Going into NFL free agency, one of the biggest names on market was defensive end Malik Jackson, who was coming off of a Super Bowl-winning season with the Denver Broncos. Many expected Jackson to get a huge payday, and he got just that as the Jacksonville Jaguars gave him a monster contract that was simply worth too much money.
The deal was reportedly worth $90 million over six years, and will pay out $42 million of guaranteed money. If the reported numbers are true, Jackson will be making the seventh-most guaranteed money amongst NFL defenders, and he will rank 25th in the league for AAV at $15 million. That is a lot to pay for a player who only has recorded 14.5 career sacks.
The other major issue with the deal is that the Jaguars’ scheme is completely different from that of the Broncos. For his entire career, Jackson has been a 3-4 end for the Broncos, and he has developed into one of the top contributors at that position. However, the Jaguars run a 4-3 defense and they are going to have to decide how to incorporate Jackson’s talents.
If I had to guess, I think they will use him inside at one of the tackle positions, given that he is great at creating pressure on the interior of the line. Still, there is no guarantee that he will be a success while moving to a new scheme, so the investment could backfire.
Granted, the Jaguars were almost forced into making this move because of the sheer amount of cap space they had. The team has struggled to lure free agents from other teams mostly due to their losing reputation, so they had to do something to try and change that. The team has a young offense that is looking good under the leadership of Blake Bortles, so improving the defense is a priority.
Also, if Jackson does fit well into the scheme, the Jaguars could have a strong front four, which has been a weakness for them over the past years. Dante Fowler will be coming back from his ACL tear, and Jared Odrick may get the chance to start across from him. With Jackson and Tyson Alualu playing inside, the team could create a lot of pressure and overpower opposing lines.
This would also allow them to target a back seven player in the first round of the draft to further upgrade their defense. Myles Jack and Vernon Hargreaves would be the top targets.
There is definitely some upside to this move for the Jaguars and they had money to burn, but I still cannot get behind giving Jackson so much in guaranteed money. If he cannot play up to expectations or decides to stop putting work in, he could end up being a major disappointment for the Jaguars.