Defense is the top priority, but should the Jaguars pursue an offensive lineman?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are firmly in the offseason with a new defensive coordinator in Todd Wash and the opportunity (yet again) to coach the Senior Bowl. While the coaching staff works to evaluate which seniors can contribute if drafted, we turn our attention to the next important date in the NFL calendar – free agency.
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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.
There are numerous positions the Jaguars need to upgrade so we’ll periodically look at each one in the coming weeks.
While we’ve exclusively looked at defensive prospects, for good reason, the Jacksonville offense is far from perfect. While Blake Bortles and the weapons at receiver helped turn the Jacksonville offense into one of the most explosive units in the entire league, the running game left plenty to be desired and the offensive line was manhandled against upper-echelon competition.
Projecting ahead, one can safely assume 4 of the starters along the offensive line are already locked in for 2016 – Luke Joeckel at left tackle, Jermey Parnell at right tackle, and Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann at the two guard positions.
So the Jaguars need a center… unless the center is already on the roster.
Luke Bowanko aside, the Jaguars have plenty of options at the center position if they decide to try out Cann or Linder at that spot, something the team has publicly discussed since the end of the season.
With all these options, should the Jaguars open up their wallets to try and lure in a new offensive lineman in free agency? Some speculated Alex Mack might be available, but he has yet to opt out of his deal in Cleveland.
Another player who will likely be available is Pro Football Focus’ 2nd-highest rated free agent among offensive lineman:
"2. Kelechi Osemele, G/OT (79.6)2015 team: Baltimore RavensIn his first full and healthy season at guard in 2014, Osemele had a breakout year that put him among the best left guards in the league. His strength is in the run game, but that doesn’t diminish his success as a pass protector. Over the past two regular seasons, Osemele has had just two below average games as a pass blocker—one of which came while playing tackle—and he’s averaged fewer than one pressure allowed per game when at guard. And while Osemele is best-suited to play guard, he offers proven positional versatility that none of the other top offensive line free agents can provide by being capable of playing either tackle position if needed."
Signing Osemele would give the Jaguars the option of moving Linder or Cann to center, giving them by far the strongest offensive line group they’ve had since the late 1990s. Signing Osemele might seem like a luxury, because it sort of is. The Jaguars absolutely have to spend money on defensive players this offseason, but the offensive line still wasn’t “good” in 2015. Another year under Doug Marrone should help, but they will also take a long look at Osemele if he doesn’t re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens.