The Definitive Blueprint to the Jacksonville Jaguars' Perfect Offseason
Although they finished with a 4-12 record, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a franchise headed in the right direction.
Led by head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell, it looks like the Jaguars are finally instilling a winning culture in Jacksonville.
With their sights now set on the future, making sure the 2014 offseason is a huge success will determine whether or not this organization can take another step forward.
Analyzing the NFL draft, free agency and their current roster, it's time to check out the definitive blueprint to Jacksonville's perfect offseason.
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.
Honorable Mention: Address the Offensive Line
When the Jaguars announced back in October that their rookie offensive tackle, Luke Joeckel, would miss the remainder of the season because of a broken ankle, the hopes and smiles of Jaguars fans fell into a dark sinkhole.
The anchor of an already-shaky offensive line, Joeckel's injury opened the door for some of the other guys to try to earn a roster spot.
Looking back and analyzing the performance of this offensive line as a whole, the results were mixed.
On the bright side, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jacksonville's offensive line graded out higher than the Philadelphia Eagles', San Diego Chargers' and Indianapolis Colts' when it came to pass protection. But when you flip the tape over and examine how they did in run-blocking situations, the Jaguars ended up with the 32nd-ranked line in the NFL.
Thankfully, with a new offseason comes the wonderful gift of free agency. With quality offensive linemen like Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert, Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack and Chicago Bears guard Matt Slauson all set to hit the market, the Jaguars will have a chance to fix their offensive woes sooner rather than later.
Draft a Franchise Quarterback
In the National Football League, turning a program into a consistent winner comes down first and foremost to landing a franchise quarterback.
If you look around the league today, the teams that have molded their rosters around a game-changing quarterback are usually the ones that constantly find the most success.
Look, we all know it's going to be extremely difficult to find the next Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. But heading into the 2014 draft, the Jaguars will have a chance to bring home a quality signal-caller who can help lead this team for the foreseeable future.
Whether you're dazzled by the heroics of Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, love the upside of UCLA's Brett Hundley or think UCF's Blake Bortles is the best QB in this year's class, the front office in Jacksonville has to go out and select a quarterback with its first-round pick in the 2014 draft.
With no commitment from the current regime to third-year signal-caller Blaine Gabbert, targeting a franchise quarterback will be the defining move Caldwell and Bradley make during their tenure in Jacksonville.
Don't Re-Sign Maurice Jones-Drew
One of the biggest decisions this offseason will come down to whether or not the Jaguars front office decides to go out and re-sign star running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Since arriving in Jacksonville in 2006, Jones-Drew has been one of the most productive and exciting players this organization has ever seen. Amassing 8,071 yards rushing and 68 touchdowns in his career, Jones-Drew has served as the one constant in an ever-changing landscape of personnel.
Despite all of his decorated past, at it's core, the NFL is still a business. And because of that business-like mentality, now is the perfect time to cut ties with the 28-year-old tailback.
But how could the Jags do that to Jones-Drew? For starters, giving a running back with 1,804 carries to his name a big contract isn't a decision that's in the best interest of the team.
Aside from his immense workload over the years, Jones-Drew's style of running has always been cause for concern. Despite his fantastic vision, he is the type of runner who has taken a lot of punishment over the course of his career. Now heading toward the dreaded age of 30, there has to be concerns about his durability moving forward.
If there were any way to work out a short-term, incentive-laden deal, then this would be a different conversation. But as Mark Long of The Associated Press tweeted, Jones-Drew is looking for a long-term agreement.
The best decision the front office can make for the future is to thank Jones-Drew for his services and part ways.
Sign Alterraun Verner
According to Jonathan Hutton of 104.5 The Zone, Verner said that he is going to test free agency. At the ripe age of 25 years old, landing Verner would be a dream come true for the Jaguars.
In order to understand just how good of a player he is, let's take a look at PFF's advanced statistics. Grading out as the 12th-best cornerback in the NFL this season, only 39 out of the 79 passes thrown in his direction were completed for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
While he didn't finish the season on the same level as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Verner is a young player who has shown he can be groomed into a star.
What's exciting about going after Verner is that his presence alone would give a boost to a Jaguars defense that gave up 247.6 passing yards per game this past season.
Luring Verner over to Jacksonville with a generous long-term contract is exactly the type of move this front office needs to make this offseason.
Sign Brandon Pettigrew
Another player worth looking at this offseason is free-agent tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
A first-round pick of the Detroit Lions back in 2009, Pettigrew hasn't quite lived up to the hype that surrounded him coming out of college. Although he's experienced his fair share of struggles over the years, the 6'5" Pettigrew is still a quality blocking tight end who always could catch passes.
If the Jaguars are somehow able to lure the former Oklahoma State tight end to Jacksonville, he would help this offense in more ways than one.
With John Oehser of Jaguars.com reporting that the Jaguars expect starting tight end Marcedes Lewis to be back in 2014, adding Pettigrew into the mix would provide Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch the ability to infuse even more creativity into his play-calling.
As Bleacher Report's own James Dudko pointed out, using two-tight end formations can really cause headaches for opposing defenses. If the contract makes sense, adding a guy like Pettigrew would be a productive move for this club.
Aside from landing their franchise quarterback in May's upcoming draft, the Jaguars desperately need to find pass-rushers.
Along with the Chicago Bears, the Jaguars finished the 2013 season registering a league-worst 31 sacks. That has to change if the Jaguars want to improve on defense next season.
With plenty of talented pass-rushers on the board, Jacksonville should be able land some quality players throughout the course of the draft. Taking a peak at Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller's big board, guys like Michael Sam of Missouri and Stanford's Trent Murphy should be available in the second round.
Outside of those names, another player who is intriguing is Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Thanks to a fluid first step and lanky frame, Jeffcoat was named by the AP as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Adding a guy like Jeffcoat would be a way to instantly improve this defensive line. As Bleacher Report featured columnist Jeffrey Kahn pointed out, Jeffcoat overcame adversity at Texas and has morphed into one heck of a football player.
Regardless of who the Jags settle on, drafting pass-rushers to help bolster this defense must be an essential component of this team's blueprint to achieving a successful offseason.
Re-Sign Chad Henne
For all of the turmoil that surrounds the quarterback position in Jacksonville, one player who should be re-signed this offseason is Chad Henne.
Henne isn't the type of guy who will put up gaudy numbers or carry this franchise on his back, but what you get with Henne is a quarterback who's been reliable and clearly has a good grasp of Jedd Fisch's offense.
While sometimes drafting a quarterback and keeping last year's starter can cause a conflict, when talking with Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, Henne made it clear that he knows this team is actively looking for a franchise signal-caller.
That's why bringing back the former Michigan QB makes perfect sense. From his ability to run Fisch's offense to his understanding of what Bradley and his staff are building here in Jacksonville, Henne is one guy this team must hang on to heading into 2014.
Release Blaine Gabbert
With the pursuit of a franchise quarterback comes the end of the Blaine Gabbert era in Jacksonville. Serving as nothing more than a leftover box of Hamburger Helper from the Gene Smith days, ending Gabbert's tenure with the franchise is a must this offseason.
Outside of the spectacular "Real American" YouTube video dedicated to Gabbert, nothing positive has come out of his brief NFL career. Completing just 53.3 percent of his passes in three seasons, when you watch Gabbert on film, you consistently see a player who makes bad decisions and looks timid in the pocket.
Now with Caldwell and Bradley running the show, Jacksonville really has no reason to keep Gabbert around. Releasing the former first-round pick will not only signal a changing of the guard, but also eliminate any distractions from forming during the offseason.
In a conversation with Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, Gabbert said he "doesn't want to be anywhere else." Still believing that he can be the team's starting quarterback, drafting a QB next May would just further complicate things if he sticks around.
Draft a Running Back
If the Jaguars decide not to bring Maurice Jones-Drew back in free agency, the next logical step for this franchise would be targeting a running back in the 2014 draft.
After finding its franchise quarterback in the first round, Jacksonville will have the luxury of going after a quality tailback later on.
Running backs like Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey or Auburn's Tre Mason would be a fantastic second-round choice that would give this Jacksonville offense something to look forward to.
Talking to Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star about his future, Carey said:
First round, second round, that's comfortable stuff you can't pass up, anything after that I think you have to get your degree. There's a lot of things boiling in the pot affecting my decision.
Landing a dynamic playmaker like Carey or a relentless worker like Mason would provide this team with a player who would be able to keep opposing defenses honest.
Remember, it wasn't that long ago when the Jaguars landed a pretty good running back named Maurice Jones-Drew in the second round of the 2006 draft.