Many felt that the Jaguars would draft a defensive end early in the 2011 draft to help bolster a pass rush that lacked the speed and strength necessary to slow down AFC South quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Peyton Manning. However, when the draft came to a close the Jaguars were without a single new defensive lineman added to their team. In fact, there wasn’t even a linebacker added to the team.
So the new assumption by many has been that they would address their pass rushing woes with veteran free agency, similar to the way they did in the 2010 offseason when they signed Aaron Kampman. But to find a defensive end that would have an “every downs” impact, the Jaguars would have to sign a certain type of elite player and couldn’t go bargain shopping.
For the Jaguars to acquire a player that could make a true impact right away in 2011, why not look at signing a completely healthy player that had a Pro Bowl year in his last season? Better yet, he did so by tallying 12.5 sacks while playing in the AFC South. Gene Smith could continue the improvement of the Jaguars roster by signing Titans DE Jason Babin.
Coming out of college, Babin was a highly touted, All-American player from Western Michigan that went on to be drafted in the first round. The Texans, who had drafted CB Dunta Robinson with the 10th overall selection, essentially traded away the rest of their draft to acquire another first round pick to select Babin 27th overall.
Babin played three seasons with the Texans, tallying four sacks in each of his first two seasons and five more in his third season. With one season left on his rookie contract, though, the Texans traded Babin to Seattle in exchange for safety Michael Boulware.
Babin’s time with the Seahawks was disasterous as he couldn’t work himself into Seattle’s rotation at defensive end. In his first season with the Seahawks, Babin found the field in just two games and was unable to record any stats. He was released two games into the following seasons where he stayed without a team until the Chiefs signed him in November to fill an empty roster spot.
In seven games with the Chiefs, Babin started four and recorded two sacks before becoming a free agent. He was then signed by the Eagles for the 2009 season where he was unable to find a starting spot, but was able to earn 2.5 sacks in 12 games that he found the field.
The Titans signed Babin for the 2010 season and his skills finally bloomed to the potential that the Texans saw when they drafted him in 2004. He started all 16 games for the Titans racking up 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, ultimately landing himself in the Pro Bowl.
After a pinball career that has had Babin with five teams in his seven years in the NFL, Babin is now looking for some job security, saying that he is willing to sacrifice money to have more years on a contract. Even with the franchise tag paying over $12 million to defensive ends, Babin has said he isn’t interested and hoped the Titans wouldn’t use it on him.
Gene Smith has signed very few free agents during his tenure as general manager for the Jaguars so finding patterns in the signings is difficult. However, in his two offseasons of veteran free agency, there has yet to have been a signing of a player with just one great year of play. Torry Holt, Tra Thomas, Aaron Kampman and Kassim Osgood all came to the Jaguars after multiple seasons of top quality play in the NFL.
Perhaps the risk would be worth taking for Smith to acquire the player that was ranked #85 in NFL Network’s top 100 players of 2011 countdown. Or maybe Smith will instead look at Babin’s 4.5 sacks in the three season prior and decide to pass on Babin.
Babin’s career in the NFL has been a mediocre one except one stellar season in 2011. At 31 years old, Babin could certainly have more elite seasons like that, but could also go the rest of his career without even approaching double digit sacks again. Signing Babin would, without a doubt, be a risky move for Smith.