Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell Comments on Perception Around Free-Agency Strategy

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 2, 2016

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell responds to a question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the team with the most cap space to play with as NFL free agency approaches, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll spend big like some are predicting.

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell explained Wednesday in a radio interview with PFT Live that Jacksonville has future interests to take into account beyond this year's open market, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:  

I know there's been a lot of numbers out there. None of them have been accurate to be honest with you so I wish that if people are going to state the numbers that they be accurate. We're not that much under. We have to spend maybe 94 percent of the cap to be at the minimum. We knew that going in to this, but we also know that in a year from now some of our best players in Allen Robinson, Blake Bortles, Telvin Smith, Aaron Colvin, Brandon Linder, they're going to be up for renegotiation. So we'll have no problem spending that money, and we'll have until February [2017] to do it. So I could probably buy you lunch this week and we'd be over 89 percent.

Per Spotrac, the Jags have over $74.6 million in total cap room with free agency set to begin March 9.

Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are entering their fourth year as chief leaders of the Jaguars organization and do need to show major improvement in 2016 to avoid the hot seat.

Last year's 5-11 mark was the best under Bradley, who is 12-36 overall during his tenure. Unfortunately, edge defender Dante Fowler Jr. tore his ACL on the first day of rookie minicamp, which hindered the Jags' defensive efforts this past season.

If Fowler proves to be a home run first-round draft choice by Caldwell and has a strong 2016 campaign, the latter's time in the front office may be viewed more favorably. Otherwise one could argue Caldwell hasn't done enough to date to turn Jacksonville around.

Among the Jags' most notable free-agent acquisitions under the current regime are running back Toby Gerhart—an unmitigated bust—and tight end Julius Thomas, who's averaged 9.9 yards per catch in 12 games.

A philosophy of building through the draft has netted Caldwell a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Allen Robinson and a possible franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles. Those two 2014 picks may ultimately justify the lack of free-agency urgency.

Caldwell has done a fine job surrounding Bortles with high-end young talent. However, the QB did throw an NFL-high 18 interceptions against 35 touchdowns, was 31st among qualified passers in completion percentage (58.6) and took the most sacks in the league (51) in his second year under center.

Defense is where the Jaguars must make a big leap this season to compete in an AFC South division that's open for the taking. It doesn't appear Caldwell will be eager to overpay for free agents, but he'll likely have to acquire at least one notable veteran and get some immediate returns on draft picks or risk another lost season.

In the bottom-line, results-driven world of the NFL, Jacksonville has exercised exemplary patience with Caldwell and Bradley despite the absence of wins. That patience may wear thin unless the tandem promptly produces a playoff contender.