ESPN suggests this ‘daring’ offseason move to help the Jags improve on defense

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Tyler Nettuno
·3 min read
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Jacksonville’s defense was second to last in the league in 2020 in both yards and points allowed. The team may be landing a potential franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, but as long as the other side of the ball lags behind the rest of the league, it’s going to be hard for the Jaguars to compete for the postseason.

The Jags also have the 25th pick courtesy of the trade with the Los Angeles Rams for Jalen Ramsey, but if they choose to address defense with a big free-agent signing, ESPN’s Football Outsiders have an idea.

Tampa Bay defensive end Shaq Barrett is set to become a free agent, and if he isn’t tagged by the Bucs, the Football Outsiders think the Jaguars should make a play for him. The 28-year-old has burst onto the scene for the reigning Super Bowl Champions the last two seasons after a slow start to his career in Denver.

He totaled 19.5 sacks in 2019, and though his production dipped a bit in 2020 when he had just eight sacks, he was a key part of the defensive improvements the Bucs made this season.

The Jaguars finished last season with just 18 sacks, second fewest in the NFL. Josh Allen needs running mates up front, and the Jaguars need to rebuild the defensive line after trading Calais Campbell last offseason. Thanks to landing the No. 1 pick, the Jaguars actually don’t have to play the quarterback sweepstakes.

That leaves an easy intersection of a player whom Tampa probably shouldn’t franchise, one who is good enough to make an impact for a bad team, and the team that can afford to pay the freight to move Barrett across the state. The Jaguars are projected to enter free agency with more cap space than any team in the NFL. Lawrence and Urban Meyer will create a culture that should be easy to get excited about, but the defense is still problematic on quite a few levels.

The Jaguars probably aren’t going to turn it around and make it a top-10 unit in a year, but Barrett can make them more respectable than they were in 2020, and it costs nothing but cash.

Jacksonville clearly needs help in the pass rush, and playing Barrett opposite Allen is certainly tantalizing, but there’s one major hangup: 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson. He didn’t have the most productive rookie year, notching just 19 tackles and a sack despite playing in all 16 games with three starts.

Much of that can be blamed on coaching, as Chaisson spent much of the season playing outside his natural edge-rushing position. With the new multiple defense being installed under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, it seems unlikely Jacksonville gives up on him. Especially when they could address the interior defensive line, a much greater position of need, with a player like Leonard Williams.

Still, signing Barrett would undoubtedly be an immediate improvement for one of the league’s worst defenses. It would also bolster the Jags’ pass-rush rotation, which can carry them a long way if fluid.