With the underachieving Bobby McCray hitting the open market of free agency and not likely to return, the age of Paul Spicer (33 before opening day), who did have a fantastic 2007 season, and the very questionable health of Reggie Hayward, the Jaguars need to get a consistent pass rush without blitzing. Their inability to do that ultimately ended their season in New England.
As free agency is rapidly approaching, let's start with the "Bentley" of defensive ends that could be available, Kansas City's Jared Allen. Jared Allen is one of the game's premiere pass rushers and he's only 25 years of age. In his four NFL seasons, Allen has averaged nearly 11 sacks per year, and finished 2007 with 15.5 to lead the AFC. Allen is a legitimate Pro Bowler (not one of the Roy Williams types), and can also play the run very well.
Warpaint Illustrated's Nick Athan has watched each and every game Allen has played in, and was nice enough to give us this brief scouting report on the Chiefs defensive end–
"He's (Allen's) a solid pass rusher, but he doesn't get a lot of sacks in crunch time - the fourth quarter when generally NFL games are won and lost. I think of the 15 plus sacks he had last year only two were in the final quarter.
But he is solid against the run, especially considering where he came from four years ago when he couldn't tackle anyone. He's worked hard and is the heart of the defense. But he has room to improve."
Even though possibly 13 of Allen's 15.5 sacks came prior to the fourth quarter, that's still considerably more production than Jacksonville received from any two of their defensive ends. So what will it take to get Allen? Probably two first round picks and a contract of better than $75 million, which is the cost of a player likely to be franchised.
I asked Nick Athan what the prospects of Allen hitting the market were–
"No chance he hits the open market. Clark Hunt told me a few weeks back that his #1 priority is to get a deal done with Allen. The Chiefs will not let him go this year or next. They'll franchise him. They have $25 million in cap space free now so they can absorb the $10 million hit for one year and the $12 million hit in 2009.
I'm told the Chiefs are preparing a new offer substantially greater than the offer rejected a year ago. KC could have signed him for a $50 million deal last February now it's going to cost them an extra $25 million or so."
As nice as it would be to have a defensive end of Jared Allen's caliber, it doesn't appear to be in the cards for the Jaguars. The team relishes their number one pick's entirely too much to give up not one, but two of them on any player that isn't named Tom Brady. And although the Jaguars are in fantastic shape regarding the salary cap, it's not likely that they can pay a free agent that much more than their starting quarterback, who needs a new contract of his own.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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