Jacksonville Jaguars' Free-Agency and Draft Wish List

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars' Free-Agency and Draft Wish List

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    Finding both short- and long-term solutions at quarterback and in the pass rush should be at the top of every offseason wish list that the Jacksonville Jaguars draw up.

    But there also needs to be room for bolstering the ranks at cornerback and defensive tackle. Jacksonville must also refresh its running game and add another competent receiver to the passing attack.

    Thankfully, the team boasts one of the better salary-cap situations in the NFL. Recent figures from Spotrac.com writer Michael Ginnitti indicate the Jags have as much as $50,399,782 in projected cap space.

    Those numbers should make the rebuilding franchise a major player in free agency. Head coach Gus Bradley could look to former team and newly crowned Super Bowl champions the Seattle Seahawks for help.

    Several rotational members of the fearsome Seattle defense are set to hit free agency. They could all help Bradley mold his own dominant unit in Jacksonville.

    As for their two primary needs, Bradley and general manager David Caldwell will find more credible quarterback and pass-rush help in this year's draft class.

    Here is an early free-agency and draft wish list for the rebuilding Jags.


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    Free Agency: Walter Thurmond III, Seattle Seahawks

    Seattle formed its famed "Legion of Boom" secondary on Bradley's watch. It only makes sense that he would plunder his old group for one of its key members.

    Walter Thurmond III has been a capable nickelback in Seattle. He is not as daunting physically as some other members of the Seattle defensive backfield, but the 5'11", 190-pounder can play press on the inside.

    He is a natural fit for the kind of violent coverage schemes that Bradley has tried to implement in Jacksonville. As Thurmond's former defensive coordinator, Bradley shouldn't have too much trouble enticing the player with a decent contract and the promise of a starting role.

    NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal recently indicated Thurmond may be deemed a luxury by the league champs, who face more pressing contractual issues.

    Draft: Keith McGill, Utah

    For Bradley's schemes to work, the Jaguars have to get bigger at cornerback. That should put a prospect like ex-Utah ace Keith McGill firmly on the team's draft radar.

    The 6'3", 214-pounder is a towering cover man with all the right technical and temperament qualities to thrive in Bradley's defense. CBS Sports analyst Rob Rang highlighted his competency as a press corner:

    Tall, well-proportioned athlete with intriguing fluidity and straight-line speed. Frequently asked to play press in Utah's scheme and displays the balance, agility and acceleration to perform well in this role at the next level.

    Alert defender who plays the ball well, using his height, leaping ability and long arms to bat away passes. Baits quarterbacks into throwing underneath routes and shows an explosive downhill burst to close. Generally effective open-field tackler with the long arms to wrap securely.

    McGill has the right playing style for Bradley's developing secondary. The only question mark is his ability to avoid injuries. His track record in that area is not good, as Rang noted: "Missed as many games as he played while at Utah, losing the final eight games of the 2011 season due to a shoulder injury and rehabbing the entire 2012 campaign following surgery to correct the issue."

    If Bradley is willing to gamble, McGill would be an outstanding addition in the third round of the draft.

Running Back

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    Free Agency: James Starks, Green Bay Packers

    With Maurice Jones-Drew testing free agency, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, now is the time to look for a different type of running back. James Starks fits the bill as a less powerful runner than Jones-Drew but one who is quicker and has better receiving skills.

    The 27-year-old averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2013. He also gained 89 yards on 10 receptions. He is a sudden runner who makes quick bursts to get to the linebacker level.

    He has been pushed down the pecking order with the Green Bay Packers thanks to the arrival of dynamic bruiser Eddie Lacy. That should put Starks firmly in the thinking of Bradley and Caldwell.

    They should consider securing the versatile Super Bowl winner to steady a failing ground game and support whomever is under center.

    Draft: James C. White, Wisconsin

    Diminutive dynamo James C. White is a late-round running back prospect who should appeal to the Jaguars. At only 5'9" and 206 pounds, he will be deemed too small by many scouts to hack it in the pros.

    But those who make that assumption would be ignoring his excellent one-cut quickness. He shifts his feet suddenly and is decisive at the line of scrimmage.

    Those qualities often get him past the first wave of defenders where his natural speed can take over. White is a good rotational runner who could complement a new arrival like Starks or share time with Jordan Todman, a free agent the Jags should retain.

Wide Receiver

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    Free Agency: James Jones, Green Bay Packers

    The Jaguars need a wide receiver who will make life easier for their quarterback. Despite being plagued by drops earlier in his career, James Jones has become exactly that.

    He is an outstanding route-runner who defeats coverage as much with technical guile as his own physical gifts.

    The 6'1", 208-pounder possesses a stout frame that allows him to win inside. He also has the vertical speed to stretch defenses deep.

    The Jacksonville offense has missed the quality since Justin Blackmon was served with an indefinite suspension by the team for substance-abuse issues.

    Jones has indicated he will test the waters in free agency, via Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press GazetteHodkiewicz suggested that the emergence of Jarrett Boykin could put Jones in jeopardy at a position group that already boasts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

    Bradley and Caldwell should take advantage by quickly making their move once free agency opens.

    Draft: Ryan Grant, Tulane

    In sticking with the theme of targeting receivers who will do more to help out the quarterback, Tulane's Ryan Grant should be on Jacksonville's radar.

    He is noted for his consistency making catches, as CBS Sports scribe Dane Brugler pointed out: "One of the more underrated pass catchers in the country. Grant has quick hands, smooth coordination and wins with timing and precision in his routes to create just enough room to work. Natural hands catcher."

    Grant has taken his chance to impress a few more people at the Senior Bowl, according to NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks:

    Grant has been one of the pleasant surprises in Senior Bowl workouts this week. He has been the most consistent playmaker on the South team, displaying outstanding hands and polished route-running skills. Grant has repeatedly gotten open in 1-on-1 and team drills against a talented set of defensive backs.

    That means he should have already caught the eye of Bradley, who had been running things for the South team. He should remember Grant's name come the fourth round.

Defensive End/Tackle

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    Free Agency: Tony McDaniel/Clinton McDonald, Seattle Seahawks

    Bradley's hybrid defensive front needs a beefy defensive tackle who can play 5-technique defensive end. Last season's experiment to convert undersized 2010 first-round pick Tyson Alualu to the position didn't work.

    Fortunately, if Bradley raids his old team again, he'll find two suitable free agents. Both Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have the size that the Jags covet at one side of their D-line.

    McDonald boasts a larger frame and plays bigger than his 6'2", 297-pound frame. He is also a capable interior pass-rusher who notched 5.5 sacks in 2013.

    McDaniel, the player who correctly stated Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has "happy feet" under pressure, per Marc Sessler of NFL.com, is a more natural fit.

    The former Jaguar stands 6'7" and weighs 305 pounds, so he is big enough to seal up one edge. He would give Bradley that 3-4 look with 4-3 personnel that he desires.

    The Seahawks won't be able to keep both players, so one of these behemoths could improve the same scheme in Jacksonville.

    Draft: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

    In his post-Super Bowl mock draft, Bleacher Report columnist Matt Miller has the Jags selecting Kelcy Quarles in Round 4. If he does fall that far, it will be a tough choice between a receiver like Grant or the monstrous South Carolina defensive tackle.

    He went unnoticed on the same D-line as Jadeveon Clowney for the Gamecocks. But Quarles has the thick base and initial quickness to draw and hold double-teams on the edge.

    His presence would free up middle linebacker Paul Posluszny to make even more plays. That would improve a run defense that ranked 29th in 2013.

    Quarles is also an underrated pass-rusher. He would cause havoc when shifting inside in nickel looks.

    From a scheme standpoint, he would be one of the better value picks that the Jags could make.


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    Free Agency: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

    Normally this position would top any list of offseason needs for the Jaguars. But recent comments from team owner Shahid Khan have created some doubt about the franchise's immediate plans at quarterback.

    Khan told Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union that the team is committed to finding quarterbacks in this year's class. That was followed by fellow Times-Union writer Vito Stellino suggesting the Jags should re-sign free agent Chad Henne because no rookie is ready to start immediately.

    That last point is open to debate, but if the Jags do take the veteran stopgap route, they might consider offering a short-term deal to Michael Vick.

    Injuries and major issues protecting the ball have damaged his standing since he first made a spectacular return to life as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010.

    Yet despite his struggles, he remains a talented, big-play quarterback. His dual-threat skills still have value in today's NFL.

    Vick is still determined to start in this league, per a report from NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus. But at age 33, he should be under no illusion that he would be in it for the long haul with his new team.

    But as a one- or even two-year starter while a rookie bides his time and refines his skills, Vick makes some sense for the Jaguars.

    Draft: Derek Carr, Fresno State

    Matt Miller's latest mock draft for Bleacher Report has the Jags selecting Derek Carr with the third overall pick. That may be considered a reach by many, but it is not without merit.

    Obviously, it answers the need to refresh the quarterback position in Jacksonville. Also, it would give the Jags a pro-style, natural passer.

    As Miller points out, Carr worked with Bradley and company at the Senior Bowl. If he impressed, then the Jaguars could risk a trade back to get Carr toward the latter end of the top 10.

    His ability to launch the deep ball would expand the offense. It would create more room for underneath playmakers like Ace Sanders and tight end Marcedes Lewis to thrive.

    Carr is certainly raw, but the Jags may be better off taking their lumps with a project now rather than putting off the inevitable.


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    Free Agency: Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks

    Bradley knows Clemons well from his days in Seattle. The player used the Super Bowl to remind the league he can still wreck an offense. He toyed with left side of the Denver Broncos O-line.

    Bradley and Caldwell surely took notice, knowing their defense will be stuck in neutral until it generates more pressure. Clemons collected 33.5 sacks under Bradley's tutelage.

    The veteran is among the group of Seahawks free agents who could be headed to the exit door. NFL.com scribe Gregg Rosenthal cited Clemons' age of 32 and the offseason ACL surgery he had as points against him.

    But despite the popular notion, "veteran" is not a dirty word in the NFL. Clemons knows Bradley's defense and can still close on a quarterback. Those traits make him a free agent that the Jaguars should strongly consider.

    He fits well as a rotational "Leo" alongside Andre Branch. The Jags went for experience when they acquired Jason Babin. It was the right idea but the wrong veteran. Signing Clemons would correct that mistake.

    Draft: Anthony Barr, UCLA

    Many may push for Clowney here, but UCLA's Anthony Barr could be the better scheme fit in Jacksonville. As a natural rush linebacker on the outside, Barr is built to play the Leo role.

    He is a terror when attacking from a standing position, as his numbers in 2013 indicate. He had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss for the Bruins, according to CFBStats.com.

    He also forced six fumbles. This is a player who lives in the backfield.

    Barr has the frame to transition to a three-point stance and operate as a de facto defensive end. He would offer Bradley the move skills to mix his fronts pre-snap, all depending on Barr's alignment.

    Any combination of these prospects and established pros would fortify the major needs on the Jaguars roster ahead of the 2014 NFL season.