Later on today, the NFL's free-agency period begins, as all unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any team they choose.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to re-sign a single player, have released three veterans and said goodbye to all restricted free agents.
The message that was sent loud and clear by new general manager David Caldwell is simple: The Jaguars will not be as active in free agency as they have been the past couple of years. Instead, the team will build through the draft and plug in free agents accordingly.
The needs are piling up in Jacksonville, as only a few positions seem to be safe for next season (those being wide receiver, running back and tight end).
The start of free agency will see names such as Cliff Avril, Andre Smith, Sean Smith, Brent Grimes, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Dashon Goldson go as quickly as it begins.
The first signings mark the incredibly over-paid period in free agency. This is the period the Jaguars are going to avoid.
As nice as it sounds to hear that Cliff Avril or Mike Wallace could be Jaguars, the fact of the matter is that they are both going to be well over-paid with salaries over $10 million a season.
The Jaguars are currently in a state where they have somewhat of a foundation but need to solidify many positions. What is the point in signing a player for a salary that could provide three to four decent players that could be younger and taught the scheme at hand?
The fact of the matter is, the Jaguars have personnel in place that have a scheme and an idea that has been brought to Jacksonville. It is no longer Gene Smith looking to hand pick players from small schools or under-the-radar players that did not pan out. Smith never fit anybody into a scheme, and that is part of the reason why this team has fallen behind.
Smith hit on one free agent in Paul Posluszny and one trade in Dwight Lowery. His drafts accumulated Cecil Shorts III, Eugene Monroe and Justin Blackmon. Aside from these players, Smith did much more damage than good, obviously.
The goal this year is to build off of the foundation and add key elements that can make the Jaguars competitive. The draft should bring two to three starters, maybe more. Caldwell has said that he believes that the draft is deep on both lines and in the defensive secondary. A statement like that can only lead one to believe that those are the positions he is confident he can find potential talent in the first three to four rounds.
The first week or two will come and go in free agency, and the Jaguars will more than likely say their goodbyes to Derek Cox, Daryl Smith and Terrance Knighton. Brad Meester and Greg Jones may come back for another season, but the more expensive players are bound to have played their last snap in Jacksonville.
Cox is already buzzing with interest from multiple teams, and Smith is one of the top outside linebackers available. A team like the New York Giants or Detroit Lions may be willing to offer Smith a pretty nice contract after an injury-riddled season. Knighton is an intriguing guy who could fit in a place like Cleveland or Philadelphia.
The Jags will more than likely reach out to guys after the first wave has ended and the contracts begin to settle. Reasonable contracts make much more sense than spending big money for a team in the Jags' current state.
This by no means should make Jags fans think they are guaranteed to be looking at 2-14 again next season. The Jags will plug as necessary, but the idea of a young team that can be molded into a system is what made both the Seahawks and Falcons successful.
The largest question that will remain is at quarterback. The obvious difference between the Jags and the Seahawks and Falcons is the fact that Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan are much better than Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Gabbert is young, but he needs as much competition as possible.
The closer we get to the draft, the more I believe that the Jags will draft a quarterback. Not so much Geno Smith, but possibly a guy such as EJ Manuel or Matt Scott. Scott's a guy who looks like he may go from a fifth-round prospect to the third or fourth round as his buzz increases after a fabulous pro day.
The reality is that the Jaguars will need to grab a few players in free agency, but it looks like it will be after the dust settles. Defensive secondary and the offensive line make the most sense when it comes to starting material and depth. The names won't include Andre Smith, Phil Loadholt, Ed Reed, Dashon Goldson or Brent Grimes, but the Jags will need to pick up at least one to two quality players that can be signed at reasonable contracts and will not set this team back any more than they are.
As much as fans enjoy playing the general manager, the key to building a franchise is to build for the future and not set yourself up for any setbacks. Giving away large contracts and creating dead money in the future is a huge issue with many teams, and those are usually made by the first-wave signings in free agency. Dawan Landry created nearly $4 million in dead money this year, and his contract wasn't near the amount of a player like Cliff Avril's or Andre Smith's would be.
There are going to be names that fans haven't heard of, but the idea at this point is to trust in what the Jags are building, and the truth is that the people building it know what it takes to create a successful team.
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