Two USA Jaguars sign free-agent deals with NFL teams

By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor

Every year, several players are able to fulfill their dream of being an NFL Draft pick. This past Thursday through Saturday, the 2020 NFL Draft took seven rounds to have 255 players selected. Several South Alabama Jaguars prospects had the potential to be drafted by their new NFL team. The Jaguars were looking to have their first Jaguar drafted in the NFL Draft since the 2017 NFL Draft.

Although the South Alabama Jaguars did not have a prospect selected in the Draft, they did find some success still in the NFL. Two former Jaguars in defensive tackle Jeffery Whatley and cornerback Travis Reed were able to sign with NFL teams via free agency. Whatley signed with the Cleveland Browns while Reed signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Both players were signed to teams looking to add some depth to much-needed positions as they will contend for a roster for NFL Training Camps to potentially open after the clearance of COVID-19.

Whatley signed with the Browns after a solid senior year in his first full season as a starter. Whatley accounted for 39 total tackles, 25 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and four sacks. He has selected a second-team All-Sun Belt defensive end. Overall, in his career, Whatley accounted for 61 total tackles, 38 solo tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks in the 24 games he played in his career as a Jaguar.

#99 Jeffery Whatley

He was recruited as a two-star weakside defensive end from Ozark, Alabama in the recruiting class of 2015. He was 89th ranked recruit from the state of Alabama and the 121st ranked weakside defensive end in the nation. Throughout his career with the Jaguars, Whatley made the transition to a strong-side defensive end where he also played a three-technique defensive tackle.

 The Browns signed Whatley as a defensive tackle where they need help with some help for depth in the interior defensive linemen. He was one of 15 free agents signed on April 25th, which was the last day of the NFL Draft. Last season, the Brows were ranked 30th (out of 32 NFL teams) in rushing yards allowed per game. Cleveland now has nine defensive tackles on their roster to potentially fill their roster. They may not be able to rely on the declining impact and health of potential starter Sheldon Richardson. It does help Whatley’s potential impact for an NFL to be versatile enough to multiple areas on the defensive line.

Reed signed with the Colts after two years with the program after coming to South Alabama as a transfer. In those two seasons, Reed accounted for 57 total tackles, 39 solo tackles, three tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 11 pass deflections. In his senior season this past year, Reed accounted for 41 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, three tackles for loss, three interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. He was selected as a third-team All-Sun Belt player in 2019.

Reed was recruited as a slot cornerback as a junior college transfer from Ellisville, Mississippi in the recruiting class of 2018. He was a two-star cornerback as he was ranked as the 66th top prospect in the state of Mississippi and the 46th top cornerback in the nation. Reed started by playing his natural position of slot cornerback/inside corner in his junior season in 2018. In the past season, Reed filled in the hole as one of the main corners on the outside.

The Colts signed Reed as a versatile cornerback who can fill in as a slot corner or as an outside corner. The Colts needed depth and talent to help their offense in practice schemes. Reed is officially the 10th cornerback on the roster but the number of those position players will certainly drop. Last season, the Colts were ranked 23rd in the league in passing allowed per game (248.9). The Colts signed former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl for three of the last four seasons. Rhodes was selected last season despite performing horribly in man coverage schemes. The Colts are hoping to fill in the reliable tackling slot corners who can be tackling the scrambling quarterbacks in open space and stop inside short routes. That is what they get with Reed on their roster.

Both Whatley and Reed can contribute well into the NFL, but they will have to endure multiple weeks of mini-camps as well as multiple weeks of training camps. They will have to perform efficiently to either make their team’s 53-man roster or 12-man practice roster.