The way I see it, there are a few approaches the Jaguars can take with the wide receiving corps they have from last year. They can A) Keep Mike Thomas, add some young blood through the draft, and patch some holes in free agency; B) Clean house and start from scratch, targeting free agent receivers and high quality college prospects; or C) Bring in a pair of top tier, old free agent types who are well respected and draft 3-4 potential wide receivers in the draft.
If you are remotely familiar with my opinion on the failings of the Jaguars’ receiving corps, then you know I’m more inclined to go with option B as Gene Smith hasn’t done a very good job at recruiting college talent at the position (in my humble opinion) and could use a full revamp.
However, recently I was looking around at some potential players that could be jettisoned by their teams due to their high price tag and declining production. Two names really popped out in my mind. Hines Ward and Donald Driver.
Hines Ward has become considerably less productive as of late. This past year he amassed all of 381 yards (a drop of almost 400 from last year) on 46 catches. Similarly, Donald Driver has shown to regress. This past year he posted 445 yards to drop roughly 100 yards lower than his 2010 total.
But these guys still have a lot left to give.
Two years ago, both players had 1,000 yard seasons. It was the second straight for Ward and the sixth straight for Driver. At ages 35 and 37, respectively, these guys probably won’t be getting back into the quadruple digits again, but they know what it takes to get there. They know how much work is needed, they know how much preparation is required, and they have superb route running abilities that allow a quarterback to become comfortable.
Besides that, they are both supreme professionals and enjoy their jobs. It’s rare to see Hines Ward without a smile on his face (even after getting slammed to the turf), and it’s rare to see Donald Driver get upset on the sideline. When they know someone wasn’t doing their job, they go and tell them so and suggest how to improve. When they know they didn’t do their job correctly, they sit down and figure out how to improve.
The two men are incredibly professional in all their approaches to the game.
How can these two men help the Jaguars’ wide receiving woes? Mentorship.
Hines Ward is expected to earn four million dollars on his current contract, making him a very good target to get rid of in Pittsburgh. Driver is owed 2.6 million in 2012. Both men have said they would take a pay cut to continue playing in Pittsburgh and Green Bay, but the price just may not be right for the teams.
If it isn’t, the Jaguars should snatch them up.
With a few very good talents available at wide receiver in the draft and multitude of talents available in free agency, there will be a lot of opposition to grabbing two aging veterans. But it needs to be thought of as an investment. Even if the Jags managed to bring in someone like Marques Colston, most of the players filling in the rest of the receiving corps will be young players. Players who need mentorship. Players that need to understand that it isn’t just about catching the ball; the game also includes crisp movement, good blocking (Ward is especially good here), and learning to move past mistakes.
I’m still a fan of plan B and starting from scratch, but if the opportunity to bring in some ex-premium talent presents itself, I don’t know if I would be able to pass it up.
It’s all up to Gene Smith.
- Luke N. Sims