Jacksonville Jaguars' 2020 NFL free-agent signings: Schobert plugs hole on defense

play
What offseason moves could the Jaguars make next? (0:51)

Michael DiRocco breaks down the Jaguars' recent offseason moves and looks at the positions they should focus on next. (0:51)

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year begins March 18 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.

Here's a breakdown of every 2020 NFL free-agent signing by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and how each will impact the upcoming season:


Tyler Eifert, tight end

What it means: The Jaguars have been struggling for years to get tight-end production. The current tight ends on the roster have a combined 64 career catches -- 60 from James O'Shaughnessy. Eifert -- if he can stay healthy -- could really help second-year QB Gardner Minshew II. With O'Shaughnessy (ACL) and Josh Oliver (back) coming off injuries, Eifert immediately becomes the best option by far. Eifert played a full season in 2019 and caught 43 passes for 436 yards and 3 TDs. That's the second-most receptions of his career behind his Pro Bowl year of 2015 (57 receptions).

What's the risk: Eifert, whom the Bengals drafted No. 21 overall in 2013, has missed 53 games in his seven-year career because of injuries, including 34 of a possible 48 games from 2016-18. He has played a full season just once in his career (2019). The Bengals managed him smartly last season and he played an average of 28 snaps per game, though his workload increased the last four games (37 per game).


Joe Schobert, linebacker

What it means: Schobert has played inside and outside linebacker in his four seasons with the Browns, so that gives the Jaguars some flexibility if they choose to move Myles Jack outside. Based on what coach Doug Marrone said at the combine, that appears to be the way the team is leaning. The Jaguars need some stability at linebacker after losing Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith the past two seasons and the struggles of third-round pick Quincy Williams last year.

What's the risk: There is minimal risk because Schobert has proven to be a consistent, durable player since the Browns drafted him in the fourth round in 2016. He has missed just three games and started every game in which he's played the last three seasons. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Schobert has the third-most tackles of any player in the past three seasons, including a league-high 142 in 2017. He has 8.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and six interceptions and will help boost a run defense that struggled in 2019.


Rodney Gunter, defensive end

What it means: Trading Calais Campbell left a huge hole in the Jaguars' defense at their "big end" position. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Gunter has played inside and outside in his five-year career with the Arizona Cardinals and has 126 tackles and 11 sacks. Just like Campbell, he's remarkably durable: He's missed only three games. He'll compete with Dawuane Smoot.

What's the risk: Fair or not, he'll be judged against what Campbell accomplished during his three seasons in Jacksonville. Campbell, whom the Jaguars also signed from Arizona, really flourished in the big end spot and racked up 31.5 sacks and was graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the top run-stopping ends in the league. Gunter isn't as accomplished a pass-rusher, but he just turned 28. The Jaguars moved Campbell inside in some sub packages. Can Gunter be as effective doing the same?


Al Woods, defensive tackle

What it means: Interior defensive line is a major need and Woods is a mammoth (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) run-stuffer who will fit into the rotation to replace Marcell Dareus. Woods, who has 204 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 10 seasons, did a solid job stepping in for Jarran Reed last season. Reed missed the first six games for a violation of the league's personal-conduct policy. Seattle fared better against the run in the six games that Woods started (92.8 yards per game) versus the 10 games that Reed started (132.6 yards per game).

What's the risk: Woods becomes the oldest player on the roster (he turns 33 on March 25) but he has been very durable, missing only four games in the last three seasons. Still, it's important for the Jaguars to manage the wear and tear on his body. The Jaguars were unsuccessful in doing that with defensive end Calais Campbell last season and he wasn't as effective as he was the two previous seasons.


Cassius Marsh, linebacker

What it means: Marsh can play both end and linebacker and gives the Jaguars some flexibility. He could see some time at strongside linebacker but also should play behind defensive end Josh Allen. Marsh is another durable player, missing just one game in the last five seasons.

What's the risk: He doesn't really provide much in the way of pass rush (just 14 sacks in 84 games) so it would be a mistake if the Jaguars are counting on him to pick up the slack in case DE Yannick Ngakoue doesn't sign the franchise tag or is traded (granted, the expectation is the Jaguars will draft a pass-rusher, too). He's a rotational player only.


Rashaan Melvin, cornerback

What it means: Melvin started 12 games for Detroit last year and broke up 11 passes. It's just the second time in his career he has started double-digit games in a season, so maybe he's finding the consistency he lacked early in his career. He's a big corner (6-2, 194 pounds) who will compete on the outside with Tre Herndon and Darqueze Dennard.

What's the risk: This will be Melvin's sixth team in eight seasons and he has started only 40 of the 84 games in which he's played. He has just four interceptions, which is one more than Herndon had last season in his second season in the league as an undrafted player out of Vanderbilt.


Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end

What it means: Giving Ngakoue a franchise tag extends the time the Jaguars need to decide what to do about their talented 24-year-old pass-rusher, who said on March 2 that he told the Jaguars he didn't want to sign a long-term deal. If he reports to camp, he would make an estimated $19.3 million, per OverTheCap. But that's not likely, and this move is a necessary step for the Jaguars to make a deal to extract trade value instead of letting him go for nothing in free agency (aside from a compensatory draft pick in 2021).

What he brings: Ngakoue finished with eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 2019. He's a hard worker and a one-man turnover machine -- of the 12 defensive touchdowns the Jaguars have scored since 2016, Ngakoue is directly responsible for five: a pick-six, a fumble return and three forced fumbles on sacks that other players recovered for TDs.