2. Defensive Tackle Michael Pierce
One of the biggest problems for the Jaguars in 2019 was poor run defense, which could be directly attributed to issues in the middle of their defensive line. Marcell Dareus, the big trade acquisition from a few years ago to fill that hole, played in only six games due to injury.
There is no question that Dareus is an extremely talented player when healthy, but that is tough to bank on with a guy who hasn’t played a full season since 2013 and has missed significant time in two of the past four years. The Jaguars can also save a lot of money by moving on from Dareus, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take that escape hatch to create more options for their offseason.
Moving on from Dareus means that the Jaguars would need to replace him, and one of their top targets should be Baltimore Ravens’ defensive tackle Michael Pierce. Over the past year, Pierce has begun to emerge as one of the elite interior run defenders in the NFL, and he still has room to improve at age 27.
The Ravens will try hard to retain Pierce, who is one of their priorities in free agency, but the Jaguars know that a guy like him could significantly upgrade their defense. Shuffling some salaries around and making appropriate cuts should allow Jacksonville to create enough room to sign Pierce, who could have a big ripple effect for the rest of the defense.
If Pierce is taking up double teams and stopping the run, it could create more one-on-one matchups for the Jaguars’ edge rushers to get to the quarterback. It has been a down few years for the unit once known as “Sacksonville,” but the good times could start rolling again with Pierce at the heart of the defensive line.