Ranking the Jacksonville Jaguars' Best Remaining Free-Agency Options
For Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell, his recent excursion into free agency has been an effective way to address positions of need.
Bringing in coveted free agents like Zane Beadles, Toby Gerhart and Red Bryant has laid the groundwork for head coach Gus Bradley and his staff to take the next step toward becoming a contender.
Even though the madness that was the first week of free agency has finally calmed down, there are still players left on the open market who would help improve this roster.
Narrowing down the guys who Caldwell should consider starts by figuring out where this roster needs to get stronger.
The two biggest areas of concern right now have to be on the interior offensive line and at wide receiver.
Brad Meester's retirement at the end of the 2013 season has created a major need for a bruising center to step in and help protect the quarterback. Aside from that, Justin Blackmon's recent suspension means the Jaguars need another wide receiver to help ease the burden off of fourth-year standout Cecil Shorts.
So, who are some of these free-agent targets Caldwell should consider going after?
Without further hesitation, it's time to check out the Jaguars' best remaining free-agency options.
5. WR Lance Moore
Moore isn't your prototypical No. 1 target who has great size and blistering speed. But what the former Saints wide receiver can do is come in and make life easier for just about any quarterback.
A go-to guy for quarterback Drew Brees, Moore finished his nine-year stint in New Orleans with 346 catches for 4,281 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Taking the Pro Football Focus route shows that Moore has been incredibly effective on the field dating back to the 2008 season.
Finishing each season from 2008 on registering a positive grade, you start to really understand how consistent of an option he was for Brees and the Saints aerial attack.
At 30 years old, a possession-style wide receiver like Moore won't command a massive contract. That factor alone makes him an intriguing mid-level option for Caldwell to pursue.
Though he's sure-handed and effective at creating separation on film, the main issue with going after Moore would be figuring out what role he would play in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's scheme.
Moore is a player who has traditionally lined up in the slot.
Considering the Jags currently have second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders in that same role, Caldwell and Fisch would have to view Moore as a massive upgrade to justify pursuing his services.
Still, thanks to a productive career down in New Orleans, Moore should warrant some consideration for a team that's always looking for ways to get better.
4. WR Miles Austin
Battling a constant barrage of injuries, Austin hasn't looked like the same guy who exploded for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009.
Because of his 6'2" size and his history lining up on the outside, Austin does have a few redeeming qualities despite his ongoing battle with injuries.
When push comes to shove, the uncertainty encompassing Justin Blackmon has opened the door for Caldwell to take a chance on a wide receiver in free agency.
Making a case for Austin to be that guy isn't difficult. At this stage in his career, he's nothing more than a mid-level option that, healthy, would serve a purpose in Jacksonville.
As much as having guys like Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts helps this offense move the chains, Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne still needs more targets to throw the pigskin to.
Like any player who's had major issues dealing with injuries, any deal involving Austin would have to come at a bargain price.
3. C Brian De La Puente
Of all the centers left in free agency, Brian de la Puente could be the most intriguing "stop-gap" option available.
To date, de la Puente's NFL career has been spent helping anchor the New Orleans Saints dynamic offensive attack ever since he made the active roster back in 2010.
The 28-year-old Los Angeles, Calif., native has been a picture of perfect health during his time in The Big Easy. Starting all 16 games over the last two seasons, de la Puente's durability has to be an appealing factor for Caldwell.
According to PFF, during the 2012 season, de la Puente graded out as the second-best center in the NFL. Whether he was protecting the quarterback or opening up rushing lanes, he was an integral part of the Saints offense.
Though his "elite" grade dipped in 2013, PFF still managed to rank him as the 16th-best center in the league.
Describing the attributes that he believes makes him an attractive free-agent option, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes:
De la Puente could be in high demand this offseason as a proven starter who has played at a high level for the last three years. Like the rest of the Saints’ offensive line, he struggled at times during the first half of the 2013 season in both his run blocking and pass protection.
Gauging the dollars surrounding an impending deal is a tough assignment. For starters, the level of interest that has been reported to the media about his services has been scarce.
The most recent news has come by way of Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Vacchiano mentioned that the New York Giants might be a possible landing place for de la Puente because of their woes on the offensive line.
Assuming nothing materializes with the Giants, the former Saints center would be an interesting choice for the Jaguars.
Productive, experienced and still just 28 years old, de la Puente could be plugged into the offensive line while the team searches for its center of the future.
2. WR Sidney Rice
Rice is a true No. 1 wide receiver when he's able to get out there on the field. The issue surrounding his game has always been overcoming injuries.
Throughout his seven-year career, the 6'4" wide receiver has endured countless injuries. Having the chance to appear in 112 regular season games, Rice has only managed to suit up for 81 of those.
Most recently, the former Seahawk has been recovering from sustaining a torn ACL last season.
Rice's value on the open market has been limited so far. So much so that NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (h/t Chris Wesseling of NFL.com) mentioned that Seattle is now interested in re-signing Rice.
Swooping in and taking a chance on Rice is a no-brainer at this point for Caldwell.
Not only can he stretch the field, but his size and experience makes him a matchup problem for opposing defenses.
He may not be the same player that racked up 83 receptions, 1,312 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in 2009, but Rice still brings a lot of value to the table—assuming his health checks out.
Considering his injury history, logic would dictate that wherever he signs, the deal would be extremely incentive-laden.
If Caldwell can get on the phone and figure out a way both sides can enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, adding Rice would help ease the concerns of Jaguars fans thinking about Blackmon.
1. C Will Montgomery
The No. 1-ranked player on the list of best remaining free-agent options is none other than Will Montgomery formerly of the Washington Redskins.
An unexpected name to hit the free-agent market, John Keim of ESPN.com reported that the Redskins released the veteran center, saving them $1.93 million in cap space.
Aside from the dollars they saved by letting him go, Montgomery's release is unusual. Detailing the reason behind his departure, Mike Jones of The Washington Post said:
Coaches believed that Montgomery’s effectiveness had started to diminish during the 2012 season, and last offseason, they planned on moving left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to center and starting 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus at left guard.
Grading out as the 15th-best center in the NFL last season, PFF highlighted his effectiveness in run-blocking situations.
With a 4.8 grade in that department, Montgomery was stronger in that area than guys like Detroit Lions standout Dominic Raiola and former Green Bay Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith—who recently signed a new contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What makes Montgomery such an appealing option for the Jaguars is the fact that he's well-versed in the ways of a zone-blocking scheme.
Knowing that Coach Fisch also utilizes a zone-blocking scheme, Montgomery is the most logical fit of any center left on the open market for this team.
All advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), unless noted otherwise.
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