The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of holes in their roster, and free agency offers a chance to quickly fill those needs. The team has to be careful navigating free agency, as the moves it makes will impact the ability to successfully rebuild the team.
The right free-agent moves will help the Jaguars transition smoothly through the rebuilding process by finding stopgap players to fill roles until the team finds long-term solutions in the draft.
If general manager David Caldwell makes the wrong moves, however, it could set the team back for years.
These are the five moves the Jaguars have to avoid in free agency so as not to jeopardize the rebuilding process.
Caldwell has said that he will address the quarterback position (via AP's Mark Long) this offseason, but he shouldn't add one in free agency.
The Jaguars are looking to add a quarterback because neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne have proven themselves to be the team's long-term answer.
Henne may have let his chance at being a starter in 2013 slip by, but Gabbert may get another shot. At 23, Gabbert is one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league and still has upside. Caldwell isn't ready to give up on Gabbert just yet (per Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union), and he seems to be fine with the idea of giving him another season under center.
The Jaguars need to add a quarterback who can push Gabbert, but that player isn't out there.
Jason Campbell, Matt Moore and Rex Grossman lead a weak free-agent quarterback class. None of these players offer much more than what the Jaguars already have, and signing any of them would be a waste of money.
If Caldwell is adamant about acquiring a quarterback, the best route would be to select one in the middle rounds of the draft. There will be some good developmental quarterbacks available—such as Arizona's Matt Scott—who could turn into top-notch players with the right coaching.
The Jaguars have 21 players with expiring contracts, and most of those players should not be re-signed.
There are very few players the Jaguars should focus on re-signing.
Players like Derek Cox and Daryl Smith can still contribute at a high level, while John Estes, Terrance Knighton, Jalen Parmele and Keith Toston have enough upside to warrant being brought back. Even these players are borderline, and should only be re-signed for the right price.
The rest of the players are either too old (Brad Meester), too rundown (Rashean Mathis) or just not talented enough to be re-signed, and they will not benefit a team trying to overhaul its roster.
The Jaguars need to distance themselves as much as they can from the 2012 roster. They need to bring in as many fresh players as possible, and letting the expiring contracts walk would open up the roster space to do so.
The defensive line was one of the Jaguars' weakest units in 2012, especially at defensive end. The team finished last season last in the NFL with just 20 sacks. Finding a pass-rusher has to be one of Jacksonville's top priorities.
As much as the Jaguars need help finding a pass-rusher, they shouldn't sign one during free agency for a couple of different reasons.
The first is that top-tier pass-rushers will come with a high price tag. Players such as Cincinnati's Michael Johnson, Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett and Detroit's Cliff Avril are coming off seasons with impressive sack totals. They will be looking to capitalize on their success and cash in this offseason, and the Jaguars need to avoid overpaying for these players.
On the other hand, a couple notable veteran defensive ends are set to hit the market. Both Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora's will be able to test free agency, but Jacksonville should avoid signing them. They are on the downward slope of their careers and the sack numbers of each have been dropping the last several seasons.
Neither Freeney nor Umenyiora would provide much for the Jaguars, especially for the contracts they'll require.
The Jaguars best bet would be to wait until the draft to get a pass-rusher. The draft is loaded with talented players, and the franchise should easily be able to find the right player for their defensive system.
Caldwell didn't express much confidence (via Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union) in Jaguars right tackles Guy Whimper and Cameron Bradfield during Friday's press conference from the NFL Scouting Combine.
The lack of confidence is for good reason: The Jaguars offensive line was awful last season, and a lot of the blame has to be placed on the poor play of the right tackles. Jacksonville featured a revolving door at the position, and none of the players were effective.
Finding a steady right tackle has to be one of the biggest concerns this offseason.
Luckily for the Jaguars, free agency is rich with talented right tackles. Players like Jake Long, Jermon Bushrod, Phil Loadholt, Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer are all set to hit free agency.
Even with all the talent available, Caldwell needs to be cautious.
The Jaguars will be implementing a zone-blocking scheme (via Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union), and Caldwell must find a player who fits the system.
Caldwell has to make sure he signs the right player, as a good right tackle would drastically improve the offense.
If he signs the wrong player, it would mean more of the same and another year of bad play at the position.
Although the Jaguars have $22.1 million in cap space (per ESPN's John Clayton) entering the offseason, Caldwell has to use the money wisely.
He needs to avoid spending too much money on free agents. Overspending in free agency would cripple the rebuilding effort before it could even begin.
While there will be players available who would immediately improve the team, the Jaguars have to pass on them for the long-term success of the franchise.
Caldwell understands this, and has said the franchise won't be "overly active" (via Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union) in free agency.
He will instead build the team through the draft, which is the best way to set the franchise up for long-term success. This avoids the high salaries of free agents, while establishing a core of players to build the team around.
Caldwell is doing the right thing by not signing high-priced free agents, and he has the right mindset to build the Jaguars into a winning franchise.