JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' cornerback position in this look at the '18 offseason
2017 starters: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Aaron Colvin (nickel).
2017 reserves: Jalen Myrick, Tyler Patmon.
Others:Dexter McDougle, Sammy Seamster.
2017 at a glance: The Jaguars' cornerback position was not only as strong in 2017 as it has been at any point in franchise history, it was as strong as the cornerback position has been for any NFL team in recent memory. Ramsey in his second NFL season emerged as perhaps the league's top player at the position, earning first-team Associated Press All-Pro recognition. Bouye, in his first season with the team after signing as an unrestricted free agent from Houston, was at the very least very close to Ramsey's equal much of the season and earned second-team AP All-Pro recognition. Ramsey registered four interceptions and 17 pass breakups with Bouye registering six interceptions and 18 pass breakups. Aaron Colvin continued to be one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL and had arguably the best season of his four-year Jaguars and NFL career.
Offseason storyline:The major offseason storyline here is the direction the Jaguars choose to go with Colvin. A fourth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and one of the NFL's top nickel cornerbacks, Colvin is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on the March 14 start of the 2018 NFL League Year. Colvin is a critical component to the defense because nickel corner in recent seasons has become the equivalent of a starting position – and Colvin's awareness in the middle of the field was a major reason the Jaguars' pass defense ranked throughout 2017 as one of the league's best. He is a solid tackler, dangerous when asked to pressure the quarterback and can take away an opponent's slot receiver; he's key to what the Jaguars do defensively.
Free agents as of March 14: Colvin.
Oehser analysis:This will be one of the more intriguing areas of the Jaguars' offseason. That has nothing to do with Ramsey and Bouye, who were the NFL's best corner tandem last season and who figure to form the core of the Jaguars' defense for the foreseeable future. The intriguing area to watch will be how the team approaches Colvin's contract situation. Nickel corner in recent seasons has become essentially a starting position – and coaches and teammates alike last season talked often of Colvin's importance to what through most of the season was the NFL's best defense. It was assumed by many though much of last season that the Jaguars would let Colvin sign elsewhere, but the thought here is the team will find a way to re-sign him. If that doesn't happen, the team likely will have to select a corner early in the draft. But that's a tricky approach; even a highly drafted talented corner often needs time to adapt to playing a nickel role at the professional level. The difficulty of finding a nickel at Colvin's level could eventually lead to the Jaguars re-signing a player who has become increasingly important to the defense.
Sexton analysis: Ramsey and Bouye are the Jaguars starting cornerbacks. Obvious, huh? Anything I would say about those two is obvious. You all saw the NFL's best tandem of defensive backs this past season – and the amazing, leaping, diving, timely, game-winning plays the pair made. They're the best – and if you don't believe me, ask them. They would also add that Colvin belongs in the conversation and he was very, very good in his role – which, by the way, in today's NFL is a starting role. The question here is whether the Jaguars brass sees him the same as his teammates. If so, then finding a way to keep him should be a priority. Remember, Colvin was thought to be a top talent a few years back when he injured his knee at the Senior Bowl. The Jags took him in the fourth round and developed him – and he has been a strong contributor ever since. Can they afford to let that go? Can they afford to pay him with as many young turks as they have roaming the roster who will need to be paid? It's not hyperbole to suggest that Colvin was a crucial and critical contributor as the third corner – and when you look closely at some of the match-ups he faced, and won this season, it's not really an argument either. Beyond the big three, Patmon was a serviceable veteran and Myrick remains an unknown commodity. If for some reason Colvin is elsewhere next season, finding his replacement becomes a top priority for a defense which has super expectations on its back.