The Jacksonville Jaguars once again spent a lot of money in NFL free agency during the 2017 NFL offseason and once again the majority of their big money signings were on the defensive side of the football. Many expected the Jaguars to be aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, namely at the guard position, because the Jaguars had a Top 10 ranked defense during the 2016 season, despite going 3-13 on the year.
The best thing the Jaguars did this offseason though, was accurately self-evaluate themselves and realize that Top 10 defensive rating wasn't a true indication of where the defense was at.
Self-evaluation is a lost art in the NFL, where most people are more concerned with trying to make mistakes work, rather than pull the plug on something that isn't working. Admitting you were wrong about a player often times can cost you your job, so instead it just gets worse and compounded by teams trying to force the issue, hoping a bad pick turns out good. For the Jaguars, this has been a problem for years, but perhaps with the addition of a fresh set of eyes in Tom Coughlin, the team was able to accurately look themselves in the mirror, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
The Jaguars ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards per game, in the top 15 in rush yards per game (top six in yards per carry), the Jaguars pass defense was near the top of the league, but the points per game ranked 25th. Sure you can argue the points were effected by pick sixes, bad special teams, etc. but the fact of the matter is when teams needed to score, more often than not they were able to.
The signing of A.J. Bouye was obvious, either way, as the team simple did not have a corner opposite Jalen Ramsey. It would have been easy for the Jaguars to stick with what they had in Prince Amukamara, who was serviceable, and focus resources elsewhere. The team instead opted to go for a long-term upgrade at the position with Bouye and let Amukamara hit the market.
The team also signed Calais Campbell which upgraded two things. First, just the overall level of play at the left end position compared to Jared Odrick and Tyson Alualu. It isn't just the pass rush from the left end position that upgraded with Campbell either, as he's been a monster against the run in the NFL for quite a long time.
Then the Jaguars brought in Barry Church to overall upgrade the strong safety position, especially considering it won't be the singular box safety it had been with Johnathan Cyprien. While Cyprien might be the better pure run defender compared to Church, Church offers much more in the passing game than Cyprien did, including being much more effective in two-deep looks that the Jaguars are likely to use this season.
A lot of people seemed to be fine with the Jaguars just adding another end and keeping Amukara and Cyprien, thinking they could replicate the success the defense had in 2016, but thankfully the Jaguars didn't feel that way. The team knew they couldn't just stick with status quo and not only had to upgrade those positions, but significantly upgrade them.
It's likely the Jaguars aren't done focusing on beefing up the defensive either, as evidenced by the interest in the likes of Donatri Poe and potentially Jonathan Hankins. The defensive side of the ball is much closer to being a dominant unit than the offense and instead of going all out for a guard, the team recognized it could significantly elevate the play of one side of the football with veterans. The draft might end up being defense heavy, as well, even the No. 4 overall pick.
Leading up to free agency you heard a lot of talk that the defense didn't need much, but thankfully the Jaguars recognized the faux "top 10" ranking and adding big pieces to make that more sustainable going forward.