Jaguars continue to bolster def. line

Published On: Mar 13 2014 03:52:05 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Jacksonville Jaguars continued revamping their defensive line Thursday by signing two free agents and bringing back their best pass rusher from last season.
   
The Jaguars signed former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and re-signed veteran Jason Babin, who led the team with 7½ sacks in 2013.
   
Those moves came five days after Jacksonville signed former Seattle defensive end Red Bryant.
   
Together, they could drastically improve a defense that tied for last in the league with 31 sacks last season.
   
"Hopefully get with these guys and take this thing to a whole new level," Hood said.
   
Clemons is the gem of the group. Seattle released him in a cost-cutting move Wednesday; he was scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2014. His cross-country trek to Jacksonville reunites him with former Seahawks defensive coordinator and current Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley.
   
"I think we could build something special here," said Clemons, who signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $18 million.
   
After failing to find success in Oakland and Philadelphia, Clemons thrived in Seattle under Bradley. He was the team's top pass rusher from 2010 to 2012, recording 33½ sacks and getting at least 11 each year.
   
Last season, Clemons had only 4½ sacks as a deeper line rotation took away some of his opportunities. Clemons also was coming off a torn knee ligament sustained in the 2012 playoffs. He had 3½ sacks his first five games of 2013, but had just one sack the final nine games of the regular season.
   
He was, however, at his best in the Super Bowl, finishing with three tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and a pass defended.
   
The 27-year-old Hood had 140 tackles and 11½ sacks in five seasons with the Steelers. A college standout at Missouri, Hood was the 32nd overall pick in the 2009 draft. But he never really felt comfortable playing end in Pittsburgh's 3-4 scheme.
   
He will move back inside for the Jaguars and play a penetrating 3-technique.
   
"I've been blessed with a second opportunity to come here and play in a scheme, a scheme I believe in, one that I feel is right for me," Hood said. "I have a good feeling in coming over here."
   
Much like every other free agent to sign with Jacksonville in the past week, Hood said Bradley's engaging personality and high-energy attitude were key factors in his decision.
   
"He was bouncing from wall to wall, room to room, side to side," Hood said. "I like their philosophy and how they're going to use me as well. What better place can I be than here? I fell in love with it and I think that's what made me turn here more than anything else."
   
Babin voided the final two years of his contract Monday, becoming a free agent before the Jaguars cut him.
   
"They were gracious enough to let me do it for the PR," said Babin, who was due to make $6 million in 2014.
   
His salary was more than the rebuilding team was willing to pay for a 33-year-old end no longer in his prime. But pairing him with Clemons and third-year pro Andre Branch - the Jaguars also could add another pass-rusher with the No. 3 pick in the draft - might prolong Babin's career.
   
"I guess I can say it now: This was my first choice all along," said Babin, an 11-year pro who admittedly didn't want to move his family again. "We knew what we wanted, and they knew what they wanted. We met somewhere in the middle. This is where I want to finish my career out."
   

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