Jaguars Free Agent Target- Charles Johnson

A new collective bargaining agreement and thus the beginning of NFL free agency appears to be right around the corner. We've already previewed the Jaguars position by position and we are going to explore some of the players who will be available to them via free agency. Find out how likely Jacksonville is to pursue free agent defensive end, Charles Johnson.

The Jaguars haven't had a legitimate, healthy pass rusher since Reggie Hayward signed with the team prior to the 2005 season. Hayward's run was short-lived as the once-dynamic defensive end ruptured his Achilles in the 2006 season opener and his career was never the same.

Jacksonville inked free agent Aaron Kampman to a discounted deal last season as he was coming off a torn ACL, but midway through 2010 Kampman tore another knee ligament and his career as an impact player is seriously in question. Despite the health questions with Kampman, he remains the Jaguars best player at the position and it's somewhat of a longshot that veterans Derrick Harvey or Jeremy Mincey, or youngsters Larry Hart, Austen Lane or Aaron Morgan will develop into dependable pass rushers.

One of the most attractive free agents on the market will be Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who finished with 11 ½ sacks a season ago. At 25 years old, Johnson still has his best seasons ahead of him and he would seem like a player the Jaguars would spend heavy money in free agency on, similar to Reggie Hayward six years ago.

We asked Panthers publisher Michael Lombardo to share his thoughts on Johnson, and how likely the Panthers will be in retaining his services.

The Panthers want Johnson back; they can't lose elite pass rushers in consecutive offseasons. Also, Carolina may need to hand out some big contracts just to meet the salary-cap floor and most of that coin figures to stay in-house. Johnson is a two-way player who was dominant over the second half of the season, despite being the only above-average player on the Panthers' defensive line.

In most free agency situations, the player normally goes to the highest bidder. Since the Panthers were the worst team in football a season ago and figure to occupy last place in the NFC South yet again this year, the urgency for Johnson to stay may be somewhat muted. Although Carolina certainly has money to spend, so does Jacksonville and the all-important advantage of living in a state with no state income tax would make any Jaguars offer appear about five or six percent better. Add in the fact that Johnson is from nearby Hawkinsville, Georgia and he just may feel right at home in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars don't have unlimited free agent funds, but they may be able to save considerable money with rookie Blaine Gabbert's contract assuming there's a new rookie salary structure in the new CBA. Add in the fact they will likely trim some payroll fat in the names of David Garrard, Derrick Harvey and Justin Smiley and the team will have money to spend.

Charles Johnson would be a home run type of signing for the Jaguars in free agency and they should have the funds and motivation to make it happen.

Charlie Bernstein is the host of "The Sports Crunch" on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie

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