Jacksonville Jaguars 2016 Free Agency: Franchise tag could hurt Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the midst of the most important offseason in the short history of the David Caldwell-Gus Bradley era and they need to make huge gains to ensure a winning record in 2016.
The first step in improving the roster starts in the coming months as the team targets players to go after when free agency “officially” begins on March 15.
Last year, the Jaguars had a handful of big targets to go after but some of those players weren’t available due to either being franchise tagged or re-signing with their current team.
This year, the deadline for franchise tagging players is March 7th and there are going to be more than a few big names who will nab headlines that day.
Of the candidates, the most obvious ones to receive the franchise tag are Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller. Those two are elite players at their position and their teams would be insane to not make cap room and bring them back.
One guy who should be tagged but possibly won’t be is Miami Dolphins pass rusher Olivier Vernon. Pro Football Focus ranks him 3rd among players who should receive the tag:
"3. Oliver Vernon, DE, Miami DolphinsTagging Vernon might be a stretch, solely due to the Dolphins’ current cap situation, but moves could be made to free up enough space to keep him. From a production standpoint, Vernon was our third-ranked edge defender this season behind the aforementioned Mack and Miller. He ranked in the top five of edge defenders with a 9.2 run-stop percentage, and his 81 total pressures were fifth-most among all defenders. With Cameron Wake celebrating his 34th birthday last weekend (while also still recovering from a torn Achilles), keeping Vernon is shaping up to be the main objective for Miami’s defensive success moving forward."
The Dolphins need to get creative with their cap situation to keep Vernon, because tagging him would mean an inordinate amount of money would be invested along the defensive line thanks to Ndamukong Suh‘s contract.
Vernon is the chess piece the Jaguars hope sneaks into free agency. Nabbing a pass rusher of his level to pair with Dante Fowler Jr. would free the Jaguars up to do virtually whatever they wanted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Defensive line, linebacker, and defensive back would all still be in play without the added pressure of having to find another piece for the defensive line.
My gut says Vernon hits the market – hopefully the Jaguars are ready with an enticing offer.