So, now that the free-agency tampering period is here, who do we think the biggest spenders will be once the actual free-agency signing period begins on Thursday?
Well, it should come as no surprise that many, including NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, believes the Jaguars will be one of them.
The Jaguars have long been big spenders in free agency. Since the arrival of owner Shad Khan in 2011 they have consistently taken that route in their attempt to make up for mistakes made on draft day.
Clearly the approach hasn’t worked but with $71 million in cap space and a general manager and head coach who have to impress the organization’s new headmaster, Tom Coughlin, the purse strings are open again.
The Jaguars are already said to be among the teams that will most heavily pursue Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and no one should be surprised if they don’t stop there.
Despite the changeover at the top and at head coach the Jags are a team that is desperate to win now and re-energize a dwindling fan base and one way to try to do that is to build through free agency.
It’s probably not the smartest way, because it’s an expensive high-risk approach to go after players with little upside, but if the Campbell pursuit is any indication, the Jags are heading down that road again.
So, who could be coming to Jacksonville? Well, the Jags are ready to move on from the starters they’ve had at key positions such as left tackle, cornerback and safety so you can start there. They did trade for the Dolphins LT Branden Albert last month, but they line is still in flux.
Don’t be surprised if the Jags get into the Ricky Wagner sweepstakes or make a play for Riley Reiff to fix themselves at tackle or take a stab at T.J. Lang or Kevin Zeitler to step in at guard.
It’s almost certain they’ll make a play for cornerbacks, as wrote here last week. Those names are possibly A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore or Logan Ryan and they’ll probably be in play for safeties such as Tony Jefferson and Micah Hyde.
Many others, including running back Latavius Murry and Eddie Lacy and maybe even tight ends Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook could get a call from the Jags as well.
As they usually do this time of year, the Jags are going to be looking to make a splash. Based on their track record, though, you really have to wonder how much of a splash it will create when it matters most.
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?