After a promising finish to the 2013 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to add some talent to a club that went 4-12 overall and 4-4 down the final eight games. First-year Head Coach Gus Bradley led the team to that record with a modest, at best, collection of talent. Looking to find a base for the talent and add to it, GM Dave Caldwell will have his hands full this offseason as expectations will start to rise. We’ll start off with a look at free-agency and delve into the draft as we get closer.
Free-Agency works both ways for NFL teams in that you can lose talent as well as add talent. The biggest “name” player that the Jaguars could lose, potentially, is running back Maurice Jones-Drew. His attempt at a hold-out two seasons ago is not lost on the new front office, but it’s more of his age, production, health, the reduced importance of a franchise RB, and his perceived worth that all contribute to him probably being allowed to walk. He has no doubt been the face of the franchise for the last few years. That’s why it’s tough to imagine him not being in a Jaguars uniform. However, that may exactly be the case. How important is a RB in this day and age of the passing offense? How valuable has Adrian Peterson been to the Vikings? Not much in terms of wins. And the same goes for Maurice Jones-Drew. His best year he led the league in rushing with over 1600 yards and the Jags still went 7-9. He is coming off two semi-major foot injuries that kept him out of games and he is looking to get that money that he tried to hold-out for. All those factors look to be saying he will be playing somewhere else next season.
The Jaguars have a lot of needs and they won’t be able to fill them all in one off-season. In Free Agency, on the acquisition side, the Jaguars will look to fill holes along the offensive line, in the Linebacker corp., and maybe a DE or CB. The Center position on the team is one that needs the most help with the retirement of Brad Meester this year. Cleveland Browns C Alex Mack looks to fill that void nicely, if the price is right. The Jags, under Caldwell, have been pretty straightforward in keeping FA costs down in the first wave. They typically hold out until the second wave and get players who want to prove they belong by working hard for that second contract. Getting Mack may take a splash in the first wave to get him here. They should just bite the bullet and sign him. Getting Mack signed would shore the line up for years and they could then use the draft to help out with the guards.
Among the other positions that they could address in Free-Agency, the next most important would be Defensive End. Again, a big splash here probably won’t be the way they go, but a proven veteran along the lines of Jason Babin who signed a few years ago, would be the likely route here. Addressing the line like that would probably mean that the team would look to address that position more aggressively in the draft, which would be the smart way to go. Cheaper, younger veteran help in free agency would allow that position to naturally evolve into a strength, on this team.
That is pretty much all you can expect the Jaguars to do in Free-Agency this year. The team has repeatedly said that they would not be aggressive and overspend in free-agency. But smart, cap-friendly, team building free agency is essential to compete and hearing the Jags put it, that’s how they will go. Watch this team closely in the next few weeks. They may surprise you with a splash, but watch them the second and third week of Free-Agency. If they are aggressive there, watch what positions they address. If the middle part of the roster is filled up with FA Linebackers and Guards, then that will open the draft up for skill positions and more important long-term needs. The building process essentially begins now. Time to get started Mr. Caldwell!