The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a relatively quiet offseason. Over the last couple of years, fans have become accustomed to seeing expensive free-agent signings and early big-name picks in the NFL Draft. However, the success of the 2022 season has put the Jaguars in the unfamiliar position of being able to simply add competition to their roster rather than overhaul it.
Now, Jacksonville did make one splash move back in November when they traded for former Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, but since then, they haven’t made much noise. The early window of free agency saw the team’s biggest move come by way of signing a new kicker, while their 2023 draft class was highlighted by an offensive tackle in Anton Harrison, who the Jags selected 27th overall after trading back twice in the first round.
While a lot can (and will) happen before the start of the 2023 NFL season, it does feel as though general manager Trent Baalke and company are content with what they’ve done thus far. They’re clearly confident that the core group of guys from last year’s playoff run will take another step towards being a potential Super Bowl threat.
However, there is still room for improvement on the roster, with the most notable need being at edge rusher. Jacksonville’s depth behind Josh Allen and Travon Walker currently consists of K’Lavon Chaisson (three career sacks), Jordan Smith (two career games played), and Yasir Abdullah (sixth-round rookie).
The lack of talent behind their top two guys can be a major problem when we get deep into the season; and potentially into the playoffs. This is why the Jaguars should prioritize signing one of the following available free agent edge rushers.
1. Yannick Ngakoue
Perhaps the most obvious name that comes to mind is that of former “Sacksonville” member Yannick Ngakoue. A third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ngakoue spent four seasons in Duval before being traded ahead of the 2020 season after he and the team were unable to work out a long-term deal. Since then, Ngakoue has bounced around the league but has continued to maintain his production no matter where he signs.
In his seven years in the NFL, the former Terrapin has tallied at least eight sacks every season, which is a level of consistency the Jaguars desperately need. Signing a true speed rusher like Ngakoue would allow for more versatility in defensive alignments, specifically in regard to Travon Walker, who could kick inside situationally if a move like this were to happen.
With over $12 million in cap space, Ngakoue could be a realistic target if he decides he wants to return to Jacksonville on a short-term deal. He’s even been vocal recently about money being secondary to his desire to join a championship contender, so it’s looking more and more like the perfect addition at this stage of free agency.
Free agent Pro Bowl standout edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue said that money isn’t what he’s thinking about as much as finding a team with a stable home where he can grow and would also like to play for a contender:— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) June 2, 2023
“I definitely want to play for a contender, play for a team and… pic.twitter.com/9XTMkV3CwC
2. Kyle Van Noy
Another player I really like as a fit for Jacksonville’s defense is nine-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion Kyle Van Noy. The former second-round pick back in 2014 has developed into a quality hybrid linebacker who specializes in getting after the quarterback and stopping the run. Over his last six seasons, Van Noy has racked up 31.5 sacks, and he’s done so while lining up all over the field.
That invaluable versatility paired with his veteran leadership makes him a quality target as a potential addition to this young Jaguars pass-rushing unit. At 32 years old, Van Noy isn’t likely to be in line for any long-term deals, making him an ideal option for a cap-strapped team looking to reach the next level in 2023.
3. Justin Houston
What better way to cap off this list than with a future Hall of Famer in Justin Houston? The 12-year vet is fresh off a 9.5 sack season in Baltimore, which brought his career total to an incredible 111.5 sacks, good for 39th all-time in the NFL. The 34-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down and is exactly the type of guy that title contenders look to add at this stage of free agency.
Houston to Jacksonville is a great fit for a lot of reasons. Not only would he be a huge help in boosting a Jags pass-rushing unit that finished in the bottom fourth of the league in sack production (35), but it would also allow Houston another opportunity to chase the Super Bowl ring that has somehow eluded him to this point. Assuming his asking price isn’t too high, the Jags would be foolish not to at least consider this move ahead of the 2023 NFL season.
These three vets are my ideal options for Jacksonville when it comes to available free agents. Did I miss any big names, Jaguars fans?