherwise.
The Jaguars also made it public that the team as a whole wanted Chark to play bigger than he had in the past, perhaps not just a Meyer declaration. The decision to allow him to hit free agency, in general, tells the tale, but he could still be brought back if the team and Chark’s camp sees fit.
Dear #Jets fans and #JetNation—— “Joe Kane” Paradis (@JoeKaneFromESU) March 11, 2022
Let’s not do the “Idc just get me Metcalf” routine. Or “just do the damn trade for Amari” thing.
It never, ever, ever works. There’s always reasons. Think on it.
Joey D should be looking over here at DJ Chark. Opportunity. @nyjets pic.twitter.com/gmhAYCUYYp
Juju Smith-Schuster, 25, Pittsburgh Steelers
Career stats: 323 receptions, 3,855 yards, 26 touchdowns
Setting aside Smith-Schuster’s popularity on various social media websites, the sixth-year receiver is set to hit free agency for the second time in his career after going back to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal this past season.
His 2021 campaign was lost just fives games in due to a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. He’d finish the year with just 15 receptions for 129 yards, his worst statistical season since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Smith-Schuster’s best season would come in 2018 when he made the Pro Bowl after catching 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. He posted seven touchdowns on 58 receptions and 917 yards the previous year.
Though he has yet to match the production he had during his second year in the league, the Steelers as a whole regressed in the passing game partially due to QB Ben Roethlisberger’s decline as a player over the past few seasons. He has since retired.
He missed four games in 2019 due to a concussion and knee patella sprain suffered in Week 11 that season. Other than that, he would miss one game in 2017 due to a hamstring injury. His latest injury is by far the most concerning, but otherwise, he’s been a relatively healthy player throughout his career with the Steelers.
Smith-Schuster makes a killing playing in the middle of the field as a slot receiver, able to bring a physical presence to any offense, while also having big-time play-making ability if he gets the ball. In his career, he has just 19 drops, a drop percentage of 5.2%, according to Pro Football Focus.
How he fits:
The Jaguars would be smart to bring in a player of Smith-Schuster’s caliber, especially if his shoulder injury checks out. Though he hasn’t matched his Year 2 production, Smith-Schuster has shown he’s plenty capable of making an easy target for the QB over the middle of the field and is a more-than-willing blocker.
He was a first-down machine in 2018, catching 68 first downs, and had a similar path in 2020, even with fewer targets with 55 first downs.
Jacksonville is heading into the year with Laviksa Shenault as its assumed primary slot target, and after his down season, they perhaps will want to think of other ways they can to get him the football.
This is one of the more underrated plays of the game. Stupid good catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster to adjust to this ball and dig this out of the ground. Big conversion on 3rd and 12 that led to a TD. JuJu was a huge catalyst in the win today. pic.twitter.com/MwVo2VsDLf— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 26, 2020
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, 27, Green Bay Packers
Career Stats: 123 receptions, 2,153 yards, 13 touchdowns
Valdes-Scantling is another intriguing player hitting the open market. After four years of playing with Aaron Rodgers, he’s set to have someone else throwing him the football for the foreseeable future. His measurables speak for themselves. At 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, MVS ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
He was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has showcased that speed over the past few seasons.
Though his production hasn’t been staggering, he’s averaged 17.5 yards per reception in his career, including a league-leading 20.9 YPR average in 2020. He caught 33 passes for 690 yards and six touchdowns during that span.
His speed is noticeable, but also is his (lack of) production. He has had only one season over 37 receptions and one season over 581 yards, zero 1,000-yard receiving seasons even playing with Rodgers during his back-to-back MVP seasons. Last year, MVS also suffered a couple of injuries, forcing him to miss several games.
How he fits:
There’s no question that the Jaguars could use a player like Valdes-Scantling on the roster, but the cost will be the absolute barrier to entry here. He’s a complete boom-or-bust signing, with valid concerns regarding his lack of production over four seasons.
Though he would provide Lawrence with a nice outside target, he also needs to be able to hold onto the football and currently has a drop % of 9.0% throughout his career.
Valdes-Scantling might make sense as some insurance for allowing Chark to leave, but he certainly cannot be the only receiver the team targets in free agency this cycle. Another issue is, at 27 years old already, how much better is Valdes-Scantling going to get?
Aaron Rodgers is off and running. 40-yard TD to Marquez Valdes-Scantlingpic.twitter.com/j95bLLHykj— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 22, 2019
Christian Kirk, 25, Arizona Cardinals
Career stats: 236 receptions, 2,902 yards, 17 touchdowns
One of the oft-talked about landing spots for Kirk has been the Jaguars around media circles. There is also a connection, as first pointed out by JaguarReport’s John Shipley, Jaguars QB coach Mike McCoy wanted Kirk during the 2018 NFL Draft, and the rest of the team apparently agreed, drafting him in the second round.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Jaguars do the same if McCoy still feels strongly about him as he did for a short time as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator.
Kirk comes with some intrigue, too. Though he’s not blazing fast, he still ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at his combine and is a smooth route-runner up the seam. He doesn’t bring too much as far as physicality inside, but makes up for it with his quickness and has been a reliable target in Arizona over four seasons.
Kirk has a bit of an injury history, however. In 2018 he’d miss the final four games of his rookie season with a broken foot. In 2019, he would miss three games due to an ankle sprain, and he’d miss a game in 2020 with a groin injury. It should be noted though, those injuries appear to be behind him, not missing any time other than those eight games.
Still, Kirk has been pretty effective when he has been on the field, accounting for 77 catches, 982 yards and five touchdowns last year. Though, he wasn't as productive as one might expect with DeAndre Hopkins missing significant time. Kirk had just one 100-yard game last season, against the Jaguars in Week 3.
Ultimately, Kirk is a player with a ton of upside, who would benefit from having other options around him with an NFL offense that utilizes him in the slot and as a miss-match player. His projections, if he puts it all together, are through the roof.
How he fits:
Kirk would be a nice target for Jacksonville. He adds some versatility in the slot while offering Lawrence a receiver that has some legitimate upside. The downside is that Kirk is reportedly asking for around $15M per year, which would be a steep asking price for a receiver that has yet to cross the 1,000-yard threshold.
Considering his injury history and production issues at times, he could be a risk. But, if the Jaguars think they can get much more out of Kirk than Arizona did, then he could become one of the better free-agent receivers to sign in recent memory. That’s how much of a swing Kirk presents currently as a player.
KYLER MURRAY WITH AN ABSOLUTE TO CHRISTIAN KIRK pic.twitter.com/dYEtZsmMy1— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 20, 2020
Currently on roster (9): Cam Robinson, Ben Bartch, Jawaan Taylor, Walker Little, Brandon Linder, Tyler Shatley, Coy Cronk, Jared Hocker, Badara Traore
Brandon Scherff, 30, Washington Commanders
Scherff is expected to be pursued heavily by the Jaguars when free agency opens, for good reason. While he’s 30 years old, his play hasn’t been an issue. He’s graded out as one of the best guards in the NFL over the past several seasons, making the Pro Bowl five times, including in three-straight seasons.
His issue, however, has been his ability to even get on the field in the first place. Scherff has missed 24 games in his career and hasn’t played in more than 13 games since 2017. He has only two fully-healthy seasons, 2015 and 2016. Still, his production speaks for itself, being named a first-team All-Pro in 2020.
The Jaguars’ need at the position is obvious, they’re set to lose both their Week 1 starting guards in Norwell and Cann. The desperation out of the franchise is obvious, especially if they pay big money on a risk like Scherff, but he might be a risk worth taking.
How he fits:
Scherff was coached by Jaguars offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, who was in Washington as the team’s assistant OL coach from 2018-19. He’s an elite run and pass blocker, and would quickly become perhaps the best offensive lineman on the team if signed with Jacksonville.
The issue, of course, will be whether or not Scherff will be able to stay healthy, and with another injury-prone offensive lineman in Brandon Linder still on the roster, that will become even more curious to watch moving forward. Still, Scherff would fill a need and would certainly look fancy on paper.
Want to know how to open a hole at the goal line? Watch Brandon Scherff on this play. pic.twitter.com/dba2kUJifJ— John Keim (@john_keim) September 26, 2018
Bradley Bozeman, 27, Baltimore Ravens
One of the more up-and-coming players on the offensive line, Bozeman is set to hit free agency for the first time in his career after starting at both left guard and center over the past three seasons with the Ravens. He made the move to center just last season.
According to PFF, Bozeman has allowed just 11 sacks in his career, including three last season and two the year before. He’s allowed some pressures but has progressed as a player in each of the past three seasons and looks to cash in on that success.
“He’s been great,” Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler said earlier this year via RavensWire.
“Right off the bat when I signed here, he reached out right away and welcomed me, my wife and my family. It’s been great on and off the field with him. We had a really good rapport going with each other. I love playing next to him, and I think we’re doing some really good things. I really hope he’s back here next year.”
Bozeman is obviously well-liked, both on and off the field, and would be an intriguing young piece to add to an offensive line in desperate need of bodies at the moment.
How he fits:
Well, Bozeman is one of the more intriguing fits for Jacksonville, he has played his best season as a center but is still a good option to move inside if need be, having played there in the past. There are some rumors of Jacksonville being interested, so it may not matter to them very much where he plays.
Bozeman has some ties to a Jaguars coach. While he won’t be coaching him this year, Jaguars' tight ends coach Richard Angulo was the Ravens’ assistant offensive line coach over the past several seasons.
Laken Tomlinson, 30, San Francisco 49ers
Tomlison is a veteran guard who has been around for a while now. He began his career as a first-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2015 NFL Draft. But, Detroit didn’t feel they could ever get the most out of him after two years with the franchise, trading him for a fifth-round pick in 2017.
Tomlinson was acquired just after the 49ers parted ways with GM Trent Baalke, so the connection to the Jaguars isn’t at the front-office level. However, the Jaguars pass-game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was with the Lions from 2014-18 and likely has some familiarity with the guard.
Tomlinson’s play over the past several seasons hasn’t been bad. This year, especially, he was able to prove why he deserved to be selected in the first round, earning a Pro Bowl nod, while ranking eighth among left guards in PFF’s run-blocking grade (75.0) and ninth in PFF’s pass-blocking grade (75.2).
How he fits:
Simply put, the Jaguars have a huge hole at LG and there’s no lack of pride in simply filling it with a solid player, even if you feel there are better players down the road or players with more potential.
Laken Tomlinson pancaking Von Miller in pass pro pic.twitter.com/NX41IoGqWb— Mike (@bengals_sans) February 22, 2022
Currently on roster (3): Chris Manhertz, Dan Arnold, Luke Farrell
CJ Uzomah, 29, Cincinatti Bengals
Career stats: 163 receptions, 1,591 yards, 13 TDs
Uzomah is entering his eighth season in the NFL after playing the past seven years with the Bengals. He burst onto the scene in 2018, accounting for 43 receptions for 439 yards and three touchdowns, but really solidified himself as a nice go-to option for Bengals QB Joe Burrow last season, accounting for 49 receptions for 493 yards and five scores.
His production leaves something to be desired, and his injury history is shaky, but he played in 16 games last season and has played one other full season in his career. A late bloomer after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Uzomah comes as a complete tight end, able to block at the point of attack, while also catching the football, a threat in the red zone.
His drop percentage isn’t bad either, only accounting for four drops in 2021, a drop % of 6.3%. For anyone acquiring him, they’d have to do so under the expectations that he won’t be a game-breaker but could be a safety valve for a young QB moving forward as he was for Burrow last year.
How he fits:
The Jaguars are in desperate need of a tight end, and Baalke has already stated that the team is looking for help at the position. After trading for Arnold midseason last year, the team still found itself in a precarious situation with James O’Shaughnessy missing much of the year due to injury.
Now, O’Shaughnessy is set to become a free agent and while the team does like him as a player, he can’t be depended on moving forward, dealing with injuries throughout much of his time in Jacksonville. That same risk would be taken on with Uzomah, which would likely lead to some hesitation there.
If the Jaguars wanted to make a play at TE and Uzomah was the only one available, they’d probably be fine in doing so, but considering his risk and lack of top TE skillset, it’s tough to argue that he should fetch very much even from a desperate team.
Evan Engram, 27, New York Giants
Career stats: 262 receptions, 2,828 yards, 16 touchdowns
Engram, heading into his sixth year in the NFL, is one of the most confusing tight ends in the NFL. A pure receiving threat, he comes with a lot of potential, albeit it some appears to still be untapped.
After putting up stellar numbers during his rookie campaign - 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns -, he hasn’t been able to repeat the performance, not getting more than three touchdowns in each of the next four seasons following.
HE also comes with a bit of an injury history, missing games in four out of his five seasons in the NFL, including last season. He missed a total of 14 games over the course of his first three seasons in the league, and missed a couple of games this past season.
Still, he remains an intriguing weapon for any offense, given his skillset at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. He’s a mismatch in the slot going up against linebackers and smaller nickel cornerbacks.
How he fits:
Engram, like most free agents at skill positions, presents a massive risk for any team signing them. He comes with red flags that will likely linger throughout his career in terms of a lack of production in an offense that had very few weapons, along with his injury history.
For the Jaguars, the team already has a slot-tight end role player in Arnold but absolutely can stand to acquire another. Engram doesn’t provide much in the run-blocking game, grading our poorly in that area throughout much of his career, according to PFF.
Still, Jacksonville needs weapons for Lawrence, period, and if Engram can be had on a cheap, one-year contract similar to the one that Eric Ebron received from the Pittsburgh Steelers some time ago, it could be a sneaky good signing to help a QB in need of assistance.
Daniel Jones goes deep to Evan Engram for a 30-yard touchdown over Johnathan Abrams.pic.twitter.com/WiGSCjDZ8i— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 7, 2021
Mo Alie-Cox, 26, Indianapolis Colts
Career stats: 70 receptions, 936 yards, eight touchdowns
He’s been sort of overlooked throughout this year’s free agency period, but Alie-Cox is an intriguing player, who has shown growth over the past two seasons while playing for the Colts, who have struggled at the QB position as of late.
His average of 12.9 yards per reception over the past two years gives credence to how he can be used, even with a lack of great production.
He caught 24 receptions for 315 yards and four touchdowns last year.
Still a young player, Alie-Cox has plenty of room to grow after being signed by the team in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. Alie-Cox didn’t begin his career playing football, he was a four-year basketball player in college at Virginia Commonwealth University. He hadn’t played football since his freshman year of high school.
Still, at 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, Alie-Cox ran a 4.75 40-yard dash and jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical jump. He posted a broad jump of 10-feet, 2-inches as well. His athleticism is obvious, and it’s clear to see why he has had some success in Indy.
Unlike Engram, Alie-Cox does bring something in the run-blocking game, too, posting above-average numbers throughout his four-year career in Indy with over 200 run-block snaps in each of the past three seasons, including 304 last year - his best run-blocking season at a grade of 71.4.
How he fits:
The Jaguars are going to be familiar with Alie-Cox, with scouts watching him up close over the past few years, and with offensive coordinator Press Taylor having been in Indy last season. He would be a projection signing, with the hope of getting more out of him than he showed at Indy, while still being fine with the continued production he has shown in the past.
Alie-Cox shouldn’t come at a steep price tag. He hasn’t been nearly productive enough to do so, but given free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get above what others may expect. A team flush with space, though, shouldn’t necessarily worry about overpaying a bit in order to try to find diamonds in the rough, and Alie-Cox could be one.
Former VCU basketball player Mo Alie-Cox with a ridiculous touchdown catch pic.twitter.com/FiXVaMyjig— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) October 28, 2018
Others: Maxx Williams (Arizona Cardinals), Robert Tonyan (Green Bay Packers), OJ Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Currently on roster (8): Shaq Griffin, Tyson Campbell, Rayshawn Jenkins, Daniel Thomas, Andre Cisco, Brandon Rusnak, Chris Claybrooks, Rudy Ford
Bryce Callahan, 30, Denver Broncos
Career stats: 194 combined tackles, 15 TFLs, 29 PBUs, Six INTs
Callahan at age 31 is still a highly productive coverage player, at least when he’s on the field. According to PFF, he’s graded out above average in coverage over the past four seasons, though he was a bit down in 2021 with a grade of 67.9. Previously, Callahan posted a career-high coverage grade of 86.7 in 2020.
Throughout his career, he’s allowed 61.5% of passes completed on him for 1,583 yards and just four touchdowns. He’s also posted six interceptions and 24 pass breakups. He’s allowed an average of 9.7 yards per reception while allowing a career-low of 7.1 YPR in 2020.
In 2020, Callahan graded out as one of the best slot average players in the league, allowing just six receptions on 14 targets for 41 yards and two interceptions. That was on 120 slot coverage snaps. The next player below him was Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who allowed six receptions for 40 yards on 12 targets.
His ability to play in coverage is strong, and he’s been one of the better nickels in the league for good reason. Though he does have some lapses in the run game, he makes up for it in all other areas.
How he fits:
The Jaguars don’t currently have a true slot corner on the roster, currently. Last season, they began the year with second-round pick Tyson Campbell at the position, but when CJ Henderson got hurt and eventually traded, they moved him outside, a better fit for the young defensive back.
They then were in a bind, having to use impending free agent Tre Herndon, who struggled mightily in part due to a knee injury that he never truly came back from. That led to some creativity with safety/special teams player Rudy Ford having to cover the slot, and while he impressed in short time, that quickly faded as the year went on.
Callahan’s injury history is an issue, he’s never played a full season in the NFL and has missed 12 games over the past three seasons alone. His signing would be a major risk in that you don’t know how many games he will ultimately play moving forward. That’s a red flag.
Still, the team could use a player of his caliber and if he’s able to play in the majority of games throughout next season, then it’s a win for the young Jacksonville defense.
Bryce Callahan appreciation post.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 15, 2020
: CBS pic.twitter.com/kvzOJGIfaP
Tyrann Mathieu, 29, Kansas City Chiefs
Career stats: 610 combined tackles, 41 TFLs, 25 QB hits, 76 PBUs, 26 INTs
Mathieu will be 30 years old when the season begins but is still one of the most productive and physical safety/cornerbacks in the league today. He packs a punch at just 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and has been a highly productive player for the Cardinals, Houston Texans and Chiefs throughout his career.
Over the past five years, Mathieu has played in nearly all of his games, missing just a couple over the past two seasons. He has made the Pro Bowl in three of his seasons while earning first-team All-Pro in four others.
His talent is impressive, and he’s had at least one interception in every year of his career, including 13 interceptions over the past three seasons alone. He has a total of 26 picks throughout his career. Mathieu has also racked up plenty of tackles for loss with 41 throughout his career.
He’s a player that can play both in the slot at corner or back at safety as more of a rover and has thrived as a result.
How he fits:
Mathieu is an ideal player for any defense so long as you don’t pigeonhole him into just one spot. He can play all around defensively and would make the Jaguars a better team as a result. He brings much-needed veteran leadership to any team he plays for and has the stats to back it up.
Even though he’s 30 years old, the team would be better off with him than without. Though they didn’t coach his position group, both defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and defensive line coach Brentston Buckner are familiar with Mathieu, having coached in Arizona while he was a player there in 2013-14.
Jordan Whitehead, 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career stats: 292 combined tackles, 22 TFLs, 25 PBUs, Five INTs
At just 24 years old, Whitehead has steadily become one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. Primarily an in-the-box player, he has showcased his run-stopping ability and physicality throughout his time in Tampa.
Now, Whitehead hits free agency with an expected robust market ahead of him. Over four seasons, Whitehead has accounted for five interceptions, including two in each of the past two seasons, 222 solo tackles, 22 tackles for loss and two sacks.
He doesn’t necessarily make his money in coverage but hasn’t been bad in that area, either, grading out positively, according to PFF.
He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Buccaneers, and the team likely wants to keep him, but are too cap-strapped to do so, especially with Brady announcing his return on Sunday night.
How he fits:
It would be intriguing to see if the Jaguars go this route. The team already paid a safety in Rayshawn Jenkins last season, and drafted its potential starting free safety in Andre Cisco in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, the team could use a player like Whitehead, especially if Jenkins doesn’t play up to what his contract entails.
Both Caldwell and safeties coach Cody Grimm are plenty aware of Whitehead having worked with him over the past few seasons while with the Bucs, and it would be intriguing to see how they’d use him. It also wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Jaguars use three safeties, able to put its best players on the field at the same time.
Whitehead would be more of a luxury than a signing that is necessary, but the Jaguars can always do with more good players, quite simply.
Others: JC Jackson (New England Patriots), Kevin King (Green Bay Packers), Darius Williams (Los Angeles Rams)
Currently on roster (4): Josh Allen, Jordan Smith, K’Lavon Chaisson, Dawuane Smoot
Chandler Jones, 32, Arizona Cardinals
Career stats: 473 combined tackles, 107.5 sacks, 118 TFLs, 195 QB hits
Jones has been one of the best edge defenders in the NFL since he began his career in New England, drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s spent the past six seasons with the Cardinals after spending four seasons with the Patriots before getting traded.
In his career, he’s put together seven years of 10 or more sacks in just 10 seasons in the NFL. He had an NFL-best 17 sacks in 2017 and has been voted to the Pro Bowl three times while being named first-team All-Pro twice in his career (2017 and 2019).
His talent is unmistakable, and he’s made plays every chance he has.
Though he’s 31, Jones is still plenty productive, posting 10.5 sacks just last year. It should be noted, however, that he posted five sacks in the team’s first matchup of the season against the Tennessee Titans. He’s slowed down a tad, but still demands double teams and would be a force for at least a few seasons with any team that signs him.
Looking for one last major payday, Jones is likely going to come with a hefty price tag but could be worth it for a team that is in desperate need of help with its pass rush.
How he fits:
The Jaguars are in desperate need of help opposite of fourth-year outside linebacker/EDGE Josh Allen. Though the team invested a first-round pick in K’Lavon Chaisson just two years ago, he has yet to produce much of anything, accounting for just two sacks in his career, one during each of the past two seasons.
Jones would help in that area while still allowing the team to address the position in the draft due to his age. Ironically, this could be a similar signing to that of Calais Campbell in 2017, signing a player up there in age a bit but still with some juice left in the tank. Both players would come from Arizona as well.
The Jaguars, of course, have plenty of familiarity with Jones. Buckner was Jones’ defensive line coach during the 2016-17 seasons. This would be a savvy move from Baalke if he were to make the play.
Haason Reddick, 27, Arizona Cardinals
Career stats: 323 combined tackles, 45 TFLs, 50 QB hits, 31 sacks
Reddick at age 27 is just now entering his prime and is coming off of his best two seasons in the NFL after being moved to outside linebacker with both the Cardinals in 2020 and the Carolina Panthers in 2021. He has had at least 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons with 12.5 coming in 2020.
Though it did take a while, Reddick appears to have found his groove as a pass rusher and even while not being used correctly, has still been able to put up pressures when he has been asked to just rush the passer. His run defense isn’t half bad either, graded out positively in 2021, according to PFF with a grade of 70.4.
He would account for 35 stops with the team and missed just seven tackles.
Reddick is a bit of a gamble given his lack of production early in his career, but that can just be cast aside as the team not using him in the way they ought to have.
He hasn’t missed many games, in fact, he played in all 16 games since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, though he did miss one game last season, starting in 16.
How he fits:
Reddick would bring a much-needed pass rush to Jacksonville, but at a different level to that of Jones. He’s just now hitting his prime and has plenty of room to grow, too. Jacksonville is also familiar with the young player with Buckner on the coaching staff.
Now, the team would be able to have some help opposite of Allen and not have to worry as much about Chaisson coming off the edge.
Haason Reddick had himself a complete revenge game on Sunday pic.twitter.com/0hDSK5E07n— Billy M (@BillyM_91) November 18, 2021
Emmanuel Ogbah, 28, Miami Dolphins
Career stats: 237 combined tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 85 QB hits, 36 sacks
Ogbah is another player that took a while to get going. He will be 29 years old when the season begins this year but has been a force to be reckoned with during his past two seasons with Miami. He was drafted originally by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
He hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2019 when he was with the Chiefs for a season. At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, Ogbah is a true defensive end, with not too much ability to stand up. He still would be a versatile defensive lineman for anyone to sign in free agency if they wanted to.
He totaled 61 pressures last season and 66 the year previously, the best statistical seasons in his career, according to PFF. His run defense was graded positively as well, coming in at 60.8.
Ogbah is a risky player as you don’t know how much more he has to grow, but there’s no question that he has the ability to play and would be a versatile defender for any team that signs him.
How he fits:
As mentioned previously, Ogbah is a bit of a risk, but he comes with a nice background, especially over the past couple of seasons. The Jaguars are in need of help both inside and out of its defensive line and there hasn’t been any indication of what Caldwell’s scheme would ultimately be.
Signing good players would be a good start for any team, however, and Ogbah certainly has the history of being just that.
Emmanuel Ogbah recorded 59 total pressures last season – the most among true 'defensive ends' (h/t SIS)pic.twitter.com/sF9aew0KAw— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) June 28, 2021
Others: Randy Gregory (Dallas Cowboys), Jadeveon Clowney (Cleveland Browns), Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens), Za’Darius Smith (Green Bay Packers)
Currently on roster (8): Tyrell Adams, Dakota Allen, Myles Jack, Jamir Jones, Dylan Moses, Shaquille Quarterman, Chapelle Russell, Elijah Sullivan
De’Vondre Campbell, 28, Green Bay Packers
Career stats: 608 combined tackles, 31 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 24 PBUs
Campbell began his career with the Atlanta Falcons, drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. As his Twitter handle indicates, he’s come a long way since then, having started 86 games in his career, including 54 starts over four years with the Falcons and 16 starts with the Cardinals and most recently, Packers.
His best season would come last year, however, voted as a First-Team All-Pro, and the numbers tell the tale of why. According to PFF, Campbell graded out as the third-best linebacker in the NFL with a defensive grade of 85.0. He was a force in the run game and was an elite tackler while providing great numbers in coverage.
He would force two pass breakups, while also intercepting the ball two other times. According to PFF, he allowed 62 receptions for just 450 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Campbell accounted for 55 stops on the year, totaling 117 tackles.
Campbell will be 29 when the season begins, and his lack of production at the level he had with GB is the concern.
How he fits:
The Jaguars are in need of help at the linebacker position. The team is set to lose Wilson in free agency, though he can still be brought back. Campbell would instantly provide the team with an upgrade inside next to Myles Jack and become one of the leaders of the defense.
The Packers defense took a massive step forward in 2021 and De'Vondre Campbell was a HUGE part of that.— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) February 15, 2022
He must be a top priority heading into the offseason.pic.twitter.com/ZW61ieQVVZ
Foyesade Oluokun, 26, Atlanta Falcons
Career stats: 462 combined tackles, 12 TFLs, 18 QB hits, 11 PBUs, five interceptions
Oluokun will be 27 when he starts this upcoming season and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 Draft by the Falcons. After starting 10 games through the first two seasons of his career, Oluokun has quickly become an integral part of the Falcons’ defense and a tackling machine.
He’s recorded 309 total tackles over the past two seasons, along with 16 QB hits, five sacks, five forced fumbles, 10 pass breakups and five interceptions. He totaled a league-high 192 total tackles in 17 games with Atlanta this past season.
He’s missed just one game in his career and has started a total of 41. This past season he didn't grade out very well, according to PFF, but he still brings a ton of speed at the second level of defense and totaled three interceptions and six pass breakups last season.
Oluokun may not be a finished product quite yet, but he’s shown plenty of progress over the past couple of years to consider a long-term contract, somewhere.
How he fits:
For the same reasons as Campbell does, Oluokun has the chops to be a force on the inside at linebacker for Jacksonville. He’s a tackling machine and would mesh well with Jack on the inside, able to provide a coverage player and a stour tackler to the mix.
Foyesade Oluokun Will Command the Defense as the starting MLB for Washington in 2022 and Beyond He has everything you want in a Linebacker would be a home run signing #WashingtonFootball— SwayRun21 (@swayyrun21) January 14, 2022
• 192 Tackles
• 3 Picks
• 2 Sacks
Full video click here : https://t.co/Vd2OxknkoU pic.twitter.com/1bHgJ3NJHF
Others: Damien Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Kyzir White, A.J. Johnson, Leighton Vander Esch.