Cost-Effective Moves the Jacksonville Jaguars Can Make This Offseason
The Jacksonville Jaguars are entering the first season of a complete roster overhaul, and they have the salary cap room to sign some impact players this offseason.
The Jaguars have $22.1 million in total salary cap room this offseason, according to John Clayton.
New general manager David Caldwell has plenty of money at his disposal to fill the holes that litter the team, but it doesn't mean he should spend all of it. Caldwell is going to have to be smart with the available salary cap space in order to build the Jaguars into a winning franchise.
Here are eight cost-effective moves the Jaguars can make this offseason.
Avoid Free-Agent Quarterbacks
The Jaguars are in need of a franchise quarterback. Blaine Gabbert's play has not been worth the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, while Chad Henne is too inconsistent to be a reliable NFL starter.
Jacksonville needs to find a player who can be a franchise quarterback, but that player will not be available in free agency.
Quarterbacks such as Jason Campbell and Matt Moore are at the top of the weak 2013 free-agent class at the position. None of the available quarterbacks have shown the ability to be the type of player the Jaguars need and are not worth the high price tag they will come with.
Signing a quarterback in free agency would be an expensive venture, and a waste of money. If the Jaguars are looking for a new quarterback, the smartest route would be to try to find one in the middle rounds of the 2013 NFL draft.
Quarterbacks such as Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Miami University's Zac Dysert and Arizona's Matt Scott will all be available in the second round or later and will not come with the high salary free agents would require.
Let Rashad Jennings Walk
Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings, like most of the players on the team, had a disappointing 2012 season. He averaged just 2.8 yards a carry in 10 games during the season and finished the year on injured reserve after suffering a concussion against the Buffalo Bills.
Jennings' injury wasn't anything uncommon; he has missed 30 games in his four-year career, including the entire 2011 regular season.
The Jaguars would be better off in cutting their losses and not re-signing Jennings, especially with the way his replacements played. Running backs Richard Murphy and Keith Toston played well in limited roles and both averaged at least four yards per carry.
Special teams ace Montell Owens shined late in the season when he became more featured in the Jaguars offense. He averaged five yards per rush in four games late in the season, including a career-high 91-yard game against the New York Jets.
He also showed he can catch the ball out of the backfield and finished the year with eight catches for 118 yards.
Owens proved he has the ability to be the No. 2 running back in 2013 behind Maurice Jones-Drew, while Murphy and Toston deserve to battle for the third spot in training camp.
The Jaguars do not need to spend money on running backs in free agency, and that includes re-signing Jennings.
Re-Sign Jordan Shipley
The Jaguars wide receiver corps may be the team's strongest unit heading into the offseason. Cecil Shorts III had a breakout season, and Justin Blackmon proved he was worth the fifth selection in the 2012 NFL draft.
Wide receiver Jordan Shipley flew under the radar and was quietly productive for the Jaguars after the team signed him Nov. 20. He caught 22 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown in six games and provided a much-needed spark to Jacksonville's return game.
Shipley could be an effective slot receiver for the Jaguars, and he should be cheap to re-sign.
He showed he can play at a high level during his rookie season in 2010 when he hauled in 51 catches for 600 yards. An ACL injury cost him his 2011 season, and was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2012 preseason.
Shipley should be fully recovered from the injury heading into the 2013 season, and the Jaguars could be a solid player at a cheap price if they are able to re-sign him.
Rebuild Offensive Line Through Draft
Jacksonville's offensive line was horrible in 2012. It couldn't protect the quarterback and allowed the third-most sacks in the league (50). The line also struggled to run block, as the Jaguars finished 30th in the NFL in rushing yard a game (85.6).
The offensive line is an area the Jaguars have to address this offseason.
There are a number of very good offensive linemen available in free agency, including Andre Smith, Ryan Clady, Jake Long and Sebastian Vollmer. All of these player are going to come with a high price tag, and although signing one of these players may be worth it for the Jaguars, it would be more cost efficient to find a lineman in the draft.
Luckily for the Jaguars, offensive line is one of the deepest areas in this April's draft, and quality players will still be available on the second and third days.
The Jaguars could forgo signing the high-priced free agents and get good players like Virginia's Oday Aboushi and Oregon's Kyle Long in the second or third round.
The Jaguars need to overhaul their offensive line, and they will be able to do it through the draft.
Re-Sign Terrance Knighton
Terrance Knighton was a very good player in the middle of Jacksonville's defensive line during his first three years in the league, but an eye injury he suffered in the 2012 offseason affected his play.
He dropped down the depth chart and lost his starting job to Tyson Alualu and C.J. Mosley early in the season and was unable to regain his starting role.
His poor production came in a contract year, and it could lead to the Jaguars being able to re-sign him cheaper than expected.
It's worth taking a chance to re-sign Knighton, especially since they should be able to do so for cheap. He played very well earlier in his career and should be able to return to form following a full year to recover from the eye injury.
At the very worst, Knighton provides quality depth at a position that needs it.
Sign Israel Idonije
As awful as the Jaguars offensive line was in 2012, the defensive line may have been even worse. They had a league-low 20 sacks on the season and allowed the third-most rushing yards a game (141).
There are several players who could solve the Jaguars defensive line problems, but players like Cliff Avril will come with a giant contract.
The Jaguars could still find a good pass-rusher and not break the bank.
Israel Idonije would fit that bill. He is a defensive end who played defensive tackle for the Bears and still had 7.5 sacks in 2012 despite not playing his natural position.
Idonije will turn 33 during the 2013 season, so he is nothing more than a stopgap player until the Jaguars find their long-term solution at the position. He can still have a couple of productive seasons for Jacksonville, as his last three years have been the best of his career.
He is also familiar with new Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who was a member of the Bears defensive coaching staff from 2004 to 2012. That familiarity could help lure Idonije to Jacksonville, and he could help teach the rest of the defense Babich's schemes.
Idonije is a versatile player who could provide the Jaguars a couple of quality seasons, and he shouldn't garner a high paycheck in doing so.
Re-Sign Derek Cox
Derek Cox is a very good cornerback when healthy, but his career has been riddled with injuries. He has yet to stay healthy for an entire season in his four-year career.
The Jaguars may be able to take advantage of his injury proneness and re-sign him cheaper than other free-agent cornerbacks.
Re-signing Cox would be a great move if the Jaguars are able to do it. When healthy, he has been very productive. Cox has 12 career interceptions and had a team-high four interceptions and 11 pass defenses in 2012.
Cox has the tools to be a top cornerback in the league, but injuries are keeping him from proving that. That could allow the Jaguars to get a steal by re-signing Cox.
Sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
There are a number of very talented cornerbacks who could potentially hit the free-agent market this offseason, including Sam Shields, Brent Grimes and Aqib Talib. Because of all the other potential high-profile free agents, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could fly under the radar and sign for less money than expected.
The Jaguars need to try to sign Rodgers-Cromartie. He has put up strong numbers during his career. He has had at least three interceptions in four of his fives years in the league, and finished 2012 leading the Eagles with three interceptions and 17 passes defensed.
At 6'2", he is a big cornerback, which is something new Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley covets for defensive backs.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a physical player who has the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL, but with the other available talent at cornerback this offseason, he may not have to be paid like one.
The Jaguars would be smart to target Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason, as the tandem of him and Cox at cornerback would make it almost impossible for opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball against the defense.