Jacksonville should spend big on free agent Malik Jackson

Gordon McGuinness previews free agency for the Jaguars, naming players to re-sign, let walk, and target.

| 8 months ago
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Jacksonville should spend big on free agent Malik Jackson

The Jacksonville Jaguars showed improvement in 2015, though not enough to see them to a division championship in a weak AFC South. There are several good pieces to build on, though, particularly on offense, where quarterback Blake Bortles has shown progression, and wide receiver Allen Robinson is blooming into a star. They still need to make some moves to improve their roster, however—below are some actions Jacksonville should take in the approaching free agency period.


P Bryan Anger

When you draft a punter in the third round, you’re almost definitely expecting him to develop into the best in the league, which Anger hasn’t. He is an above average player at the position, though, grading positively every season since entering the NFL in 2012, and was our 11th-highest graded player at the position in 2015.

C Stefen Wisniewski

The 12th-highest graded center in the league, Wisniewski (72.5 overall grade) had a really solid season for the Jaguars. He’s had just one negatively graded season since entering the NFL, and while he’s not a standout in either role, Wisniewski is at least solid in pass protection and as a run-blocker, allowing two sacks and 11 hurries in 2015.

DE Ryan Davis

Davis (71.2) is a restricted free agent, but is a smart option for the Jaguars to bring back. At the very least, he’s the type of player who can do damage as a situational pass-rusher, with 14 sacks, 14 hits, and 36 hurries in the past three seasons. What we’ve seen in his career so far is that he’s not an every down player, but someone who can make an impact if used correctly.

Let walk

DE Andre Branch 

The frustrating thing with Branch (62.6) is that he can stand out as a pass-rusher, he just does it so rarely that it doesn’t justify having him as a starter. He’s registered just 15 sacks, 14 hits, and 62 hurries in 1,238 pass rushing attempts since 2012.



OT Jake Long

Are the Jaguars ready to move on from former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel? Even if they aren’t yet, with an overall grade of 42.9 in 2015, they need to have some sort of option there for if he continues to struggle. Jake Long (71.3) might not be the player he once was, but he was solid for the Rams in 2014, allowing just three sacks, four hits, and 13 hurries in seven starts.

DE Malik Jackson

Coming off a strong run of play in the postseason for the Super Bowl champions, Jackson (86.9) is poised to be one of the premier players available this offseason. An outstanding pass-rusher from the defensive interior, he racked up seven sacks, 12 hits, and 56 hurries in 2015, adding seven batted passes as the cherry on top. Making this even better for the Jaguars if they were to bring him in, he spent some time as an edge defender in 2014, and held his own there, too. Jackson is the type of player who could have a huge impact on the Jacksonville defense.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • anon76returns

    Hmm. Might want to check those numbers on Jake Long- I have two different sites saying he only played 10 snaps for the Falcons last year, so if he gave up 20 pressures, then that’s the bad kind of impressive. Perhaps you meant in 2014 with StL/LA?

  • SpringsGal

    Is there any idea what a team would be willing to pay for Jackson in free agency? Wolfe got about roughly $9 million a season for 4 years. Personally, I think Wolfe is a more complete player than Jackson. But Jackson is hitting the free agency at the right time and will probably end up getting more per year average than Wolfe. Any guesses as to what Malik gets in free agency?? 12 million a season….4 year $45 to $50 million…More than that number or less?

    • anon76returns

      Jackson is a much better pass rusher than Wolfe, especially by measures like PFF’s pass rush productivity, which take into account hits & hurries, not just sacks. And Jackson actually led the league in 2014 in stopping the run (on a per play basis), though he wasn’t quite as good there. Malik’s also been much more consistent from 2013 on, and doesn’t have any suspensions or worries about being in the NFL’s substance abuse program.
      In any case, Malik is a better pass rusher in a league where passing (and being able to stop the pass on defense) is dominant. He will get a substantially bigger paycheck than Wolfe, probably around $10-$12M per year (which will net the Broncos one of the higher 3rd round comp picks in the 2017 draft).

      • SpringsGal

        Couple of things I want to mention. Wolfe does have more baggage than Jackson….suspensions, injury history (had a scary back injury during a preseason game in Seattle). Jackson comparatively has had no such issues.

        Having said that, I think Wolfe had a great 2015-2016 season. I think this new coaching staff has got through to Wolfe and he has refined his technique a lot more. If he stays healthy, I think Wolfe has a far better up curve in the next 3 years than Jackson (just my opinion).

        Jackson has been more consistent in the past than Wolfe. But I also think Jackson will not have the same success once he leaves Denver.

        • anon76returns

          Yeah, I agree with Wolfe and the 2015-2016. Heading into the season, I felt Malik was elite and Wolfe was just a good run stuffer. After the season, Wolfe considerably closed the gap, to the point where I didn’t really mind if Elway kept Wolfe or Malik (as long as he kept one!).
          In terms of Malik vs. Wolfe down the road, we’ll have to see. Wolfe was given the vast majority of snaps in their rookie seasons, but Malik was still the much better player in their 2nd seasons, and Malik had to do it without Wolfe or Miller (or Ware) helping him out. I think he’ll be fine wherever he goes, but I think the Broncos will be fine with Wolfe, too.

          • Frank Yi

            Wolfe was awesome in 2015. He was long considered a better fit in a 3-4 defense – or at least as an interior player, where in his first 3 seasons, he was playing (and probably miscast) largely as a 4-3 DE. Jackson is a bit more scheme versatile.

            What I’m curious and would love to see is how Wolfe graded by alignment from 2012-2014, where he was consistently great against the run and below average as a pass rusher. How did he grade playing a 6- or 7-tech versus playing 3-tech? Denver’s sack rate in that period was actually higher when Wolfe and Jackson were on the field together versus just one or the other, creating an interesting potential WOWY (with or without you) analysis. They likely meant that they were lined up on the interior on passing downs, which suits their strengths (especially Wolfe).

          • anon76returns

            Wolfe would be an interesting case to look at. As a Broncos fan and obsessive stats nerd, I had repeatedly looked at PFF’s grades for Wolfe, and argued every chance that I could that they were not grading his pass rush correctly, as he was not an edge rusher (Von was invariably lined up outside of him). As such, I took special note of his grades from each season, enough to know that at the end of his 2014 season he had a great run defense grade (~+18), a terrible pass rush grade (~-20), and a mediocre overall grade (~-2). That was back in Jan 2015. However, when they changed things around for the site and started doing their “player grades”, they quietly changed their older grades, and suddenly Wolfe’s overall 2014 season was upgraded to a pretty good ~+10. Was it because they changed how they were grading Wolfe specifically, or something they did site-wide? I have no idea, but I do know that their evaluation of Wolfe’s performance changed pretty drastically during the offseason, and so I imagine his grades split out by alignment etc. would be similarly fluid.

          • Frank Yi

            I don’t think this has anything to do with PFF’s process. This seems to me a better case of Wolfe being miscast as an edge defender rather than an interior defender in Denver’s 4-3 (similar to Jason Jones). Wolfe himself said he was surprised to be drafted by a 4-3 team, and when they switched to a 3-4 this season, he said it was a more comfortable fit. It appears that his self-evaluation was spot on.

          • anon76returns

            But he never really played an edge defender in Denver. Their base defense was a 4-3 under look, which had Miller up at the line and Wolfe in 5 tech.

            But when I say Wolfe’s grade changed, I don’t mean he improved from 2014 to 2015, I mean the literally changed his 2014 grade. It was definitely something in the PFF process, because the “re-grading” happened months after Wolfe’s last snap of the 2014 season.

          • Frank Yi

            Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the premium stats section anymore, so I can’t compare, but the last I saw, Wolfe’s pass rush grades were as follows:

            2012: -21.2
            2013: -10.3
            2014: -17.8

            They renormalize their grades at the end of each season for all seasons, so that would account for some of the changes. Do you know how much it changed? Was it a small improvement (say from -15 to -10), or do you mean it actually changed to a positive or something? If it’s the latter, then I’m definitely curious.

          • anon76returns

            I’m pretty sure it renormalized all the way up to 0 or possibly even a small positive (it happened ~the week I lost my premium stats, so I didn’t get much chance to study it)

      • Lane Trujillo

        I disagree. Wolfe had 5.5 sacks in 12 games. Jackson had 5 sacks in 16 games. Wolfe had 2.5 in the post season compared to Jackson having 1.5

        Jackson had 45 tackles in 16 games and Wolfe 49 in 12 games.

        Wolfe having a strike for the substance abuse program certainly hurt his contract, but with that said he is a better player than Malik.

        • anon76returns

          But sacks don’t always go to the player that caused the disruption. Malik has far more disruptions of passers than Wolfe, on less total snaps. Malik is much more likely to make the QB bring the ball down and get sacked by edge pressure. Wolfe is a high motor player, and is more likely to keep after a scrambling QB and eventually bring him down. But in terms of beating the offensive lineman, Malik is the far more effective pass rusher, as evidenced by things like PFF grades or Bleacher Reports’ NFL1000 series.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Jags are slowly putting together a nice nucleus of talent with the offense in particular showing a lot of upside. I’m sure Bortles would hate to lose a center as steady and reliable as Wisniewski so re-signing him is a must.

    • MudaFunkeSeaJay

      Awesome time to be a Jags fan!

  • Mike Riley

    As a Raider fan can you not give the Jags any ideas about Malik Jackson please?

    • T. Kothe

      As a Broncos fan, I want the Jags to have as many ideas about Malik Jackson as possible. :p

  • Andrew from Wash DC

    Is Jackson really that strong a DT option or are we grasping at straws here? Is he more a product of benefiting from Miller and Ware? Let’s not forget Terrence Knighton and the monster year he had before joining the Redskins. Did you hear anything of Potroast last year? Just because we have cap space doesn’t mean it needs to be spent on everyone.

    • Frank Yi

      Jackson has been a strong rotation player in 2013 and 2014, so much so that PFF had been advocating him to be a starter and a full-time player. He has played DE and DT in a 4-3 (2013-14) as well as him playing the 3- and 4i-tech this last season.

      2013: +11.8, 601 snaps (4-3 DT)
      2014: +32.5 (!), 578 snaps (4-3 DE)
      2015: +28.0, 849 snaps (3-4 DE)

      In 2014, Jackson was the #3 graded DE, behind Cameron Wake and Michael Bennett, having played about 200 less snaps

      Knighton had a monster season in 2013 (+29.1), not 2014 (+18.7), after 4 season grading in the red in Jacksonville. So, with Knighton, it was probably a bit of a red flag that his play regressed in a contract year anyway.

      Jackson has been excellent the last 3 seasons, and is deserving of this praise

      • MudaFunkeSeaJay

        Malik is an absolute stud. Great analysis!

    • Lane Trujillo

      Agreed. He had 5 regular season sacks while playing with Ware and Miller on each side of him. He never received a double. He is not worth $12m a season he will demand

  • MudaFunkeSeaJay

    I see the Jaguars being more aggressive in Free Agency than this article is leading on. The Jaguars have 80 million dollars in cap space and no elite player will be off their radar. This offense has an amazing young nucleus that should already be considered borderline elite. I see a defense that needs a major influx of talent and I fully believe to see GM Dave Caldwell pursing many of the top names. The needs that will be addressed in FA should be as follows: Edge Rusher, FS, CB, C, LB

    Position Targets


    Bruce Irvin- I consider him the better option to Olivier Vernon especially with the discounted price. The re-connection to Gus Bradley should help rejuvenate Irvin’s career and allow everyone to remember why he was a first round pick in 2012. Get him back on the line (Leo) and let him get after the QB.

    Oliver Vernon-The top name that will be available in the market. Not a doubt that the Jaguars and every other team would love to get their hands on this 26 year old pass rushing monster. However, for myself I don’t feel the price tag will be a good purchase. He is unquestionably going to be overpaid this off-season and I’d rather see another team hope he relives his 2015 season other then the Jaguars.

    JPP- If we strike out on the above two. Need to add a pass rusher. Talk to the former Florida Native.


    Need to upgrade our CB#2 position. I’d argue this as the order that I’d target them, but I’d be happy with any of them. Also still to be seen which if any make it to the open market.

    Sean Smith-

    Janoris Jenkins-

    Trumaine Johnson-

    Free Safety

    Eric Weddle-I see plenty of gas left on the tires for Weddle. I would love to get him to operate as our back end enforcer. This acquisition shouldn’t distract from the possibility of drafting Jalen Ramsey. You fill your team needs in F/A so you can pick the best player on the board in the draft.


    Kelechi Osemele- We will move Aj Cann over from RG to Center. Allowing Osemele to play the RG position. Immediately bolster’s our offensive line and will give Yeldon much more room to operate.

    Alex Mack-Clearly would be a great addition. I prefer Osemele’s youth, but Mack would be a great guy to tab.


    Danny Trevathon- It will be seen if he was a benefactor of the talent around him. But upgrading the LB speed of the Jaguars will be too tempting to pass up. I’d love to get him onto the Jaguars roster.

    Closing Thoughts
    I don’t see Jake Long being remotely a consideration for the Jaguars at this point. I feel the hate of Luke Joeckel has gone way too far. He certainly hasn’t lived up to a #2 overall pick, but getting Brandon Linder back next to him should be a major help to the kid. Perhaps we can look to address this position in the future, but at this point we give Joeckel another year to become the player that many of us know he can be.

    I would not be a shred upset if we signed Malik Jackson to help enforce our defensive front. Sen’derrick Marks has proved to be difficult to rely on for a full season. While I think bringing in a solid backup at the position to spell Marks and ensure a capable player in case of an injury is a smart move. I prefer the in house idea of Dante Fowler. For these reasons I’d prefer the Bronco’s addition Danny Tevathon to Malik Jackson.

    • Justin Siderbox

      A well informed Jags fan. Very nice post. I think your Irvin call is solid. I also think that Kam Chancellor to Jax is a very very strong possibility. He loved playing for bradley and if he doesn’t end up in NFC Atlanta, the Jags will be the only afc team he selects. And Jax will pay him.

      Alex Mack is imo 90% a Jaguar. I don’t think this is even really a question. They will invest in Bortles health and staying on his two feet, (Tho Wiz did well, and I like him a lot) Mack was supposed to be headed to Jax til Cleveland up and did the only smart thing they ever have done; match Jaguars heavy offere. But Mack, with no QB in sight at that dump franchise, sees that Jax is one of the most exciting teams about to blossom. Get those number 55 jerseys printed for us fans.

      Janoris Jenkins would be great and caldwell likes having Gators canes and noles on the team as it builds fans excitement even if it’s incremental. Those players will be more inclined to resign to be home than leave for brighter lights like New York and New England.

      Eric weddle imo is so overrated. Let someone else pay him. No thank you. I’ll take my chances with a rookie Ramsey over him.

      De though could go bosa, and im ok with that. Really okay. But we need Malik Jackson or Vernon. For some reason I don’t see Olivier giving us the shot. But man he’s one of the best.

      Lastly, TJ Yeldon was excellent last year. This guy is the modern running back. Blocks well for a pass happy league. Catches just as well as any wide receiver. He gets some help at OL again and the return of Linder, and Yeldon will be 1200 rushing 600 rec. But what we need to do in the worst way is cut Toby No gain and get even someone like Forte or an Alfred Morris.

      Bright future! Go jags

  • Hashim

    The jags might actually make the playoff with a good defense who knows could see Malik Jackson and Von Miller joining Julius Thomas though

    • Lane Trujillo

      Miller is not going anywhere. He will be franchised before he is allowed to leave. Word is he is about to get a 10 year deal in Denver

      • larry mckinney

        Franchised, yes. 10 year deal? Uhhhh, no.

        • Lane Trujillo

          I’ll take a 10 year deal all day long. Spread out your cost over ten years. He finishes his career here, salary will go up in future years.

          Franchise gives you one year. You can franchise a second but you have to pay 125% of the Max contract at that position.

          • larry mckinney

            Of course you would take one, Lane, but 10 year deals don’t happen. Can you name another one? JJ Watt? Houston? Luck? Brady? Manning? Montana? Anybody? Ever?

  • Lane Trujillo

    Malik had 5 sacks during the regular season and 1.5 sacks in the post season. He played in between Von Miller and Ware, meaning he never received a double team because the line’s focus was the two pro bowlers. I like Malik but he is not worth the money he is going to get. How many other players can you plug in between those two HOF players and get the same production?