Market Watch: Jaguars' Potential Free Safety Targets, Pt. I

Source: nctimes.com

Free agency is getting closer and closer with the Lockout soon to be lifted. This week, we’ll be checking the pulse of some of the hottest targets at the positions the Jaguars will be shopping for…

  • Eric Weddle, San Diego

Who is he? Weddle is considered one of the most complete free safeties in the league, playing very well against the run and pass. He’s only 26 years old, so would not be a “band-aid” or “patch” type signing, instead becoming an instant building block for the back end of the defense. According to ProFootballFocus, he was the #3 ranked overall safety last year and finished the year with 2 INT’s, 8 passes defensed, and 1 sack. Somewhat troubling though were Weddle’s 13 missed tackles, tying him for 4th most amongst safeties.

How does the market for Weddle and other safeties look? How are the Jaguars feeling about each of these prospects? Find out after the jump…

How’s the market look? Weddle is pretty much the consensus top free agent safety and will be a VERY sought-after target, if San Diego is unable to re-sign him. AJ Smith has shown that he isn’t quick to stroke a fat paycheck to his own (just ask Vincent Jackson or Marcus McNeil), so if Weddle wants big time money (he will), Smith will likely let him walk.

What are they saying? Returning to San Diego, but “at the right price”, seems to be Weddle’s top choice. He told SiriusXM Blitz that his agent has already spoken with 10 teams about signing him and given the scarcity of free agent safeties and Weddle’s clear #1 status, he projects to get a very fat contract. It’s tough to say what the Chargers are thinking – they have a lot of strong safeties on the roster and signed Bob Sanders just before the lockout, so maybe they’re thinking one playmaker and some depth is enough to get by. Given AJ Smith’s stingy history and the hot market for Weddle, I think a reunion tour is unlikely in Sunny D.

Jaguars Prognosis: Gene Smith said in this June article from Jaguars.com that the team needs “more playmaking” in the backfield and needs to “get stronger down the middle” of the defense. He also added, “I feel like with who we drafted, and with bringing a safety in pro free agency, we’re going to be a team that’s going to solidify the middle of the defense,” which to me says that he wants to sign a mid-level veteran to duke it out with Prosinski and Don Carey and that the best man of that trio should be enough to stabilize the position, at least for 2011. Looking back at last year, Aaron Kampman was a big-name signing, but because of his injury, he had less suitors competing for his service and his contract ultimately came at a discount. Weddle is going to be a top-dollar free agent and the Jaguars aren’t going to buck up that kind of dough at a non-premium position.

  • Michael Huff, Oakland

Who is he? After a slow start to his career, Huff broke out big time in 2010 and became a certified playmaker. His statline included: 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 4 sacks, 7 passes defensed, and several QB pressures – that’s a lot of impact from the free safety position. Warren Sapp (who played with Huff for two years in Oakland) has openly criticized Huff, especially his work ethic and practice habits – he has said to have improved in this area recently, whether that’s because of maturity or because of impending free agency is left to be determined.

How’s the market look? Huff is another one of the top names in the safety market, but has not been linked to as many teams as Weddle. Interesting, he was pretty much considered a bust last year after being picked #7 overall in 2006 and the Raiders were actively shopping him last spring. He had a huge season, but teams may be apprehensive that this was a one year push for a big contract and nothing more.

What are they saying? Like Weddle, Huff has stated that he’d prefer to stay in Oakland, but all of the smoke signals point to Oakland feeling a little differently. First of all, they have some guys in line for contracts ahead of Huff including: Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley, and Stanford Routt. Tyvon Branch has been a big playmaker at strong safety and the depth chart has several guys who are capable of starting. Also, the Raiders made no effort to put a Restricted FA tag on Huff before the lockout and Oakland beat writers are adamant that Oakland will not try to match big-money offers for him. The only buzz out there for Huff seems to be in Dallas, where local writers are heavily linking him to the Cowboys, who have a big need at safety.

Jaguars Prognosis: The Jaguars aren’t going to offer Huff the money he’ll be looking for. Gene Smith’s style is to sign overperforming, blue collar-type players, not award fat contracts to underperforming top 10 picks who finally break out in their contract year and have a reputation for poor work ethic. Expect the Jaguars to Huff-Huff-pass on this one.

  • Dashon Goldson

Who is he? Goldson had a down year in 2010, after emerging as a big-time playmaker in the previous season. This can likely be attributed to the numerous injuries he played through last year, including a deep knee bruise, sprained ankle, partially torn plantar fascia, and a wrist injury. His playmaking and coverage definitely suffered from these injuries, but he hasn’t rated particularly well in either ’09 or ’10 on PFF.

How’s the market look? The 49ers have said they hope to re-sign Goldson, but they have a number of free agents hitting the open market.  As for other San Fran free agents – Alex Smith likely won’t have much of a market and will be easy to re-sign and Manny Lawson will probably be allowed to leave, leaving Goldson and Ray McDonald as the big priorities.

What are they saying?: Like everyone else, Goldson has said he wants to stay put and get signed to a nice long term contract, keeping himself and his family happy in the Bay Area for many years. The 49ers front office has been a little mum – it seems like they’d like to keep Goldson, but have their hands full with several free agents and haven’t given a definitive statement on anyone yet. San Fran-area media outlets seem to be torn; some of them think the 49ers will be able to keep Goldson and some think he’ll be too expensive to retain – all of them expect a big market for him, though.

Jaguars Prognosis: Goldson could be the kind of player the Jags take a shot at – he’s a hard-working 4th rounder and didn’t have eye-popping measurables. He’s the kind of guy who earned his keep and may come with a reduced sticker price because nagging injuries took their toll on his statline last year. Could he be the next Kampman-esque signing? We’ll see, but the way the media talks about him, it sounds like the market will still be steep for Goldson and he may be a pay grade above what GM Gene is willing to pay for a non-premium position.

Part II tomorrow…

– Andrew Hofheimer

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Tags: Chris Prosinski Dashon Goldson Don Carey Eric Weddle Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars Michael Huff

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