With the news surfacing yesterday, and officially coming out today, the Jacksonville Jaguars are now looking for a new general manager.
Gene Smith was fired this morning after four seasons as the general manager of the Jaguars. Smith leaves after one too many misfires between the draft and free agency.
The Jaguars will more than likely find their new general manager within the next week or so to get him comfortable and give him enough time to evaluate the current coaching staff.
Head coach Mike Mularkey is expected to remain as head coach of the team unless the new general manager would like to bring in his own guy, which leads to plenty of different potential candidates arising in the coming weeks, depending on the who the new general manager will be.
As Schefter points out, Licht has ties to current Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, while Gamble has ties to sought after candidate Greg Roman, the 49ers current offensive coordinator.
However the search turns out, one thing that is certain is that the new general manager will have a lot on his plate with the current Jaguars roster.
Starting with the quarterback situation, the Jaguars currently have Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert under contract. The popular opinion is that Tim Tebow will be brought in based on team owner Shad Khan's desire to have him in Jacksonville. The new GM will need to determine if this trio will be acceptable in trying to deliver a winning team to Jacksonville. The popular opinion is seemingly cut in half between Tebow believers and non-Tebow believers, but in the end, it will be the new GM's choice.
Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew will have one year remaining on his current contract while rehabbing from surgery that has his expected return slated for sometime in May or June. Jones-Drew is still the most known player on the roster, and he is a difference maker when healthy. With his appeal all but gone after an injury that had him sidelined for 10 games this season, there will be very little value in any attempt to trade him. Jones-Drew will be, and should be, the Jaguars starting running back next year.
Drafting a future replacement for Jones-Drew would also be a good idea for this team. Seeing late round backs like Alfred Morris and Vick Ballard have great success this season should help this team evaluate potential starters in the later rounds rather than using a first to second round pick to select one.
The offensive line should be the No. 1 priority on the new general manager's to-do list. With a decision looming on Eugene Monroe's contract, the Jaguars also have decisions regarding what to do at right tackle, left guard, and possibly center. Uche Nwaneri struggled at right guard this year, and may also be in danger of losing his starting job next season. Between free agency and the draft, the new GM will need to make sure that he addresses this unit after the team gave up 50 sacks this year, which was the third highest total in the league.
For the first time in a long time, wide receiver will not be on the of the Jags to-do list as they head into the offseason. Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon showed that they will be a tough pair to plan against, and if the new GM decides to keep Laurent Robinson, he can be placed back into his natural slot position. But if Robinson is let go, Jordan Shipley showed that he is a very capable slot receiver in the final two games of the season.
Marcedes Lewis bounced back from a poor 2011 season, and will remain the starting tight end for Jacksonville next year. Tight end depth has been an issue ever since Lewis was drafted by Jacksonville, and grabbing a tight end in the draft or via free agency would benefit this team. If the coaching staff can utilize Lewis better than he has been in the past few years, he may be able to elevate Lewis back to into a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Addressing the defensive line will be another very important task in order to give the Jaguars defense a better chance next year. The Jags finished this season with 20 total sacks, led by Tyson Alualu, who still only managed 3.5 sacks. Jason Babin sparked some pressure once he was acquired from Philadelphia, and he should be a Jaguar again next season. Terrance Knighton has more than likely played his last game as a Jaguar, which would currently keep their same starting defensive line heading into next season. Babin, Alualu, C.J. Mosley and Jeremy Mincey make for a nice unit to build off of, but there still may be a need for another pass rusher.
The linebacking corps will continue to be led by Paul Posluszny, who is entering his third year of a six-year contract. Daryl Smith is an unrestricted free agent, who could be re-signed for a much smaller amount compared to what he would have commanded if he was healthy this season. Russell Allen played very well after being forced into the starting lineup because of the unfortunate injuries to Clint Sessions, who was released during the season.
What may make things interesting at linebacker is whether or not the Jaguars look to draft a guy like Georgia's Jarvis Jones or LSU's Barkevious Mingo. One, or both, should be available at the Jaguars No. 2 overall selection in April's draft, and Jones would also bring a pass rushing specialist to the defense.
The defensive secondary begins with cornerback Derek Cox. Cox is heading into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, and along with Eugene Monroe, he should be a necessity to keep in Jacksonville. Cox is a true cover corner when healthy, and it would be a major loss to the secondary if he ends up leaving. Rashean Mathis will be let go after his one-year contract and Aaron Ross may not be retained despite signing a three-year deal last offseason.
Safeties Dwight Lowery and Dawan Landry are both under contract, and Chris Prosinski played OK when Lowery was out with an injury. I would not be surprised to see the Jags add at least two cornerbacks and one safety to the team through the draft and free agency, though.
The special teams group needs a lot of work after an embarrassing final week in the 2012. Giving up back-to-back punt returns for touchdowns, the Jaguars will need to make sure that does not happen again in 2013.
Josh Scobee and Bryan Anger are one of the better kicker-punter duos in the game, and nothing will change there.
Shad Khan made it clear this morning that this team is starting over and ready to make the moves necessary to win:
"We're not looking back. I've made it clear from Day 1 that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville. Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years, and they were truly outstanding this past season. We simply must do better for our fans."
Update: Jaguars interviewed Atlanta Falcons player personnel director Dave Caldwell on Monday. The New York Jets and San Diego Chargers have also asked for permission to interview Caldwell for vacant GM position.
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