After a difficult first year in Jacksonville, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley are in full swing for operation Restore the Roar. With their cap space of $50+ million available, you knew they were going to be players in the free agent market and they did not underwhelm. They have made it an emphasis to be able to stop the run and put pressure on the QB by signing 4 players along the defensive line: DT/DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, DT Ziggy Hood, and resigning DE Jason Babin.
Bryant and Clemons are two former Seahawks that played under Gus Bradley during his time in Seattle. They are veterans that both know the system and can instantly produce on EverBank Field. Bryant is the run stuffing specialist that excelled in Bradley’s “Elephant” position that helped sure up Seattle’s Run Defense, while Clemons is the Pass rushing specialist that excelled in Bradley’s “Leo” position that helped apply pressure on opposing QBs. Albeit Clemons had a down year (4.5 sacks), he was also coming off of a torn ACL via the 2013 playoff game against the Washington Redskins and did not have ample time to recover properly. Ziggy Hood was a stealthy pickup that may pay huge dividends down the road. He was a 3-4 DE with the Pittsburgh Steelers but will play a 4-3 DT spot with the Jaguars. Tyson Alualu was placed all over the line last year to find his spot where he properly fit, however nothing really stuck to him. With 2015 being a voidable year in his rookie contract, this may be his replacement if the Jaguars decide to trade or release him. After voiding his last two years on his contract and being released the day before free agency began, three days later, Jason Babin is back with the Jaguars with a more reasonable contract number. Babin was the Jaguars leading sack artist last year totaling 7.5 sacks. With his age (33), and limited opportunities out there, the Jaguars where able to retain Babin’s services and continue to get better along the defensive front four.
They continued to spend their money intelligently by resigning QB Chad Henne. Even though Chad Henne is not the franchise QB, he is an adequate QB that can help bridge the gap for the next QB that comes into the Jacksonville franchise. He knows the system and wanted to be there; this signing was a no-brainer. With the release of long time Jaguar Uche Nwaneri, came the excitement of signing Zane Beadles from the Denver Broncos. Beadles plays Guard and will help keep the QB off the ground for the foreseeable future in Jacksonville. Last year he helped keep Peyton Manning off the ground on his way to shattering every meaningful passing record in the NFL. Beadles is a good, durable starter that will come to work every day without hassle. His play and veteran experience will help the new offensive line players that the Jaguars bring in this year. With the Jaguars franchise leading rusher, Maurice Jones-Drew a free agent, RB was a need that needed to be addressed in free agency or in the draft; they decided to address the position in free agency. They signed Toby Gerhart to a 3 year $10.5 million contract ($4.5 million guaranteed). Coming out of Stanford in 2010, Gerhart was a 2nd round pick of the Minnesota Vikings and served as the backup to the freakish RB known as Adrian Peterson. While Gerhart is not a speed back but a physical one, with deceptive speed that will allow him to gain yards in chunks once he gets to the second level of a defense. Usually a bruising style is not a good thing for RBs shelf life, but being behind Peterson for 4 years means Toby is fresh and ready to go. He is also a very capable pass catcher out of the backfield only adding to his value as a RB. Gerhart as the new lead RB re-installs that physical ground game that they lacked last year as well as provides a perfect complement to Denard Robinson in the backfield.
While free agency has just started, the Jacksonville Jaguars have made significant strides in the right direction. They bolstered their defensive line which was in dire need of help, signed their starting RB, and maintained some consistency by resigning QB Chad Henne. Along with those moves they resigned CB Will Blackmon and where somehow able to trade QB Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round pick. With a plan firmly in place in Jacksonville and some money to spend the Jaguars are making significant strides toward competing in the AFC South. With numerous picks in this year’s draft in May, they have a great chance at adding immediate impact players at positions that would complement those signed in free agency.