By: James Johnson
With free agency coming up next month and the draft in May, I decided to do something a little different for this next post and give my take on how I’d attempt to sure up the Jags if I were Dave Caldwell. I’ll also take into consideration some of the moves I think he’d make as well, not just what I’d do. But before I do that, I’ll start by saying that the Jags simply have too many needs on both sides of the ball, and for one to expect the Jaguars to fill all their needs in one season would be unrealistic. Also, keep in mind that the Jags are loaded cap wise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should go all Donald Trump to spend it. That said, a key thing to remember is that even if they wanted to go on a spending spree, to me this class isn’t exactly the strongest to do that. Now for this post I’ll be breaking it down into two parts. Today’s post will be on the offensive side of the ball. I’ll start by stating the areas of need which are as followed below.
Areas of need on offense heading into the offseason: QB, RB, WR, Interior OL. I guess I should start first with those on the offensive end that will be hitting free agency. Of the Jags 10 offensive free agents, 4 of them are starters (2 of which are UFA’s ,and 2 of which are ERFA’s ) so I’ll also go into details of how they could be potentially replaced if they aren’t retained. The list of free agents for the Jaguars on the offensive side of the ball are as followed according to Spotrac.com .
|Name||Position||Age||Type of FA|
As we all know Brad Meester, who was our starting center, is retiring. Aside from Meester, the two other notable starters that stick out on this list are Chad Henne and Maurice Jones-Drew. Based on the reports that have been surfacing, it appears that MJD will likely be parting ways with the Jags, but Dave Caldwell has expressed interest in keeping Henne. I’d assume that the team would want Henne to return just in case they can’t land a starting QB in the draft, that way they’d have a veteran with experience to go into the season with. Yet if the chips fall like I think they will, I’d go with Bridgewater in round one (spoiler) despite resigning Henne.
On the ERFA end, Jordan Todman who flashed here and there last season looks likely to be in a Jaguars uniform according to the report linked above. His return is important being that MJD likely won’t be returning and gives the Jags a young running back who is familiar with the system. He’ll have to prove to the team that he can be the #1 RB in MJD’s absence, and show a little bit more when it comes to game-day performances. I also believe the Jags will need to add depth behind him (preferably a bruiser back) which I’ll get into later.
The next name of interest that some might not be aware of is starting RT Austin Pasztor (also an ERFA like Todman) who was signed by the team in September of 2012 as a practice squad player. Long story short in 2013 when the Jags traded Monroe, first round pick Luke Joeckel went from the right tackle position to the left, leaving the right vacant. Pasztor was then given the opportunity to start at right tackle and had a very good season according to PFF. That said, Dave Caldwell is high on him and singled him out as one of the surprising pieces that he felt good about coming back as a starter alongside Joeckel. Though Pasztor is an exclusive rights free agent, I’d expect him to be retained (along with the other ERFA’s like Brown, Ta’ufo’ou, and now Todman), as exclusive right free agents usually are 9 times out of 10.
That now brings me to the restricted free agents in backup tackle Cam Bradfield (who played well when called upon as a starter during the regular), and TE Allen Reisner. As restricted free agents they can all be tendered basically, and personally I’d try and retain both, specifically Bradfield since he proved to be a serviceable backup during the season. If retained, Reisner could be brought back to compete for the the backup role of Marcedes Lewis which is thin as of now, with only one other TE on the roster aside from him in Danny Noble.
Now as for those from other teams that could hit the market, I’d look for interior offensive lineman (I’d also look to draft one too), which Gus Bradley has expressed interest in doing . It’s one of the spots that have enough names to which I feel the Jags can land one or two desperately needed starters since Meester is retiring and Will Rackley has struggled as a starting guard. I also feel that Uche N’waneri is overrated, but I’d personally stick it out with him one more year. Marquee names that will hit the market at the center position are Alex Mack of the Browns (who likely is one of the top free agents overall of 2014), Brian De La Puente of the Saints, Even Dietrich-Smith of the Packers, and Jonathan Goodwin of the 49ers to name a few. The guard class isn’t that spectacular to me but it does include a few good names like those of Jon Asomoah, Geoff Schwartz, and Zane Beadles. Just by the looks of it I think if the Jags are looking for a starter at center or guard, their best chance to land one would be at center. As I said, I’m personally not too high on the crop of guards that may hit the market. I also don’t think Dave Caldwell would exactly break the bank on a top tier guy like Mack, but may aim for a guy on the next tier like Dietrich-Smith (or at least I would), who to me is a good fit. He comes from a zone-blocking scheme in Green Bay and they appear to be willing to let him test the market. He’ll be 28 in July and would give the Jags a good center for the next 3-4 years. If Caldwell doesn’t want to go that route he may look to a cheaper option like Joe Hawley to come in and compete. He is a player that is young (25 years old) and someone Caldwell has ties to from his days in Atlanta. Furthermore, don’t be surprised if he looked to the draft as well since he’s expressed interest in drafting some interior guys in the 4th -5th round (see the Pasztor link for details). As for signing a starting guard via free agency, I wouldn’t pay any of the guys on the top of the list too much as I feel they aren’t worth a big payday. If one of the three guards between the players I named above came at a decent contract I’d consider it, but I think the draft may be a better alternative to find a guard. A couple guards that come to mind are Xavier Su’a-Filo of UCLA, Jon Halapio of Florida, Chis Watt of Notre Dame, and Spencer Long of Nebraska. Problem is Su’a-Filo would require a first to second round pick which I doubt the Jags would want to spend on a guard. I’d personally take Su’a-Filo if he was there in round 2, but I’m not sure he’ll make it that far even if he was a target for the team. That said, Su’a – Filo’s high draft grade benefits me in this situation and allows me to spend a later round draft pick on a guard. I personally like Chris Wells of those remaining names above and believe he could potentially start day one over Will Rackley. He currently has a 4th round grade on him which also allows me to go elsewhere with my earlier picks.
Now as I mentioned above Todman will need some depth behind him, and this draft class is the perfect place to find that as the 2014 RB class is one of the entire draft. Not only that, I believe it’s a deep one, and I believe the Jags can land solid a RB in the 4th-7th rounds. I’d also mentioned that I would personally aim for a power/bruiser back to replace the role that MJD has served so many years here. A power back would also compliment Todman’s finesse style well. Three players that come to mind are late rounders Lorenzo Taliaferro of Coastal Carolina, David Fluellen of Toledo, and Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky, all of which I got a chance to watch at the Senior Bowl. Taliaferro and Andrews both played on the south team coached by the Jaguars staff and looked good in Jedd Fisch’s scheme. Of the two however, I’d have to say I was more impressed with Taliaferro and would choose.
Lastly on offense I’d address WR position. The only reason I feel this position is worth looking for a late round addition is because of the absence of Justin Blackmon. Most tend to think he won’t be reinstated by the season opener next year, though that decision is essentially up to the NFL. I’d look in the late rounds to add another body to give this position a decent amount of competition heading into camp. Two late round additions I feel the Jags could land are Ryan Grant of Tulane and Mike Davis of Texas, both of which the Jags also had a chance to coach at the Senior Bowl. Being that WR’s coach Jerry Sullivan singled out Davis at the Senior Bowl as one of his favorites, I’d roll with him over Grant. Most mocks I looked at had Davis available in the fourth round which is where I’d spend my second fourth round pick.
Now all that taken into consideration, as of this moment, here is how I’d draft on the offensive end if I were running things.
|RD 1 (3rd overall)||Louisville, QB – Teddy Bridgewater|
|RD 4 (101th orverall)||Notre Dame, OG – Chris Watt|
|RD 4 (110TH overall)||Texas, WR – Mike Davis|
|RD 7||Coastal Carolina, RB – Lorenzo Taliaferro|
When it’s all said and done and camp rolls around, here is how the top of the roster would shape out after both free agency and the draft have taken place if I were running the show.
|Quarterback||Teddy Bridgewater (R)||Chad Henne||Blaine Gabbert|
|Fullback||Will Ta’ufo’ ou|
|Tailback||Jordan Todman||(R) Lorenzo Taliaferro||Dennard Robinson|
|Wide Receivers||Cecil Shorts||M.Brown, A.Sanders, (R) M.Davis, S.Burton||Joe Hawley (FA)|
|Left Tackle||Luke Joeckel||Cameron Bradfield||Sam Young|
|Left Guard||(R) Chris Wells||Will Rackley||Jacques McClendon|
|Center||(FA) Evan Dietrich – Smith||Mike Brewster|
|Right Guard||Uche N’waneri||Jacques McClendon|
|Right Tackle||Austin Pasztor||Sam Young|
|Tight End||Marcedes Lewis||Harbor/Reisner|
In a nutshell, because most of the Jaguars offensive free agents are RFA’s or ERFA’s it shouldn’t be a difficult task to keep most of them if the Jags like. As for the UFA’s, the only two the Jags will likely be concerned with is Henne of course, and maybe Harbor. Everyone else I wouldn’t to much worry about keeping.
Now as for additions from other teams, I didn’t really add much, but did manage to add a starting center to replace a retiring Brad Meester in Dietrich – Smith. I’d assume a deal in the ball park of the one Seahawks center Max Unger signed in 2013 (4 years for 25, 835,000 with 11,500,000 guarenteed) would be one reasonable to Smith. I also added a backup to come in and compete in Hawley which shouldn’t cost much.
Lastly, as you all can see, I made most of my offensive additions through he draft. I got my QB of the future in Bridgewater with my first round pick, and addressed protecting him with the addition of Chris Wells (and Smith in free agency). I also added some backups that could see a substantial amount of playing time late in the draft in Mike Davis and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
I’m now in good shape cap-wise, as I really only made one big time signing. I also did well in the draft as I still have my 2nd, 3rd, three 5th rounders and a 6th rounder left as we head to the defensive end. As stated earlier that post will come later, but in the meantime feel free to give me your feedback on my moves so far and what might you do differently.
As usual, I appreciate the reads and as always you guys can feel free to follow me on Twitter and give me your thoughts.