The Jacksonville Jaguars are firmly in the offseason, having already fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich and started a search for ways to improve the roster.
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While the offense made enormous strides in quarterbackBlake Bortles
‘ second season, the defense regressed and had it’s worst season as far as production in head coach Gus Bradley’s tenure. Heading into his 4th season, Bradley needs to make big changes and show drastic improvement on that side of the ball to win more games and subsequently keep his job.
The first way to improve that side of the ball (after finding a new defensive coordinator) is free agency. As is the custom, plenty of big names currently on the market will be franchise tagged or re-signed before free agency actually begins, but there will be a handful of difference makers available on the market.
There are numerous positions the Jaguars need to upgrade so we’ll periodically look at each one in the coming weeks.
Let’s move on to by far the Jaguars most dire need on either side of the ball – pass rusher.
We talked about the Jaguars pursuing pass rushers in free agency already (particularly the emerging Olivier Vernon from Miami), but there are more candidates on the market, or at least likely to be on the market.
One option that could come up is a guy the Jaguars were interested in a few years ago – Mario Williams.
Tyler Spinnenweber over NFL Spin Zone discussed the possibility of Williams in Jacksonville recently:
"You can never have too many pass rushers, and it’s likely Mario Williams is done in Buffalo.Connor Orr of NFL.com (via Ian Rapoport) said back on December 20th,"
“Don’t be surprised if Williams doesn’t return to Buffalo next season and hits the free-agent market. There is a “clear, fundamental disconnect” between Rex Ryan and his defensive line and Williams might be at the heart of the trouble.”
"Williams, who will turn 31 in a few weeks, is likely on the decline after only getting to the quarterback five times in 2015. However, he would still be an upgrade over Andre Branch and Chris Clemons. Williams can be a mentor for 2014 first round pick Dante Fowler, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.If the Jaguars are able to ink Williams, and also bring in Olivier Vernon, they will have one of the better defensive lines in the league."
While Williams would certainly present an upgrade over Clemons and Branch, he seems like an odd fit. He has been a talented and productive edge rusher for most of his career, but it’s fair to say he regressed enormously in 2015 under Rex Ryan.
After posting sack totals of 10.5, 13, and 14.5 in 2012, 2013, and 2014, Williams only managed 5 sacks this season. Some cited a lack of effort, but it’s more likely that the new scheme under Rex Ryan incorrectly utilized Williams and diminished his opportunities to get to the quarterback.
If Williams does get released, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of contract he’ll garner. If the Jaguars do show interest, it’ll likely be for him to play a complementary role and not to be the primary LEO rusher on every down.
Make no bones about it – the Jaguars need to bring in multiple pass rushers this offseason. David Caldwell said as much in a recent talk during the “Jaguars Thursday” radio program. We’ll learn just how many they do bring in over the next few months.