Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agency Primer: Needs, Space and Who to Re-Sign

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

Daryl Smith's future with the team is cloudy.
Daryl Smith's future with the team is cloudy.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When you finish with the worst record in the NFL, it's safe to say there's room to improve the roster.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new general manager, and David Caldwell has his work cut out for him.

One thing the Jaguars have going for them this offseason is free agency. Jacksonville has some cap space to work with, but they have to be careful.

Free agency is often a trap. It rarely pays off the way fans expect. In general, smart GMs stay out of the free-agent market entirely. Losing free agents without replacing them can result in compensatory picks which often wind up as cheaper, more valuable solutions than the players that were lost.

Still, a roster riddled with shortcomings can obviously be upgraded without breaking the bank. Here's everything you need to know about the Jaguars in free agency.


Cap Space

According to John Clayton of ESPN.com, Jacksonville has more than $22 million in cap space to work with in 2013.

There are ways they can find even more money. If the team were to move Maurice Jones-Drew either by trade or outright release, they could save nearly $5 million on the cap.

Cap space doesn't mean the team can use all the free money on free agents, however. They still will have some of their own players to retain.

The Jaguars will also have leave between $4 and $6 million for the rookie salary pool.


Players to Re-sign

There aren't a lot of guys on a 2-14 team that have to return the next year, but the Jaguars do a few names of interest.

Big names, though not all good names, include Brad Meester, Daryl Smith, Rashean Mathis, Terrance Knighton, Eben Britton, Derek Cox and Rashad Jennings.

The best player on the list is Smith, but he battled injuries, and 31-year-old linebackers rarely command a premium.

Terrance Knighton had a solid season up front and wouldn't be a bad player to bring back. Likewise, Cox has been very good when healthy, but injuries have kept him from reaching his potential.

All in all, the Jags ought to be able keep their own players for under $9 million, leaving them plenty of room to work with.


Positions to Target

It's too early to build an available-free-agent list. Teams have until March 12 to re-sign their own players before they become free agents, so any list of available names would be purely speculative.

The biggest need for the Jaguars would be at quarterback. The only serious option in free agency would be Alex Smith. If the 49ers do part ways with him, he could be available. His last deal was worth roughly $8 million a year.

If the team doesn't want to go that route, they could also spend money at virtually every position on the offensive line. Eugene Monroe is set at left tackle, but there are question marks all down the line along side him.

Defensively, the team lacks difference-makers. Recent corner signings like Aaron Ross haven't panned out, so the team will have to upgrade there.

Linebacker is a gaping void unless the team spends to keep Smith.

Finally, the defensive line simply doesn't generate enough pressure.

The fact is that there are far too many holes and far too few dollars to view free agency as a solution for this squad.

Caldwell should open the purse strings for some upgrades, but there are no franchise saviors out there.

Moderate spending on mid-level vets could provide modest improvement. Anything beyond that will likely translate into wasted dollars.