Jaguars A Potential Destination For Daron Payne In Free Agency?

Daron Payne, Jaguars
NFL Analysis Network

The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised a lot of people with their performance during the 2022 season. After starting the season 3-7, they stormed back to finish 9-8, winning the AFC South in the process.

This is a franchise that is on the right track with Doug Pederson as head coach and Trevor Lawrence leading the offense. He took a major step forward in Year 2, looking like what the Jaguars hoped he would when they selected him No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

With that side of the ball in good hands, the focus this offseason should be on improving the defense. The Jaguars finished 12th in points allowed but 24th in yardage, as they struggled mightily to slow down opposing teams through the air. Jacksonville ranked 28th in yardage allowed, something that needs to be cleaned up.

Upgrading the secondary would certainly be a smart plan of attack as they need a bookend for Tyson Campbell. Improving the pass rush would also help slow down opposing passing games, which is what makes Daron Payne a player to target in free agency.

The Jaguars had only 35 sacks on the season, led by Josh Allen with 7.0. Dawuane Smoot was the only other player with at least 5.0 on the season, as bolstering the pass rush should be near the top of the front office’s to-do list for the offseason.

Payne, who made his first Pro Bowl as a replacement for Aaron Donald, registered a career-high 11.5 sacks this season. He would bring some much-needed pass-rushing pressure from the interior of the defensive line as he lived in the opponent’s backfield.

In 17 games this past season with the Washington Commanders, Payne also registered 20 quarterback hits and 18 tackles for loss. In addition to the improved pass-rushing ability, he is a stout run defender. The 86 stops from 2018-2020 that he recorded were the most in the NFL.

Still only 25, Payne could be a long-term building block for the Jaguars’ defensive line along with Tavon Walker, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft. His presence would enable Walker to take his game to the next level, as he showed plenty of promise during his rookie campaign.

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