JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be aggressive in free agency, as general manager David Caldwell tires to fix a defense among the NFL’s worst the past three years.
The Jaguars also have some internal business to tend to. They must decide which -- if any -- of their 11 free agents they want to re-sign. Here is the list (unrestricted free agents unless otherwise noted):
QB Chad Henne
TE Clay Harbor
TE Nic Jacobs (exclusive rights)
OT Sam Young
DE Ryan Davis (restricted)
DT Abry Jones (restricted)
DE Andre Branch
It’s not exactly a list of must-have players, and the Jaguars wouldn’t be hurting themselves if they didn’t re-sign any of them. But there are three players Caldwell should give heavy consideration to:
Henne: It may not seem logical to want Henne back after how non-functional the offense was through the first three weeks of 2014 with him at the helm, but the offense’s growth under Blake Bortles makes Henne more valuable. He’s a solid veteran who can be successful with good talent around him. He didn’t have that in 2014, but he would going forward with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas and T.J. Yeldon. Henne would certainly be a better fill-in for Bortles than a first- or second-year quarterback with no experience. Plus Bortles likes and respects Henne, and Henne can still help Bortles grow as a quarterback. Bortles did threw 35 touchdown passes in 2015 but he’s still only a third-year player and needs to cut down on the interceptions (35 in two seasons). Henne signed a two-year, $4 million deal after the 2013 season, and a two-year deal worth $5 or $6 million wouldn’t be a problem for the Jaguars, who have approximately $70 million in salary cap space.
Lewis: Even though Lewis had his fewest catches since his rookie season in 2006, coach Gus Bradley said Lewis played at a high level throughout 2015 and would like him back in 2016. Bradley said Lewis was one of the team’s best pass blockers, and he admired how Lewis handled taking a secondary role behind Thomas in the passing game. The 31-year-old restructured the final year of his contract last offseason, dropping his salary cap figure from $8.2 million (which would have been the third-highest on the team) to $3.85 million. He earned $2.65 million in 2015 and said he’s not looking to break the bank with a new deal. The Jaguars should be able to work out something reasonable for both sides.
Davis: His sack numbers dipped from 6.5 in 2014 to 3.5 in 2015, but the biggest reason for that was injuries to defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. Davis has had most of his success as an interior rusher on third downs while rushing next to Marks. Because of Marks’ success (8.5 sacks in 2014), teams generally double-team him and that allows Davis to work one-on-one against guards. Davis’ quickness is often too much for guards to handle and he is able to get to the quarterback. Without Marks drawing that extra attention in 2015, Davis wasn’t as effective. So why re-sign Davis? Because Marks should be completely healthy in 2016, and Davis’ production alongside Marks will give the Jaguars a better interior rush, which also should help the outside rush. Plus the Jaguars won’t have to pay him much beyond the veteran minimum, and for that they’ll get a productive player who has been in the defensive system for four years.