Tagging Josh Allen paves the way for the Jaguars to make a run for Danielle Hunter

• The Jaguars need to make an aggressive effort to sign Danielle Hunter in free agency.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) tackles
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) tackles / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
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The Jacksonville Jaguars checked off a huge box when they applied the franchise tag on outside linebacker Josh Allen. The front office must next ensure he gets a long-term contract before the July deadline, but they can at least turn their attention to improving other roster needs. The pass rush could certainly use a boost and tagging Allen should allow the Jaguars to pursue Danielle Hunter in free agency.

The Jags announced that they couldn't strike an extension with Allen before the deadline. However, talks have been positive, so it looks like they'll eventually get a deal done. Ideally, they would've worked something out right after the 2023 season ended but they didn't. The silver lining is that general manager Trent Baalke isn't resting on his laurels and is doing his best to ensure Jacksonville has playmakers in place.

While Baalke continues to work toward an extension with Allen, he should also focus on upgrading the pass rush. Both Dawuane Smoot and K'Lavon Chaisson are set to hit the open market, and Yasir Abdullah has yet to prove he deserves an increased role in the rotation. There will be several intriguing options in the draft but the Jags should also consider going after Danielle Hunter in free agency.

The Jags were reportedly interested in acquiring Hunter last offseason and up until the trade deadline. More recently, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported this past February that their interest hasn't waned. The fact that they wouldn't have to compensate another team to land the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end could incentivize the team's brass to make a run for him.

Hunter has been one of the top pass rushers in the league since the Vikes drafted him in Round 3 of the 2015 draft. The former LSU Tiger has logged 87.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles in 119 games with 90 starts in that span.

Last year, Hunter made it clear he wanted a contract adjustment, and it was during his contract impasse that the Jags thought about trading him. Ultimately, he signed a one-year deal that gave him the raise he was looking for. For his part, he rewarded Minnesota by posting a career-best 16.5 sacks.

The Jaguars can go after Danielle Hunter if they really want to

With Allen and Brian Burns getting the franchise tag, Danielle Hunter would be one of the most coveted pass rushers in the open market. This is to say that signing him wouldn't come in cheap. Coming off a banner year, he'll be in a position to ask for annual compensation of $25 million, which would put him in the top 10 of salaries at the position.

Then again, the Jaguars have shown interest in trading for Haason Reddick. To get a deal done, they would have to give the Philadelphia Eagles a first-round pick and offer Reddick a new deal, unless they want him to be a one-year rental. It's fair to assume that if Jacksonville is willing to make a considerable investment in Reddick, they wouldn't mind signing Hunter, which would be less costly, since they wouldn't have to part ways with any additional compensation.

You could make the case that the Jaguars will have to pay a premium for Hunter and you would be right. That said, it would be worth it. Hunter would turn the already formidable tandem of Josh Allen and Travon Walker into one of the most dominant groups in the league. On the other hand, the Jaguars have more needs beyond the pass rush, so the odds of going after Hunter aren't particularly great.

Ultimately, the Jacksonville Jaguars will show how interested they are in pursuing Danielle Hunter when free agency starts. One thing is certain, though. If they land him, their pass rush will immediately become a force to reckon with.

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