End Is Near For Jags?

It's only May, but the Jaguars have some definite issues on the defensive line, mainly at the position of defensive end. Many will argue that the team's issues can't be that bad, being that they finished with the second ranked defense overall in 2006, even with all of their injuries (Hayward, Peterson, Stroud, and Darius). But how about bringing in someone looking to change area codes?

When you consider the age and ability of Paul Spicer, the health questions of Reggie Hayward, and the current attitude of Bobby McCray, the team can't be too optimistic. The Jaguars elected not to address the defensive end position in the first day of the draft, nor did they address it in free agency. About a month has passed since the draft, and the Jaguars issues at defensive end don't seem to be any better. We know the stories with Spicer, Hayward, and McCray (who is still MIA in terms of minicamp and OTA attendance). The other defensive end candidates are either coming off injuries, or inexperienced, or both (see Brent Hawkins, and fourth-round pick Brian Smith).

The season is still approximately 15 weeks away, and maybe things will work out for the Jaguars. Perhaps Spicer will visit St. Augustine (it is a short drive), and find the fountain of youth, and he will play as well as he did a few years ago (which was pretty average)? Maybe Hayward will inherit some kind of magic healing powers that will make him the great pass rusher he was before the ruptured Achilles (which is normally a two-year recovery period)? Perhaps Bobby McCray, his agent Drew Rosenhaus, and the Jaguars will all make nice and Bobby will show up to camp (this one is actually likely to happen)?

The Jaguars can put their eggs in the Spicer-Hayward-McCray basket, and hope for the best, or they can try to be proactive. What I mean by proactivity is exploring a trade for the former Gator defensive end, and current Chicago Bear, Alex Brown. Brown has sought, and been granted permission from the Bears to find a trade. The Bears have somewhat of an excess of good defensive ends (Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, and second round pick, Dan Bazuin), and would reportedly let Brown go for as little as a fourth round pick. Brown is a solid defensive end, a former fourth round pick who can play the run well and get after the passer. Brown doesn't have huge sack numbers (just 27 in five seasons), but he has good size (6'3", 260 lbs.), he's sudden, and he can force turnovers (three forced fumbles in each of his last three seasons).

So how likely is it that the Jaguars could be a player in the Alex Brown sweepstakes? The Jaguars aren't a team that's known for making trades, but Brown's age and current contract numbers make sense. Brown is just 27 years old, and should have plenty of effective football left in him, barring injury. Brown signed an extension with Chicago after the '04 season, and has three years left on his contract, with a salary near the minimum. If all parties agreed to a trade, the Jaguars would likely have to give Brown a new deal, and the Jaguars certainly have room on their cap for it. Another option would be to offer the Bears a package of Maurice Williams and a draft pick for compensation, which would certainly clear up some space on the Jaguars cap. If Brown was acquired, that would give Bobby McCray even less leverage for negotiating, and allow the Jaguars to possibly cut ties with the disgruntled defensive end after this season.

So what are the negatives to trying to acquire Alex Brown? Although rumors have been bandied about that the Bears are looking for just a fourth round pick, they could change their tune when they have a prospective suitor in front of them. If the Bears demand a second round pick or better, that compensation would simply be too much. And if there was some kind of bidding war for Brown's services, the Jaguars may have to overspend, which is something that the front office will likely not do. What if Brown wants to not only break the bank, but blow it up as well? The Jaguars would need to work out numbers with Brown before any deal could happen with the Bears. If Brown were a free agent this year, he likely would have received a signing bonus in the $12-15M range, with a salary of $5-6M/yr. If the Jaguars could sign him for any less than that, it would probably be worth the money. As I stated before, the Jaguars are not a team that is known for pulling off blockbuster trades, or even non-blockbuster trades, but this one could be up their alley. The Jaguars have a roster this season that could legitimately make a deep playoff run, assuming they can stay healthy. If they are serious about solidifying one of the potential holes on defense, this deal is at least worth investigating.

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