With Marcel Dareus officially an unrestricted free agent, the Jaguars reportedly agreed to terms with defensive tackle Authentic Rodney Gunter Jersey on Wednesday evening.
A fourth-round selection of the Cardinals in 2015, Gunter has appeared in 77 games, including 13 in 2019. He owns 11 career sacks and 86 solo tackles — including a career high 44 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles through 16 games and 10 starts in 2018.
He suffered a toe injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the 2019 season on December 10. Gunter played on a one-year, $1.75 million deal in 2019.
The deal will be finalized pending a physical.
According to the NFL, clubs may not bring any FA player to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel during this time. Club personnel, including members of the team’s medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with or conduct a medical examination of a FA player.
There were just a handful of technical speed-bumps. No phone calls or major interruptions were had.
“We are doing everything we can, making sure that there is distance and all of the things that people are advising us to do,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone assured reporters. “I want to go in and get that cup of coffee and go behind my desk, turn on my computer, start watching film. Now, I’m watching it from home and the dog will be barking or someone will be knocking on the door.”
While the serious change in the global landscape was discussed — including the potential of a delay in the NFL season — Marrone maintained that, whenever the season does begin, he and his team must be ready. That’s the focus right now.
“I think the worst thing that could happen is they say, ‘Ready, let’s go,’ and you’re not prepared,” the fourth-year head coach said. “So I’m really taking it day-by-day like everyone else, reminding myself how serious this is, you know, what we have going, knowing that takes priority over a season of sports …but more importantly we’ve got to rally around.”
If and when there is a 2020 season, Marrone will be rallying around one of the youngest rosters in the NFL — something he admitted during the teleconference.
“Everyone knows we have a lot of picks [in the NFL Draft],” Marrone said. The Jaguars currently have 12 selections in the 2020 Draft, which is still scheduled for April 23-25. “We’ll have a young football team which, like anything else, there’s a lot of positive to that. A bunch of hungry guys coming in here. A lot of enthusiasm. A lot of guys trying to work.”
After the Jaguars relieved Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin of his duties in December, Jaguars owner Shad Khan noted that personnel decisions would now fall to Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell. In a sense, aside from the NFL Scouting Combine, this was the first time the media truly got to hear Marrone’s “vision” for constructing his 2020 roster. Two big themes emerged:
- “Not a lot of drama”
- Building a “tough, strong football team,” particularly “up the middle”
“I think when you’re looking at those three players that we brought in, they’re solid guys, they’re solid football players, they bring some versatility, but the main thing is, like I said before, our priority was making sure we brought people in to stop the run,” Marrone said of free agent acquisitions Al Woods, Cassius Marsh and Rodney Gunter. Gunter and Woods are both interior defensive linemen. The Jaguars gave up 200+ yards on the ground four times during the second-half of the 2019 season.
Part of shoring up “the middle” included signing former Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert. Schobert will play middle linebacker, with fifth-year Jaguar Myles Jack transitioning to the “Will” or weak-side linebacker. Marrone said Jack is “excited” for the move and his new teammate.
“Myles Jack is able to play really all three positions and play them all we feel at a high level. When it showed itself that we could get a player with the caliber of [Joe] Schobert, we went along and did that. We feel that we bettered ourselves at two positions.”
In terms of fulfilling his first goal — “not a lot of drama” — the Jaguars have had trouble escaping that this off-season, as lingering contract negotiations with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue have led to a social media outburst from the 2017 Pro Bowler. Tuesday morning, prior to Marrone’s address, Ngakoue fired off on social media once more, saying it was time for both his camp and the Jaguars to “move on.” Marrone note that contracts negotiations fall under Caldwell’s responsibilities, but did offer this:
“As a coach you always want your players to be happy. You want the best for your players. From that standpoint, I understand the challenges that are going on for Yann…. It’s just tough, it really is, especially with a player that has done everything we’ve asked. I’m hoping that somewhere down the line we can get this situation resolved.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Marrone gave a firm “no” when asked if the Jaguars had enough play-makers on their roster. They only signed one offensive player in free agency: tight end Tyler Eifert, who Marrone did praise as a “three-down tight end” who he has watched for quite some time.
“We’re always trying to find more weapons whether it be on the outside, whether it be on the backfield or at the tight end position or whether it’s someone that is going to push the offensive line,” Marrone said.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have enough.’ It’s one of those things that you never have enough. It’s like chocolate chip cookies. There’s never enough in the house for me.”
We’ll see how many cookies the Jaguars take from the offensive cookie jar in this April’s Draft. The Draft will be broadcast on ABC25 beginning Thursday, April 23.