The Jaguars are less than a week away from signing a host of new players to contracts through free agency.
The team plans to show "discipline" and not be "careless" with their abundance of salary cap space this offseason. Instead of going off on a spending spree, the team is likely to target a handful of players and make aggressive offers to secure their services.
With the Jaguars set to focus in on a group of talented players, it makes sense to target some "must have" talent and determine who is not worth breaking the bank.
Below are three players the Jaguars should absolutely target and three who should be avoided on the "big pay day" market:
Must Have Talent
The Houston Texans cornerback has worked his way up from being an undrafted free agent to a stud cornerback in a matter of four seasons. Bouye, a University of Central Florida graduate, was not franchise tagged by the Texans. Houston's potential loss could be a massive gain for Jacksonville. Cornerback will be addressed in free agency, so the Jaguars might as well covet the top coverage player on the market.
Bouye didn't become a starter until this past season, but he played lights out for Houston when given the opportunity. In the Texans' two playoff games, Bouye produced two interceptions and six pass breakups. He shined when it mattered most and ranked as the third-best cornerback in league this season by Pro Football Focus.
Bouye is solid in man and zone coverage, which should make him appealing to the Jaguars. I think he has to be at the top of their list when it comes to the cornerback position. At 6-foot, 191 pounds, he has decent size and is only 25. The Jaguars have plenty of money to spend and Bouye seems like the perfect partner for Jalen Ramsey.
In my opinion, Zeitler is the most "must have" player for the Jaguars. However, I think the team will focus heavily on the secondary while letting Johnathan Cyprien and Prince Amukmara potentially walk on the open market.
I'm a big believer in targeting 2-3 players to go overly-aggressive after in free agency. If Bouye is No. 1, Zeitler should be No. 1A.
The Jaguars have struggled to run the ball for two seasons and that is largely due to a lack of push on the right side of the line. Zeitler, a former first round pick, can maul opposing defensive linemen and has a proven track record as a five-year starter. A career right guard, bringing in Zeitler would allow the Jaguars to move A.J. Cann to his more natural spot at left guard. I think the one move makes both guards positions better.
Adding Zeitler and Branden Albert to the line - while moving Cann - should be enough rebuild the unit. Zeitler would be a gift for the run game. He ranked in the Top 10 in run blocking among guards on Pro Football Focus. He ranked in the Top 5 in passing blocking.
While spending tons of money on a strong safety typically isn't good business, Jefferson is a special player. He is one of the best run-defending defensive backs in the league, but can also cover very well. His versatility should open up the defense for Jacksonville and allow the cornerbacks and linebackers to excel.
Jefferson just turned 25. He is a young player worth investing in and has had to earn his reputation the hard way. Similar to Bouye, he had to work his way up the depth chart after starting out as an undrafted free agent.
Jefferson has produced 11 pass breakups, two interceptions and six forced fumbles over the last three seasons.
Avoid on the Market
I'm not a fan of paying free agent running backs. Paying for a running back with three seasons of mileage (Murray missed his rookie season due to injury) is a gamble that young teams should avoid. Murray has been productive for the Oakland Raiders, but the running back class has plenty of talented players at the position. Adding to the difficulty in offering up a big deal for Murray is the contract handed to Chris Ivory this past offseason.
Murray will command starting running back money and the Jaguars will use a rotation that won't make the investment worth it. Murray is an excellent player and deserves a big pay day, but I'm not sure it's the right fit for him in Jacksonville.
The New England Patriots tight end is well-traveled. He has shown a lot of big play ability throughout his career, but he has also been jettisoned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Chicago Bears since 2008. He also has an outgoing personality that has seemingly rubbed some the wrong way. Bennett worked with Tom Coughlin in 2012 and was not brought back after his first year in New York. Perhaps that's worth noting.
Bennett will turn 30 the day after free agency (March 10). I think the Jaguars should go younger with replacing Julius Thomas.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said Paul Posluszny will have a role with the team next season. That means there will be little room for a new starting middle linebacker. While Hightower's playoff performance was admirable, I don't think he is the right player for Jacksonville right now. Even if Posluszny wasn't on the roster, I think Myles Jack's presence makes Hightower's appeal even less desirable for the Jaguars.
Again, like Murray, Hightower is an excellent player, just not a fit.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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