Our hometown Jaguars were pretty busy in free agency this year, looking to improve upon last season’s 5-11 record and pushing to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
In case you haven’t had the chance to read up on our new free agency additions, we’ve compiled some facts and information about all seven of them:
26-year-old defensive end Malik Jackson comes to the Jaguars after four seasons with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The Broncos drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Tennessee. Jackson originally attended the University of Southern California, transferring to Tennessee in 2010. Last season, Jackson recorded 45 combined tackles and 5 sacks. He also recorded his first ever fumble recovery for a touchdown, in the Super Bowl of all games; he recovered a Cam Newton fumble forced by Von Miller, swinging the momentum of the game in Denver’s favor early on. His brother, Marquis, currently plays in the AFL.
Jackson referred to signing with the Jaguars as “a true blessing.” He brought his baby daughter with him to sign the contract, as ensuring her future was a big consideration in his free-agency decision process. Jackson will provide a huge boost to the team’s defense, which struggled with consistency in 2015.
Running back Chris Ivory joins the team after three seasons with the New York Jets. Before that, he spent three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Ivory had a relatively adventurous path to the NFL. He started his collegiate career with Washington State, but was plagued by injuries and would later be kicked off the team after being charged with assault for allegedly striking another student with a bottle at a party. He transferred to the Division-II Tiffin University in Ohio for his final season; he played well but would succumb to an injury that would end his college career. Despite his rough college stint, scouts were impressed by his skills, and his Tiffin coach Dave Walkosky lobbied hard in support of his skill and character. Ivory would go undrafted, but the Saints gave him a chance and he caught on.
Ivory joins the Jags to split carries with young running back T.J. Yeldon, forming what many expect to be a powerful one-two punch. The splitting of carries between the two should help both stay fresh and, ideally, healthy.
Brad Nortman comes to the Jags after four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, to replace the departing Bryan Anger at punter. He was the Panthers’ sixth-round pick in 2012 out of Wisconsin, where he majored in accounting and ranked third in team history in punting average. He also met his wife, Lexi, at the university. At the age of 26, he comes to the Jaguars as a two-time Big Ten champion with Wisconsin, and having won the NFC conference title with the Panthers last year. Overall, he’s played 64 games in the NFL with a punting average of 45.2 yards per punt. Nortman has big shoes to fill; his predecessor, Bryan Anger, was a third-round pick for the Jags in 2012 and had one of the league’s highest punting averages.
Safety Tashaun Gipson comes to Jacksonville after four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, who signed him after he went undrafted in 2012. Gipson played both football and basketball as a high-schooler, also participating in track. In addition to defensive and special teams duties, Gipson also took snaps at quarterback and wide receiver. He played in college at the University of Wyoming. Last season, Gipson recorded 60 combined tackles and two interceptions.
Gipson joins the Jaguars to bolster their defensive backfield, which was questionable at times last season. He opted to leave the Browns to join the Jaguars out of a desire for a winning atmosphere, believing that the Jags are on their way to great things.
Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau spent his previous four years with the Dallas Cowboys. He also played for the Panthers, who drafted him in the 7th round in 2008. Bernadeau was an off-and-on starter with Dallas, mostly filling in for injuries. As such, he appreciates his opportunity to make a true impact with the up-and-coming Jags. Bernadeau played college ball and majored in management at Bentley University, becoming the first from the school to join an active NFL roster. While Bernadeau is unlikely to be a game-changing addition, he figures to give a much-needed boost to the Jags’ dismal offensive line.
Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum comes to us after having been with the Pittsburgh Steelers since being drafted by the team in 2012 in the seventh round. Like Bernadeau, he comes in with the goal of boosting a struggling O-line. 26-year-old Beachum played for SMU in college. He figures to compete with Luke Joeckel for playing time and, perhaps most importantly, will be able to fill in for him in the event of yet another injury. Expectations may need to be tempered a bit for Beachum, as he comes off a torn ACL, but he figures to factor in immediately for the Jags.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara comes to Jacksonville after playing 5 seasons with the New York Giants, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 draft. Amukamara, like Gipson, played both defense and offense in high school; Amukamara played running back. He went on to play for the University of Nebraska in college, receiving a degree from the school in sociology. He has a wife, and is a strict believer in Christianity. Last season he recorded 63 combined tackles in just 11 games, as well as an interception and a forced fumble. He will join Gipson in a revamped Jacksonville defensive backfield. Upon signing, Amukamara spoke of sharing head coach Gus Bradley’s vision for the team, and believes Jacksonville is where he will prove himself.
Headshots in featured image courtesy of NFL.com.