The Jacksonville Jaguars are heading into a “make or break” season for head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell after finishing with only 5 wins in year 3 of their rebuild. Their 12-36 record since 2013 is the worst margin the NFL (tied with Tennessee and Tampa Bay).
Despite the lack of recent success, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Jaguars prospects in 2016. The most pertinent of those reasons at this moment is the copious amount of cap space at Caldwell’s disposal.
With what is effectively an unlimited budget heading into free agency, Caldwell can and should go after the premium players who are available come March.
We recently discussed taking a risk and overpaying Miami Dolphins edge rusher Olivier Vernon, but another player who is coming off a monster season and would help upgrade the defensive line is Denver Broncos lineman Malik Jackson. Pro Football Focus thinks the Jaguars should make him a primary target in free agency:
"Coming off a strong run of play in the postseason for the Super Bowl champions, Jackson (86.9) is poised to be one of the premier players available this offseason. An outstanding pass-rusher from the defensive interior, he racked up seven sacks, 12 hits, and 56 hurries in 2015, adding seven batted passes as the cherry on top. Making this even better for the Jaguars if they were to bring him in, he spent some time as an edge defender in 2014, and held his own there, too. Jackson is the type of player who could have a huge impact on the Jacksonville defense."
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If Jackson were to come to the Jaguars, he’d likely be employed in the 3-technique role currently manned by Sen’Derrick Marks. Jackson isn’t a true 4-3 end, but he could also likely rotate to the “big end” position Jared Odrick played last year.
Regardless of where he plays, Jackson has tremendous value to the Jaguars and should be on the list of top targets if he hits the open market. Like Vernon, Jackson is going to command a massive contract, something the Jaguars can accommodate quite comfortably.
Whether or not Jackson wants to sign with the Jaguars is another issue, but money sure helps with making such a decision.