2014 Team Needs: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a unique position to completely rebuild their roster. They have $53.1m in cap space, a Top-3 draft choice, 10 overall draft picks, and multiple under-producing veterans with waivable contracts.
The pressure lies squarely on general manager David Caldwell. His decisions this offseason will dictate whether or not Jacksonville will field a competitive team in 2014 with playoff possibilities in 2015 or another perennial doormat.
Potential Cap Casualties
Even with $53.1m in cap space the Jaguars have quite a few places where they could find more room. All cap savings estimates are courtesy of overthecap.com.
– Paul Posluszny was never the kind of linebacker that deserved a six-year, $45m contract and now his dead money is such that it makes sense to cut him. That could give the Jags up to $7m of space.
– Marcedes Lewis has been one of the elite blocking tight ends in the league for some time now, but his receiving skills aren’t nearly at the same level. Is an inline blocker worth $16m over the next two years? The Jags will have to decide and they’d save up to $6.4m if they cut Lewis.
– Releasing soon-to-be 34-year-old Jason Babin could give Jacksonville $5.7m in space and it would fit in with their rebuilding phase. Babin has been their most consistent pass rusher, but his diminishing skills and penalty problems make him expendable.
Those three moves could free up almost $20m of more cap room (depending on when cuts are designated). That kind of space means Jacksonville could be a major player for some top-tier talent and upgrades at multiple positions.
Every Jags fan out there knows that quarterback is hands down their No. 1 need. Blaine Gabbert took a step backward in 2013 after the front office gave him the vote of confidence last offseason. He had one of the worst Accuracy Percentages in the league at 63.6 despite having an extremely low average depth of target (7.3 yards). After Gabbert suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, Chad Henne wasn’t much better. The free agent finished with the worst grade of any quarterback at -21.0.
Free Agent Fix: Draft. If you’re looking to scoop up a franchise quarterback through free agency, you’re going to be disappointed almost every season. Jacksonville will still likely need a holdover veteran in the meantime and Josh McCown seems to be the best fit in that category.
So far none of the Jaguars experiments at defensive end have gone as well as planned. Jason Babin has provided solid pass rush, but he’s been a penalty machine; his 11 penalties were most among ends. Tyson Alualu never quite adjusted to his switch defensive end and his -18.3 pass rushing grade was the second-worst at the position in the NFL. Former second round pick Andre Branch showed promise in Year 2, but his –2.6 overall grade and -8.1 pass rushing grade aren’t cutting it just yet.
Free Agent Fix: Dealing out top dollars to a free agent might not be the best way to go about the rebuilding process, but this is an absolutely loaded class of edge defenders and that could help suppress the market. The Jaguars really can’t go wrong with any of our Top 4 and I’d go with whichever player you can get the best value from. I believe that will be former Seahawk Michael Bennett. Greg Hardy is the only player with comparable production over the last two seasons, but his 14 sacks look primed for the biggest deal of the group.
Will Rackley was on pace for an all-time bad season before he was mercifully put on injured reserve late in the year. Oddly enough, Rackley already owned the worst grade we’d ever given to a guard for his -30.4 grade in his rookie season of 2011. The former third-round selection has proven he’s not the answer for Jacksonville.
Rackley’s replacements Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon had grades of -4.0 and -0.9, respectively, in very limited snaps. McClendon was drafted in 2010 by Indianapolis and has played just 194 snaps over that time while Brewster was an undrafted free agent in 2012 and had a -20.7 grade in 556 snaps as a rookie. Neither would appear to be the answer at the position.
Free Agent Fix: This is a spot where the Jaguars could improve by leaps and bounds for modest amounts of money. Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz are clearly the class of the free agent guards in terms of age and performance. Neither is primed to break the bank either so I’d go with Schwartz who has been nothing short of a top performer when given the chance.
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