2017 offseason: An early look at (defensive) free agency

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JACKSONVILLE – And now we get defensive.

This is Part 2 of jaguars.com's early look at 2017 NFL free agency. The focus: defense, where the Jaguars will address important issues in the coming weeks.

The Jaguars between now and the March 9 start of free agency must determine which of their players they will try to re-sign and keep off the open market. That means high-profile decisions regarding players such as starting strong-safety Johnathan Cyprien, starting cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive end Tyson Alualu.

This is a strong year on the overall market for defense at some positions, with players such as safety Eric Berry of Kansas City, defensive end/edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye scheduled to become free agents.

The guess here is that Berry will return to Kansas City, but could the Jaguars pursue Pierre-Paul in an effort for the veteran edge rusher they couldn't acquire last offseason?

Could a player such as Bouye make sense if the Jaguars opt not to re-sign Amukamara?

Stay tuned, but the early days of free agency will be intriguing for the Jaguars both offensively and defensively, and we will learn much about the organization's direction under Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone during that time.

Here's Part 2 of jaguars.com's early look at free agency with a focus on defense:

Edge players

Top pending free agents: Melvin Ingram (28), Chargers; Jason Pierre-Paul (28), Giants; Chandler Jones (27), Cardinals; Nick Perry (27), Packers; James Harrison (39), Steelers; DeMarcus Ware (35), Broncos; Datone Jones (27), Packers; Mario Addison (29), Panthers; Charles Johnson (31), Panthers; Jabaal Sheard (28), Patriots;  Lorenzo Alexander (34), Bills; Julius Peppers (37), Packers; John Simon (26), Texans; Jamie Collins (27), Browns; Jarvis Jones (27), Steelers; Dwight Freeney (37), Falcons; Chris Long (32), Patriots; Andre Branch (28), Dolphins; William Gholston (26), Buccaneers; Sam Acho (28), Bears; Jason Jones (31), Dolphins; Erik Walden (32), Colts; Jack Crawford                  (28), Cowboys; Devin Taylor (27), Lions.

Jaguars edge players:Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr., Chris Smith.

Pending Jaguars free agents:None.

Comment:The Jaguars pursued then-Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon last offseason before he signed with the New York Giants. While Ngakoue registered eight sacks and Fowler flashed at times in 2016, the Jaguars' pass rush still lacked a veteran presence. Could Pierre-Paul, who played for Coughlin from 2010-2015, make sense? We'll see.

Defensive tackles

Top pending free agents:Kawann Short (28), Panthers; Brandon J. Williams (28), Ravens; Calais Campbell (30), Cardinals; Dontari Poe (27), Chiefs; Chris Baker (29), Redskins; Nick Fairley (29), Saints; Bennie Logan (27), Eagles; Karl Klug (29), Titans; Alan Branch (32), Patriots; Lawrence Guy (27), Ravens; Tony McDaniel (32), Seahawks; Leger Douzable (31), Bills; Jonathan Babineaux (35), Falcons; Terrell McClain (29), Cowboys; Johnathan Hankins (25), Giants; Sylvester Williams (28), Broncos; Vince Wilfork (35), Texans; Domata Peko (32), Bengals; Ziggy Hood (30), Redskins; Glenn Dorsey (32), 49ers.

Jaguars defensive tackles:Malik Jackson, Abry Jones, Roy Miller, Sen'Derrick Marks, Sheldon Day, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hill, Louis Nix.

Jaguars strong-side defensive ends:Jared Odrick, Tyson Alualu.

Pending Jaguars free agents: Alualu, Jones, Hill.

Comment:This wouldn't seem a high-priority area for the Jaguars, but the team must make decisions on Jones and Alualu in the coming weeks. Jones played at a high level after replacing Miller at nose tackle in October, and the guess here is the Jaguars try to re-sign the still-ascending player. Alualu is a reliable, versatile player who never has missed a game because of injury in seven NFL seasons and those players are hard to find. The team also must decide on the future of Odrick, who signed as a high-profile free agent in 2015 and who costs no dead money on next year's salary cap if he is not retained.

Linebackers

Top pending free agents:Dont'a Hightower (27), Patriots; Perry Riley (31), Raiders; Zach Brown (27), Bills; Gerald Hodges (26), 49ers; Kevin Minter (26), Cardinals; Ray-Ray Armstrong (28), 49ers; Sio Moore (27), Cardinals; Sean Spence (28), Titans          ; Karlos Dansby  (35), Bengals; Josh Bynes (28), Lions; Daryl Smith (35), Buccaneers; Justin Durant (31), Cowboys; Nick Bellore (28), 49ers; Donald Butler (28), Dolphins; Chad Greenway (34), Vikings; Malcolm Smith (28), Raiders; Lawrence Timmons (31), Steelers; Philip Wheeler (32), Falcons; A.J. Klein (26), Panthers; Keenan Robinson (28), Giants; Kelvin Sheppard (29), Giants; Michael Wilhoite (30), 49ers; Manti Te'o (26), Chargers; Jelani Jenkins (25), Dolphins.

Jaguars linebackers:Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack, Dan Skuta, Hayes Pullard, Marcus Rush, Sean Porter, Raphael Kirby.

Pending Jaguars free agents: None.

Comment:Smith and Posluszny were two of the Jaguars' top three defensive players last season and the team figures to increase Jack's role next season after he split time as a rookie with Dan Skuta at strong-side linebacker. This area doesn't seem to be a free-agent priority, but a decision needs to be made on Skuta, who signed as a high-profile free agent in 2015 but who – like Odrick – costs no dead money on next year's cap if not retained.

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Safeties

Top pending free agents:Eric Berry (28), Chiefs; Tony Jefferson (25), Cardinals; Barry Church (28), Cowboys; D.J. Swearinger (25), Cardinals; Quintin Demps (32), Texans; Jahleel Addae (27), Chargers; T.J. McDonald (26), Rams; Mike C. Adams (36), Colts; J.J. Wilcox (28), Cowboys; Bradley McDougald (26), Buccaneers; Duron Harmon (26), Patriots; Steven Terrell (26), Seahawks; Rafael Bush (30), Lions; Daniel Sorensen (27), Chiefs; Jaylen Watkins (24), Eagles; Rashad Johnson (31), Titans; Jordan Poyer (26), Browns; Kemal Ishmael (26), Falcons; Duke Ihenacho (28), Redskins; Donte Whitner (32), Redskins; Bacarri Rambo (27), Dolphins;  Chris Conte (28),                  Buccaneers.

Jaguars safeties:Johnathan Cyprien, Tashaun Gipson, Peyton Thompson, James Sample, Jarrod Wilson.

Pending Jaguars free agents: Cyprien.

Comment:Cyprien will be a major decision for the Jaguars. He turned in his best season in four NFL seasons last season, but he could demand more than the Jaguars are willing to pay.

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Cornerbacks

Top pending free agents:A.J. Bouye (26), Texans; Stephon Gilmore (26), Bills; Trumaine Johnson (27), Rams; Terence Newman (38), Vikings; Morris Claiborne (27), Cowboys; Darius Butler (31), Colts; Logan Ryan (26), Patriots; Captain Munnerlyn (29), Vikings; Dre Kirkpatrick (27), Bengals; Leon Hall (32), Giants; Micah Hyde (26), Packers; Sterling Moore (27), Saints; Jerraud Powers (30), Ravens; B.W. Webb (27), Saints; Antwon Blake (27), Titans; Corey White (27), Bills; Nolan Carroll (30), Eagles; D.J. Hayden (27), Raiders; Marcus Cooper (27), Cardinals; Leonard Johnson (27), Panthers.

Jaguars cornerbacks:Jalen Ramsey, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Colvin, Davon House, Josh Johnson, Doran Grant, Akeem Davis, Elijah Shumate.

Pending Jaguars free agents: Amukamara.

Comment:This is another area worth watching. Amukamara, who signed a one-year "show-me" contract with the Jaguars last offseason, showed he could stay healthy – and he played at a high level opposite Ramsey. Like Cyprien, this could be a situation where the player's demands exceed what the team will pay. If so, could the Jaguars pursue a player such as Bouye? Coughlin likes to sign free agents within the division because it hurts division rivals while helping his own team. Stay tuned.

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