Johnathan Cyprien had a big contract year for the Jacksonville Jaguars leading to a new contract with the Tennessee Titans.
To say that Johnathan Cyprien had been a disappointment during his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars is both accurate and a bit unfair. Cyprien never lived up to his hype as the 33rd overall pick in 2013 but he was also a player who had immediate expectations placed on him that were tough to achieve for a talented player entering the league’s most unsure situation.
When Cyprien entered the NFL he went to the Jaguars who wanted him to be a play-making strong safety on a defense modeled after the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately for Cyprien and the Jaguars, head coach Gus Bradley’s vision was never realized and Cyprien routinely looked out of place and poorly used.
That all seemed to change, at least statistically, in 2016, Cyprien’s contract year and first year without Bob Babich as the defensive coordinator. Used more creatively, Cyprien was able to become one of the better run-defending safeties in the NFL and it was due to new coordinator Todd Wash’s creativity in using Cyprien as well as improved defensive talent around him.
Either way, Cyprien rebounded. While his coverage skills still left a lot to be desired, he certainly looked like an improved player with the ability to be something special. That, in turn, led to a big four-year, $25 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.
The money wasn’t all he got, though. Cyprien was also recently named to Pro Football Focus’ list of most improved defensive players. Writes John Gatta:
"Cyprien took his game to a whole new level this past season, finishing as our seventh-ranked safety overall, top-ranked against the run (98.8). During his three seasons prior to 2016, Cyprien failed to finish higher than 52nd and 34th in these categories, respectively. What clicked? In 2016, he was used like a chess piece, playing 11 percent of his snaps as an edge rusher, 38 percent as a linebacker, 27 as a cornerback, and 24 as a safety. In contrast, Cyprien was used less creatively in 2015 – playing more than half his snaps (55 percent) at safety. The Titans got themselves a versatile playmaker, who flashed big-time against the run (27 run stops ranked T-first among safeties) in 2016."
While these numbers and grades help back up the Titans spending big on Cyprien, they don’t tell the whole story.
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Jags fans will remember Cyprien’s struggles in coverage and also in making some of the most routine stops during most of his Jaguars tenure. Maybe he was asked to do too much, but it is also possible he simply never was that good to begin with. Jumping from a 50.7 to an 87.8 grade in PFF’s system is a massive jump for a player that has not shown similar improvement in the three years before.
While Black and Teal wishes Cyprien the best and hope he does well for the Titans (except when playing the Jaguars or when anything important is on the line, of course) it’s worth noting that one big contract year is an outlier in his overall track record. Betting on Cyprien continuing his rebound wasn’t wise in the Jaguars’ front office and they let him walk for a reason. Now, whether for good or for ill, he’s the Titans’ problem.