Justin Smith: Free Agent Defensive End

One of the more attainable defensive ends that the Jaguars are taking a look at in free agency is the Bengals Justin Smith.

Smith is a 28 year old who will be entering his eighth season from the University of Missouri. Cincinnati used the franchise tag on Smith last season as neither party could come to terms on a long term deal. Instead, the Bengals let Smith play out 2007 on the tender and much to the chagrin of both parties, Smith and the Bengals had a marginal year.

Justin Smith could not vault the Bengals porous defense above the 27th overall ranking, and teams double teamed Smith due to a severe lack of surrounding talent on the Cincinnati front four. Smith's statistics and play suffered, as he finished with 78 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and just 2 sacks. The low sack total was easily the worst of his seven year career, as Smith averaged better than 6 sacks per year prior to 2007.

At 6'4", 275 lbs., Smith is an every downs defensive end who plays the run better than the pass. Scout.com and Sirius NFL Radio analyst Adam Caplan had this to say about Smith-

"Smith has always been an above average tackler and pass rusher but really hasn't risen above that status in any of his seven years of play."

Justin Smith was always known as a high motor type of overachiever, but it seems like the complete lack of surrounding talent has diminished his skills, it certainly has his numbers. A change of scenery would do Smith well, and playing with talent can only help him. I asked Adam Caplan whether or not Smith is likely to be available, and he responded--

"Actually, it would be a surprise if the Bengals re-signed him at this point. He's coming off of a bad season and Cincinnati made a bad mistake of using their franchise tag on him last year. He's nothing more than an average player at this point."

If Smith is average, then the Jaguars current group of defensive ends with the exception of Paul Spicer are below average. Smith appears to be available, and would likely represent an upgrade. With the salary cap room that Jacksonville has, a deal for Smith should be attainable if there are no better options.

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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