The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to be "aggressively modest" in the free agency market that opened up Tuesday afternoon.
What exactly does that mean? Only general manager Dave Caldwell can answer that and he's not tipping his hand.
But Caldwell gave an early indication of what it means by signing Denver offensive guard Zane Beadles within the first hour of free agency. It was an important addition for Jacksonville and an offensive line that was not very good last year. Beadles, 27, was a second-round selection by Denver in the 2010 NFL Draft and has proven to be one of the league's top players at his position. He started 62 of a possible 64 games in his four NFL seasons thus far. He started the first six games of his career at right tackle but was moved to left guard where he's played ever since.
Caldwell said the Jaguars targeted Beadles early and went after him as quickly as possible.
"This is a guy with some flexibility but we'll put him at left guard next to [left tackle] Luke [Joeckel," Caldwell said. "He's very intelligent, very competitive, very smart. He's had a heckuva career to date. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2012 so he's got a proven track record and he's only 27 years old."
Caldwell is the one who issued the phrase of "aggressively modest" last month. It was an indication the Jaguars would make a fast entry, maybe two, into free agency, and then sit back and watch what unfolds with the higher-priced free agents. With nearly $60 million of cap money to lure some of the top players to northeast Florida, along with pointing out no state income tax, glorious weather 10-11 months a year and a pair of video scoreboards that will don both end zones and will be the largest of its kind in any NFL stadium, the Jaguars are in position to make several moves.
But that's not how Caldwell wants to build this franchise, one that for the first half of the 2013 season, was being referred to as one of the NFL's worst ever. The Jaguars played better in the second half, winning four of their final eight games to give a fan base hope that this administration has a plan that will a lot more effective than the previous regime.
Caldwell is a stout believer in building from the ground up, as evidenced by the Jaguars owning 10 picks in the upcoming college draft. And if the right suitor can be found, Caldwell could be willing to forego the No. 3 pick in the draft for another two, three, four picks.
But it can't all be accomplished with the draft and that's why Caldwell is likely to go after one or two quality offensive linemen as quickly as possible. With veteran center Brad Meester retiring, six-year starter at right guard Uche Nwaneri released last week and nobody on the current roster ready to stake a claim to the left guard spot, the Jaguars had three openings they want to fill. With Joeckel only playing five games last season due to an ankle fracture, including less than one-half of one game at left tackle, line help was a necessity in order to prevent quarterback Chad Henne from scrambling and hurrying throws even more than what he did a year ago.
The Jaguars re-signed Henne with the idea that if they enhance the protection around him, he'll be better. It all starts with the three interior spots on the line. Signing Beadles was the first step in that direction.
Help is also needed among the receivers. The team's biggest threat, Justin Blackman, remains a threat to play himself right out of the league. Blackman will ask to be reinstated from the 8-game suspension that he received a year ago for his second violation of the league's substance abuse policy. But even if he's granted his request, do the Jaguars want to go into the season knowing that if Blackman falters again, he's out for one full season? Signing a veteran receiver would be good insurance for the club if the Blackman scenario fizzles.
The Jaguars need to add another quarterback to the roster after trading backup Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco on Tuesday. But that isn't expected to come in free agency, rather in the early to middle rounds of the draft.
The signing of Red Bryant from Seattle last week helped resolve one of the defensive issues. A pass-rusher at the Leo end spot is a top priority. With Michael Bennett resigning with Seattle, the two possible targets could be Michael Johnson of Cincinnati and Everson Griffen of Minnesota.
--The trading of Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco on Tuesday ended a less than successful stay in Jacksonville for the former first-round draft pick out of Missouri. When the Jaguars drafted Gabbert with the 10th overall pick of the 2011 draft, it appeared that the team had landed its franchise quarterback for the next decade. It was anything but that.
Gabbert was thrust into the starting lineup in the third game of the season that year. It was obvious he wasn't ready for such a move. He finished with 2,214 passing yards, but completed just a shade over 50 percent of his passes. The TDs and interceptions were nearly identical (12-11) and the 65.4 rating was well below standards acceptable for starting QBs.
There was some improvement in 2012 but not enough to appease a restless fan base by that time. Gabbert started the first 10 games, then was placed on injured reserve with a right forearm injury.
He was still considered the starter going into the 2013 season. He started the first game but passed for just 121 yards and had a 39.8 rating and was sacked six times. He was inactive the next two weeks with a thumb injury. He would start two more times but did not reach the 60.0 rating mark either time. He was inactive two more weeks and then dressed but did not play in the final nine games last year.
The trade to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick this year and a conditional pick next year is good for both Gabbert and the Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. Caldwell didn't want to talk about Gabbert's history with the Jaguars but feels that he can still have a successful NFL career.
"I don't want to go back into the past and the history. When situations like this don't work out, I don't think it's any one person's fault," he said. "This is a team sport, this is a team effort. There are a lot of people involved in a lot of different things.
"Football is a tough sport; it's a highly competitive game. Blaine is not even twenty-five years old. I told him when I talked to him today that I still believe that he's going to have a successful career ahead of him."
--Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has made it clear he's a believer in building a franchise through the draft. It hasn't been a successful formula for Jacksonville in recent years.
Caldwell did a solid job with the 2013 draft as all eight picks are still with the club. But the overall that took place when Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley came in has been overwhelming. Only four players who were drafted by the Jaguars prior to 2011 are still on the roster today. Those four are kicker Josh Scobee (2004), tight end Marcedes Lewis and running back Maurice Jones-Drew (2006) and defensive tackle/end Tyson Alualu. That's likely to drop to three as Jones-Drew is an unrestricted free agent who is shopping his goods to the other 31 teams. Three players drafted in 2011 and four from the 2012 draft (including suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon who's future status with the club is in question.
But having accumulated 11 picks for this year's draft, Jacksonville will continue to be one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
"Obviously we'd like as many draft picks as we can [get]," Caldwell said. "This is a good draft and we feel like it's a deep draft at different positions, so if we have 11, I think we can find 11 spots and if not, we can always use the flexibility to trade up. If you want to trade up to get a player, it gives you some flexibility, or if you want to trade back and maybe pick up some future picks for 2015."
It didn't take Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley long to coerce general manager Dave Caldwell into signing Seattle defensive end Red Bryant to a four-year contract once he was released by the Seahawks.
Bradley is well aware of what a player like Bryant can mean to a team's defensive line. He spent four seasons (2009-12) as Seattle's defensive coordinator and watched Bryant develop into one of the team's top defensive players.
Bryant was with the Seahawks for six seasons. He started his career as a defensive tackle but moved to an end spot in 2010 where he played four years under Bradley's tutelage. He's been a solid contributor in recent years, missing just one game in the past three seasons when he recorded 87 tackles, 21/2 sacks and two interceptions.
Bryant was released by Seattle the end of February which meant the Jaguars didn't have to wait until free agency began on Tuesday to sign him. He'll make approximately $4.5 million in 2014 with the Jaguars. He would have received a $3 million bonus if he had been on the Seahawks' roster on March 14.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I will bring my style of football, being physical and attacking the line of scrimmage and making it difficult for opposing running backs to have lanes. Whatever is needed of me to help this team be successful, that's what I plan on doing." - Newly signed defensive end Red Bryant when asked what he can bring to the Jaguars defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: When six-year starter Uche Nwaneri was released a couple weeks ago, the need for interior offensive linemen took on added significance. Both guard spots and center have been an offensive liability in recent years and the Jaguars are now in need of finding replacements for all three. Acquiring Zane Beadles in the first hour of free agency was huge.
--PASS RUSHER/DEFENSIVE END: signing Red Bryant took care of one of the needs at END, but a quality pass-rusher to play the "Leo" in Gus Bradley's defensive scheme is sorely needed. Jason Babin's 7.5 sacks was a team-best last year but he has voided his contract with the club and likely won't be re-signed at a lower figure, unless the Jags can't get their man here in either the draft or free agency.
QUARTERBACK: Signing Henne to a two-year agreement took the pressure off of forcing the Jaguars to take a QB with the third overall pick. Henne can lead the team until a drafted QB develops, whether that takes three games, half a season or the entire 2014 season. A quarterback will definitely be brought in now that the club traded backup Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DT Kyle Love (not tendered as RFA) is listed as a starter even though he played in just one game a year ago. He battled a shoulder injury that never did improve but has since had surgery and should be at full strength by the time OTAs begin. The Jaguars will do whatever they can to sign him to a new deal.
--TE Allen Reisner (not tendered as RFA) started three games and played in two more before he was placed on injured reserve in early October. He came off IR in mid-December but didn't see any action. He may not fit into the Jaguars plans for the future and may not be re-signed.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DE Jason Babin voided his contract with the Jaguars. He'll test the open market but isn't likely to find any takers willing to pay the $6.1 million he's due this year. He likes Jacksonville and could still end up here at a reduced salary if he can't find any takers elsewhere.
--DT Brandon Deaderick has only started 15 games in his four-year NFL career but he's played in 47 games and provides good depth to the D-line. He played in 13 games for the Jaguars last year and the team will try to re-sign him.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew has been one of Jacksonville's most popular players the past eight seasons which is why he's been given a pass for two mediocre years in 2012 and '13. The Jaguars would like to have him back but only want to give him a two-year pact. Jones-Drew is looking for a three-year commitment and will sign elsewhere if another team is willing to meet such a demand.
--WR Taylor Price only lasted a week of training camp before he was placed on injured reserve for the year. The fourth-year pro has talent but the Jaguars are looking to upgrade this position and may go a different route rather than bringing him back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--CB Will Blackmon: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--T Cameron Bradfield: Potential RFA; $3M/2 yrs, $1.225M guaranteed.
--TE Clay Harbor: Potential UFA; $3M/2 yrs, $1.35M SB.
--QB Chad Henne: Potential UFA; $8M/2 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DT Sen'Derrick Marks: Potential UFA; $18M/4 yrs, $800,000 SB/$4.8M guaranteed.
--T Sam Young: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Zane Beadles: UFA Broncos; $30M/5 yrs, $12.5M guaranteed.
--DE Red Bryant: FA Seahawks; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Toby Gerhart: UFA Vikings; $10.5M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--S Sherrod Martin: FA; $780,000/1 yr.
--QB Blaine Gabbert (traded 49ers).
--C Brad Meester (retired).
--G Uche Nwaneri (released).
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