JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars opened free agency Tuesday by addressing two huge needs on defense. They agreed to terms with linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Darqueze Dennard, giving the unit a proven starter and another potential one.
Schobert spent the past four years in Cleveland, where he led the team in tackles twice and made a Pro Bowl.
Dennard served mostly as a nickel cornerback during his six years in Cincinnati, but he will get a chance to compete outside in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are looking to replace cornerback A.J. Bouye, who was traded to Denver earlier this month for a fourth-round draft pick.
A person familiar with the transactions said Schobert will sign a five-year contract worth $53.75 million and includes $22.5 million guaranteed. Dennard agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million and includes $6 million guaranteed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deals won't become official until the new league year begins Wednesday.
Jacksonville had been looking to upgrade its linebacker group after failing repeatedly to adequately replace retired starters Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith. The Jaguars drafted Murray State's Quincy Williams in the third round last year, but he didn't pan out and ended up getting benched. They also moved Myles Jack to the all-important middle linebacker spot in their 4-3 defense, and Jack responded with one of his worst seasons.
Jack seems better suited to play outside and likely will return to his former spot with Schobert in the mix. Schobert had 408 tackles, 20 pass breakups, 8 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles and six interceptions in four years in Cleveland. He played in 61 of 64 games, including 49 starts, since the Browns drafted him out of Wisconsin in the fourth round in 2016.
He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2017.
Jacksonville's defense was at its best in 2017 with Posluszny, Smith and Jack roaming the middle of the field. But Posluszny retired after that season, and Smith stunned the Jaguars by calling it quits last May "to get my world in order.” Smith has given no indication he plans to return in 2020.
The linebacker room has been in flux since and in need of an overhaul.
Jacksonville's secondary will have a new look, too, after trading star Jalen Ramsey in October and then sending Bouye to Denver. The Jags are likely to address the position in the NFL draft. They have 11 picks, including six in the first four rounds.
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