3 teams that should target Olivier Vernon today
Olivier Vernon, once locked down by the transition tag, has now been set free and unleashed upon the free agent market.
As such he becomes the big fish out in the ocean, with several teams primed to lure him in with a big payday.
But which teams make the most sense to sign him?
The Jags just broke the bank to sign Malik Jackson, but are swimming in so much cap space that a run at another of the marquee free agents is far from out of the question. Vernon certainly isn’t a sure thing, showing elite play last season, but only really for eight games, but the Jaguars need help with their pass-rush and can afford to play the odds and take the risk more than most other teams out there.
The bottom line for them is that over those eight games, Vernon showed he was as devastating a pass-rusher as there was in the league, notching 57 total pressures in the final half of the season alone, 23 more than any Jacksonville defender managed over the full season in 2015.
New York Giants
This would be a very un-New York Giants move, but this is a defense that desperately needs pass-rush help, even with JPP staying in town another year. Robert Ayers has become a very accomplished player, but the Giants never trusted him to play a full load, and he looks set to be walking into free agency himself. Even with dollars heading in the direction of Janoris Jenkins to patch up the secondary, the Giants have the money to make a big splash like this and lure the biggest catch of free agency.
Vernon would instantly give the Giants one of the league’s best pass-rushing duos, even with Pierre-Paul a potentially diminished force with his hand injury. The Giants also like their defensive ends to play the run, which is an underrated part of Vernon’s game. He wasn’t just a pass-rushing force with no concern for the run game, but can set a hard edge and make teams earn yards on the ground, as well as through the air. The Giants are not averse to taking a risk on free agents (like Janoris Jenkins this free-agency period), so could well be tempted at the huge upside they have seen from Vernon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have been trying to find a reliable source of pass-rush for years, and have by and large tried to achieve that through the draft, but they just haven’t been able to nail down the player that could help take some of the focus off Gerald McCoy inside, or at least ensure that he isn’t carrying the entire load from a pass-rush standpoint.
The Bucs have the cap space to make this move happen, and have the natural advantage of being based in Florida for the beneficial tax situation. The best edge rusher the Bucs had last season was William Gholston, who notched just three sacks and 34 total pressures. If you pick the right three games, you can almost match those totals in just three games from Vernon in 2015. He would give that defense a lift like no other move in free agency.