Free Agents: Who's Left?
Justin Smith (Al Behrman/AP)
Justin Smith (Al Behrman/AP)
Editor-in-Chief, JagNation.com
Posted Feb 19, 2008
Charlie Bernstein


Finding a young free agent defensive end for most NFL teams seems to be more difficult than finding a Nintendo Wii on Christmas eve. With the Jaguars being one of the teams in desperate need of help on the edge, their choices seem to be more limited with each passing day.

The free agency wish list for defensive ends keeps getting smaller and smaller as news has come in that the top rated defensive end, Jared Allen, will be franchised by the Kansas City Chiefs, and the next best player available, Terrell Suggs, has been franchised by the Baltimore Ravens.

Justin Smith appears to be the next best option. He will definitely be available, as the Cincinnati Bengals decided to forego using the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year, and use it on their young offensive lineman, Stacy Andrews. Smith is a high motor guy who plays the run better than he rushes the passer, but he's coming off a down year in which he finished with just two sacks. Was his poor year a sign of decline at just 28 years of age, or was it based more on the lack of surrounding talent? The real question is what is it going to be worth to the Jaguars to find out?

Another prospect that seems to fit the team's free agency structure of signing players off of their first contract is the Titans Antwan Odom. Odom is a 26 year old former second-round pick of Tennessee who hasn't put up much numbers in his career prior to 2007, as evidenced by his 4.5 career sacks in his first three seasons. Odom does look the part as he stands 6'4" tall and 277 lbs., and he's athletic, as he had eight sacks in 2007 while playing next to the very dominant Albert Haynesworth. Odom has two touchdowns as a Titan (off fumble returns), and he has a tendency to make big plays. There's not a ton of evidence that shows Odom can be a game changing pass rusher without playing next to a superstar defensive tackle (which the Jaguars had prior to last season), but he's a young, physical athlete that has upside and should come at a somewhat discounted rate.

Calvin Pace is a prospect that the Jaguars could be interested in, as he is a 27 year old that is also coming off his rookie contract. Pace was a former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, and he looks better in a uniform than he does on paper. Pace has just 14 sacks in his five-year career, and he's started just 6 games since 2003 at defensive end. At 6'4", 262 lbs., Pace, like Odom looks the part, but can either play as an every downs DE? That could be the $4+ million per year question.

With Jared Allen and Terrell Suggs being off the market, Justin Smith immediately becomes the best available defensive end. Is Smith a perennial Pro Bowler? No, but he's been a productive player in his career without much defensive talent around him. Smith is only 28, and will now demand a pretty nice sized paycheck when teams look at the other available options, in Odom and Pace, and guys like Bobby McCray. If the Jaguars or some other team is going to make a run at Smith, they will likely have to overpay and hope that he stays healthy and can be productive. That is why it's never cheap to fill your needs in free agency.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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