<
>

Jaguars finally have flexibility in the draft

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Everything is on the table for the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 5 overall pick.

Actually, not everything because they certainly aren’t going to draft a quarterback. Other than that, though, it’s wide open.

They could trade up. They could trade down.

They could take a pass rusher like Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner.

They could take linebacker Myles Jack. Or safety/cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

All of it is possible because of the work the Jaguars did in free agency. Though they didn’t sign an edge rusher, both GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars finally aren’t locked into taking a specific player to fill a specific need.

"We can be very flexible," Caldwell said at the NFL’s annual meetings this week at the Boca Raton Resort. "If there are opportunities to trade back, we could do that. If there are opportunities to trade up, we could do that. Or just select a player at that point.

"... I don’t think anything would be off the table for us right now."

The Jaguars were able to address one of their other top defensive needs by signing free safety Tashaun Gipson. That would seemingly make them less likely to draft Ramsey -- or they could take him because they signed oft-injured cornerback Prince Amukamara to a one-year deal and if he’s unable to stay healthy he wouldn’t be brought back.

Even though they missed out on signing edge rusher Olivier Vernon, the Jaguars may not take Bosa or Buckner. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson can play outside and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks should be healthy, which would give the Jaguars one of the league’s better interior rushes. That could make up for not having an elite edge rusher.

Caldwell and Bradley believe Dante Fowler Jr., the No. 3 overall pick in 2015 who missed the season with a torn left ACL, will provide enough pressure off the edge. They’re also going to give strong-side linebacker Dan Skuta significant reps at defensive end. Skuta rushed the passer on 70 snaps last season and that number should climb in 2016.

"You don’t want to compare, but across the league you look for teams with two edge rushers," Caldwell said. "Well, some teams don’t even have one and we feel like if Dante comes back we’ve got him and we’ll use Skuta in that position, and now we’ve got the draft and we’ve got a lot of time. A lot of things can happen between now and the first game, too. But all options are on the table."

That includes trading up or down, though Caldwell said he wouldn’t want to drop below the early teens.

The key is that the Jaguars now have options, which is something they didn’t feel they had the past two years.

"One of the things in free agency is you’re looking to have flexibility in the draft and I think it allowed us to do that," Bradley said. "You’d like to go into the draft saying, ‘We can take truly best available, the player that’s best when we pick,’ and I think that’s what the free agency has done for us.

"We still have some needs. We have some areas that we’d like to concentrate on, but it’s allowed us that."