Bob Sanders in Jacksonville: My thoughts

Adam Schefter reported this morning that the 2007 AP Defensive Player of the Year, Bob Sanders, is in Jacksonville visiting with Jaguars. It’s pretty easy to get excited about the possibilities of such a dynamic defensive player in teal, but with such high potential reward comes enormous risk.

Bob Sanders will turn 30 on Thursday. After being drafted in the second round of 2004 and starting in four games his rookie season, Sanders quickly propeled himself to be one of the elite safeties in the league in his second season. He earned Pro Bowl and AP All-Pro honors in 2005 after starting 14 games. In 2006, Sanders suffered an injury that cut his regular season to only four games; however, his role in those four games and the postseason was very apparent.

The Colts defense without Sanders had just been thrashed by the Jaguars for 375 yards rushing just one game after allowing 219 rushing yards to the Titans. With Sanders injected into the defense during the playoffs, they didn’t allow the Chiefs, Ravens or Patriots to eclipse 100 yards rushing. The Colts went on to defeat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

In 2007, Sanders played in 15 games and earned himself Pro Bowl, All-Pro and AP Defensive Player of the Year honors. He tallied two interceptions, six passes defended, one fumble recovery and 3.5 sacks. That was the last time Sanders made a legitimate impact on the Colts defense.

Since 2007, Sanders started six games in 2008, two games in 2009 and just one in 2010. Whether it was a high ankle sprain, a torn biceps tendon or another injury, he hasn’t been able to find the football field that led to an eventual release from the team that released him.

When the Jaguars signed Aaron Kampman in the 2010 offseason, they did so with the knowledge that he was still recovering from a torn ACL that sent him to injured reserve. Despite this knowledge, he received a four year $24 million contract with $11 million guaranteed.

The difference between Kampman and Sanders was the amount of times Kampman got hurt. Prior to his ACL tear, Kampman had put in seven years of work that showed he was a durable force in the past. Prior to Sanders’s current bicep injury he had never put in a full 16 game season.

The risk might be necessary, however, for a team that certainly needs help in the secondary. If the Jaguars can sign Sanders to an incentive-based contract and cut down on the risk as much as possible, then there really isn’t much of a reason not to sign the safety who is certainly capable of playing at an elite level.

In a comment on this site, Rell said that he felt Don Carey would be the most improved player on the Jaguars defense in 2011. Believe it or not, I agree with Rell on that evaluation. Carey was essentially a 6th round pick from Norfolk State, playing in his rookie season. Furthermore, he was doing so after making a position switch halfway through and learning a new position as the season progressed.

By signing Sanders, the Jaguars are not necessarily giving up on Carey, but giving him someone to learn from, in my opinion. Behind Courtney Greene, the Jaguars’ depth at safety is woefully thin and needs to be addressed. While I believe Don Carey could be a strong force in the Jaguars secondary, it is far from guaranteed. Pursuing help is a must.

I am absolutely behind the Jaguars signing Bob Sanders, by whatever means necessary. Preferably that would include incentives and cut down on risk, but if guaranteed money is necessary to sign him, the potential reward is worth the investment. The Jaguars should, though, address the position in the same way they addressed tackle, wide receiver and defensive end in the last two seasons.

That is to say, draft defensive backs to supplement a veteran player being signed. Perhaps that veteran player of this year is Bob Sanders.