We knew the Jaguars would spend liberally once the free-agency signing period began on Thursday. The more important question was would they spend wisely.
It’s still too soon to know.
The A.J. Bouye signing (five years, $65 million, $26 million guaranteed) was as risky as it was big, the Jags paying big for a player who didn’t even start last year until injuries forced the Texans hand.
In a thin cornerback market, though, he was considered the top corner available, which is what happens when you break up 16 passes in a season for a playoff team, which is what Bouye did last year.
The problem is that Bouye intercepted just one pass last season, so to make this deal work, the Jags are going to want see Bouye turn a lot more of those pass breakups into picks.
The signing of defensive end Calais Campbell was a big one, too, but the chances of the Jags getting their money’s worth here are a little better as Campbell has clearly established himself as a disruptive force.
The question you have to have, though, is why the Cardinals let him go and why the Bucs, whose general manager – Jason Licht – knows Campbell as well as anyone outside of Arizona, passed.
The good news is that most of the $30 million that Campbell is guaranteed in the four-year, $60 million deal will be paid out over the course of the first two years.
That will allow the Jags to quickly move on from this deal if it fails to work out in the short term, and with Campbell on the back side of 30, there’s a chance that could happen.
As it is, though, it’s hard to knock the Jaguars for taking a run at Campbell. After all, he’s a playmaker who can play end or tackle and should make the Jags defensive front much better.
As for the Barry Church signing, the Jags added versatility to a spot where they needed it after Johnathan Cyprien proved to be a disappointment.
Church is actually one of the more underrated safeties in the league and it seems the Jaguars agree, because they’re going to pay him an average of about $6 million a year.
Yes, that’s a bit pricey, but when free agency rolls around Grade B players get paid like Grade A players, and while the Jags appear to have done that in triplicate, they had little choice.
The Jags have clearly begun to rebuild their team under new architect Tom Coughlin and each of the moves they’ve made here in the first wave of free agency so far filled needs.
What remains to be seen is just how much better they make the Jags. The secondary should be a lot better with Bouye and Church and the D-line should be better with Campbell, but the Jaga can’t lay it all on the new guys.
The holdovers the Jags have so far agreed to hold on to have to be better, too. If they’re not, then it won’t matter how much better the newcomers are, they still won’t be good enough to make the difference they’re being paid to make.