Ranking the 2014 Impact of the Jacksonville Jaguars' Free-Agent Signings so Far
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell's crusade to turn around the misfortunes of this team started by adding viable talent in free agency.
In order to help cleanse the franchise of its antiquated ways of doing business, Caldwell used up a good chunk of his team's cap space, per OverTheCap.com, to bring in quality assets.
Grading the impact each recently signed player will have isn't an exact science.
From full-time starters to rotational guys, determining how each player will fit into Jacksonville's current scheme is going to weigh heavily on their potential impact.
Using the watchful eye of advanced statistics and breaking down a fulsome amount of film, it's now time to go through the list of names and rank which of these guys will have the biggest effect on this team during the 2014 season.
7. WR Tandon Doss
Uncertainty involving former first-round pick Justin Blackmon has created the need for Caldwell to go out and find this team another true No. 1 target.
Doss isn't a No. 1 wide receiver by any means, but the 24-year-old has found immense success on special teams.
Last season with the Ravens, Doss averaged a league-high 15.6-yard punt return average filling in for the injured Jacoby Jones.
Second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders was drafted to return punts last season for Jacksonville. However, if he becomes more of a full-time slot receiver, Doss would be the logical choice to step in and replace him.
At 6'2", 207 pounds, the ex-Raven has enough size needed to work on the outside in spurts. Still, because of his familiarity returning kicks, his biggest contribution should come on special teams next season.
6. LB Dekoda Watson
A Herculean athlete coming out of Florida State, Watson made ESPN The Magazine's Bruce Feldman's list of top workout warriors.
Going into further detail about his impressive physical acumen, Feldman said:
The Noles have plucked some great athletes out of South Carolina in recent years, and Watson might be as special as any of them. Watson isn't huge for a linebacker at 6-2, 226, but he's probably as well-proportioned as you'll find. According to a school spokesman, his chest is 48 inches and his waist is 26 inches, which is enough to put him on this list.
Watson was originally a seventh-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2010. A raw prospect by definition, he spent his brief career in Tampa Bay mainly contributing on special teams and putting together splashy plays when he was given a chance to get on the field.
Despite playing just 263 snaps in 2013, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) anointed him with a positive 5.2 grade for his work at linebacker.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has to be fascinated by a player like Watson.
Aside from his physical prowess and the production he displayed on film, Watson fits the mold of a hybrid "Sam" linebacker.
Watching him on tape, it's easy to see that this guy has all of the tools needed to become a quality football player.
If he can settle down and embrace what Coach Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich are doing in Jacksonville, good things will follow suit.
5. DE Chris Clemons
Detailing his arrival in Jacksonville, Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union (subscription required) pointed out:
The addition of Clemons, less than a day after he was released by Seattle, went against the Jaguars’ norm. He is over 30 (32) and has a major injury history (torn ACL in January 2013). But Caldwell jumped at the chance to reunite Clemons with Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash, both of whom worked with Clemons in Seattle.
At this stage in his career, odds are a veteran player like Clemons probably won't get out there and rack up double-digit sacks again—a feat he accomplished from 2010 to 2012 with the Seahawks.
Instead, a suitable role for him would be rushing the quarterback in a rotational capacity.
If he's kept fresh throughout the course of the season, his savvy pass-rushing skills could really help amplify this defense.
One thing's clear, regardless of how many snaps he takes in 2014, Jaguars fans are going to be thrilled to witness Clemons put pressure on all of the opposing quarterbacks who make a living in the AFC South.
4. DT Ziggy Hood
Caldwell's mission to improve the team's defensive line didn't stop with the addition of Clemons.
When John Oehser of Jaguars.com reported that ex-Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood reached a deal with the team, it was clear that Caldwell was giving his coaching staff a chance to bolster a run defense that gave up 131.8 rushing yards per game last season.
A former first-round pick of the Steelers, Hood transitioned from his natural position as a 4-3 defensive tackle over to a 3-4 defensive end.
Talking about his feelings on playing in a 3-4 scheme right out of college, Hood told Oehser:
Coming out of college, we ran the 4-3 and when I got drafted by Pittsburgh (a 3-4 team) it seemed kind of odd. I did my part and did my best trying to mold myself into what they wanted. I had a great five-year run there, and now it’s time to really put some work in at the 4-3.
Landing in Jacksonville makes sense for both Hood and the Jaguars coaching staff. Being just 27 years old, Hood is a guy with plenty of tread left on his tires.
In a conversation with Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union about Hood, Caldwell said:
This is a completely different system than he had in Pittsburgh. It’s a little bit of a projection of how he’s going to do, but we feel he’ll do well. We look at his skill set in terms of athleticism, motor and quickness and feel he can be productive doing the things we’ll ask him to do.
Transitioning back to a 4-3 scheme will give him an opportunity to get back to what he does best and hopefully become a valuable piece for this re-equipped defensive line.
3. DE Red Bryant
Red Bryant's arrival by way of Seattle—as first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter—was one of the most exciting free-agent acquisitions the Jaguars made this offseason.
Bryant is a player who has constantly displayed great burst for a guy his size on film. He's physical as can be at the line of scrimmage and can clog up running lanes with relative ease when he gets going.
Looking at his numbers under PFF's microscope, Bryant excelled at stopping the run in 2013.
Ending the year with a positive 10.6 grade in that department, Bryant was the 11th-best run-stopping 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
The level of comfort he has in Bradley's defensive scheme—Bryant played under Bradley in Seattle from 2009-2012—will allow him to continue what he does best down in Jacksonville.
Bryant is not only a quality run-stopper, but he's a well-respected veteran presence in the locker room.
Talking about Bryant as a leader, ESPN's Terry Blount (h/t Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com) said: "Red was one of the most respected guys in the Seahawks locker room, a team leader who often gave pep talks, or chastised guys when they need it."
A quality player who will improve this run defense right away, Bryant could turn out to be one of the biggest impact signings Caldwell made this offseason.
2. OG Zane Beadles
Talking about his recent excursion into the open market with Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, Caldwell said: "We made a point of adding to both the offensive line and defensive line."
Finding a stalwart to help the offensive line mature into a cohesive unit made the decision to sign former Denver Broncos guard Zane Beadles that much easier.
According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan (h/t Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union) the five-year deal Beadles got is worth $30 million.
From PFF's perspective, Beadles endured a bit of a down season in 2013. Finishing the year with a negative 5.7 overall grade, his struggles mainly centered around pass-blocking situations.
Regardless of how he played in 2013, Beadles was a productive player during his time with the Broncos.
Just two years removed from a Pro Bowl appearance, if he can get back to that plateau, Caldwell will have added a tremendous piece to one of the league's worst offensive lines.
1. RB Toby Gerhart
Former Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart stands alone as the one guy who will be able to make the biggest impact for this program in 2014.
After inking a deal with the Jaguars, via ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the heir apparent to Maurice Jones-Drew's throne comes to Jacksonville with fresh legs and a ton of quality experience.
By now, you know the story.
Gerhart was a former second-round draft pick out of Stanford who spent the bulk of his career in Minnesota acting as the faithful backup to Adrian Peterson.
Rarely getting the chance to shine behind a once-in-a-generation talent like Peterson, Gerhart made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging 4.7 yards per carry in five seasons.
Gerhart's interest in joining the Jaguars can be traced back to Coach Bradley.
Talking on Pro Football Talk on NBCSN (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com) the 26-year-old running back said:
What Gus brings to the table and he has that enthusiasm that’s charismatic. I don’t know it was something I was drawn to. All the coaches acted the same way and they’re super positive and optimistic about the future, and I wanted to be a part of it
Bradley clearly wants Gerhart to be a major part of this offense.
Marc Sessler of NFL.com asked the Jaguars head coach if Gerhart "would be his bell-cow" running back. Bradley responded by saying "That's what we hope to see...we like what we saw on tape."
Gerhart's future role with the team won't be completely carved out until the impending season draws closer.
But, as Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com tweeted, Gerhart could be considered "Marshawn Lynch-lite" down in Florida.
Dating back to his days at Stanford, Gerhart has always ran with a purpose. His surprising lateral quickness and keen ability to muscle his way past defenders is a great indicator of how much he understands the position.
Finally getting his chance to become a full-time starter, Gerhart could find a monumental level of success in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's diverse attack.
All advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), unless noted otherwise.