I hope everyone went to church today, because it’s looking like everything will remain on schedule and you’ll be missing Church every Sunday for at least 17 weeks straight. Finally, we can see the light of day through the dark clouds of labor strife and unless any unforeseen disaster’s occur in negotiations, the NFL will be Lockout-free by mid week. General Managers and their front office teams have no doubt perfected their contingency plans by now and it will be time to act and act decisively very soon. Emerging from the Lockout Abyss, what are the top priorities in Jacksonville for Commander Gene Smith?
- 1.) Contact and Sign Undrafted Rookie Free Agents
Yes, I am making this priority #1 for Gene Smith, because the Jaguars still have plenty of depth to fill out on their roster and in his first two years as GM, many UDFA signings are still on the roster and some have stepped up into important roles on special teams or as primary backups. With the veteran free agents, it is less of a “beat the clock” game as these players know where they want to play or don’t want to play and will be fishing for the best offer/situation. UDFA’s are closer to a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos – these guys just want a shot and they’re all going to be playing for league minimums, so whoever can scoop them up first is going to get them. The Jaguars should have a lot of sway with these type of players, because we have plenty of spots to be filled on the roster and we have a history of giving these guys a fair shot to be contributors.
- 2.) Sign a Free Safety.
The free agent crop is very thin at safety. Consensus top targets are Eric Weddle of San Diego and Michael Huff of Oakland – I’m not saying the Jaguars have to make a play at one of these top-tier FA’s, but the safety market will thin quickly and this is the area where we need the most help.
- 3.) Sign one or two Linebackers.
Safety is where the Jaguars need the biggest upgrade as far as talent, but the linebacker position is almost empty. Other than Daryl Smith, the only other players at the position are five undrafted free agents and Russell Allen is the only one with more than one season of experience. Yowza! At this point, I’d say resigning Kirk Morrison is a virtual certainty; the Jaguars seemed to have already moved on from the Justin Durant experiment, but Capt. Kirk provides a solid, though unspectacular veteran option in the middle who knows the team’s system and playbook. They could look for a playmaker or “name brand” LB in free agency, like a Clint Session, but this signing is more likely to be a lesser-known commodity, who may be the third starter or may be the rotational 4th LB, with Russell Allen getting the starts at WLB.
- 4.) Pay Marcedes Lewis
This is the biggest priority for the Jaguars going into the 2011 season, but it’s less time-sensitive than the other three objectives. For one, it seems that the franchise tags applied following the 2010 season will still be valid under the new CBA, so he’s not going to any other teams. Marcedes seems content to stay in Jacksonville as long as he’s treated right and GM Gene and the Jaguars seem adamant about paying him fairly and keeping him with the team. He has certainly earned his right to be here and is a talented young building block, both as a pass catcher, a 7th O-lineman, and a respected leader in the locker room. He may have to do the “sit out a few practices” dance for some leverage while his agent negotiates, but I wouldn’t be suprised if he keeps showing up during negotiations as a sign of good faith. Either way, he knows his role in this offense (which won’t be changing much this offseason) and should pick up right where he left off last year.
- Andrew Hofheimer