March 4, 2009 10:50 AM
Amid the flurry and hustle that is NFL Free Agency, the Jaguars have been quite dormant so far. Despite bringing back special teams stalwarts Brian Iwuh and Montell Owens, the Jags have also re-signed center Brad Meester, cornerback Scott Starks and defensive end James Wyche; and so far their only outside activity in free agency involves signing former Eagles back up safety Sean Considine to a whopping two-year, $3 million deal.
After an off-season that involved overpaying for mediocre players like Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence, who were both released on February 11, it seems like the Jaguars have learned from their mistakes. The main theme for this franchise heading into the 2009 season is change.
The first and biggest change this offseason was Wayne Weaver's decision to fire James "Shack" Harris and install former executive director of college and pro personnel Gene Smith as general manager. This is the first time in the Jaguars young history that there will be one person accountable for all personnel decisions, and Smith's approach is much more conservative than past Jaguars philosophies.
Smith does not believe in biting on the big names in free agency, but rather re-signing players that play key roles in the Jaguars system and allowing other players to leave via free agency in order to accumulate compensatory picks and develop talent through the NFL draft. Smith's major move this offseason that sent some waves through the Jaguars community was the release of Fred Taylor after 11 years with the club. Taylor has undeniably been the face of the franchise for the past decade and currently ranks 16th on the NFL's career rushing list, just 81 yards shy of John Riggins.
It is unlikely that Jacksonville is going to bring in any more names in free agency, despite speculation that former Pro Bowl left tackle Tre' Thomas was interested in signing with the team. So far, the Jaguars biggest holes to fill the remainder of this offseason is, in order of priority: left tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, defensive tackle, linebacker, and possibly running back. With the Seahawks' big acquisition of TJ Houshmandzadeh this weekend, they will most likely pass on Michael Crabtree, whose stock is in jeopardy after announcing that he will pass on participating in Texas Tech's Pro Day to have surgery on a stress fracture in his foot.
If he can somehow fall past the Oakland Raiders at seven, the Jaguars should pull the trigger at number eight on the former Red Raider, whose potential in this league has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. It is no secret that the Jaguars are desperate at left tackle, but after strong showings at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, don't count on Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe to be available when the Jaguars select, and expect Gene Smith to pass on Alabama's Andre Smith due to character flaws. Instead, look for the Jaguars to find a solid left tackle in the second round, possibly Eben Britton of Arizona or Jamon Meredith of South Carolina.
Besides this, other possibilities in the first round include defensive tackle BJ Raji of Boston College, Jeremy Maclin of Missouri, or even Mark Sanchez of USC, since Smith has already announced that he will use a best available player approach during the draft and will not select based on need.