October 24, 2011; Jacksonville FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey (94) and defensive end John Chick (97) into throwing an incomplete pass in the first quarter of their game against the at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Reviewing the first days of the ’12 free agency – Zoltan’s Grades

Finally most part of the guessing in free agency is over. Although there are some very good players still in the market,  many of the top tier free agents found a new home or got a new contract from their old team.
How have the Jaguars performed thus far?  Well I haved mixed feelings.
Lets’s see what I liked from the Jacksonville front office and what I’m not so sure about.
What I like that most: The Jaguars brought back all of their own key free agents. I know Josh Scobee is still waiting for a new long term deal, but I expect he’ll get it like Marcedes Lewis did during last summer. As for the rest, the Jaguars brought back almost all of their key defensive contributors. Jeremy Mincey and Dwight Lowery could stay in teal at least  4  more years.  Russell Allen (the best UDFA pick up of the Gene Smith era) will stay for 3 more years. Rashean Mathis will return in ’12. Backup DT C. J. Mosley will return. I would like to see CB William Middleton & maybe DL Leger Douzable (I was surprized that he wasn’t even tendered though) back, but still the defense is almost set for 2012. There are still needs (more about that later), but it looks like almost everybody will play for Jacksonville in 2012, who managed to finish 6th (and was for a long time in the Top 5) in 2011.

The other things I liked were the contract conditions, except for the Robinson deal. I anticipated that even if the Jaguars could bring back Lowery and Mincey they would be overpaid. Luckily that was not the case in either deal. Mincey got a $27.2 million deal with $9 million guaranteed, but $7.2 million out of this is coming from incentieves. Mathis’ deal is up to $5 million, but basically he got $2 million with lots of incentives based on his playing time (a.k.a. he must perform and perform well, to got that money). Dwight Lowery got a contract worth $13.6 million for 4 years, which is around the right price for him. Russell Allen got $6 million for 3 years which can go up to $9 million. These are all smart structured contracts, I give credit to Tim Walsh and Gene Smith for making these deals.

Alas, I also have issues with the free agency period thus far. The fact that the Jaguars reached (very good financial) deals with their own in the last minutes prevented them to focusing on upgrading the team elsewhere. I think in the first hours, when the biggest names tend to sign elsewhere, the front office was still very busy negotiating with their own players. It’s good that Gene Smith made a successful last effort to keep Jeremy Mincey, but it shoudn’t have had to come that close in the first place. If that call had come 5 minutes later, Mincey would be in Chicago right now.  If the reports are true that the Jaguars first offer to him was $15 million for 4 years, then GM Gene’s “we want to reward our own first” philosophy is nothing more than lip service.  The Jaguars could easily make those deals 2-3 days or weeks before March 13 in my opinion, which would have helped them add more talent to the roster immediately after free agency began.
The biggest goal they we have achieved is putting more pressure on Blaine Gabbert by signing former Dolphins QB Chad Henne… it’s good that they made it, because Henne has more starting experience than Luke McCown, and he is better insurance in case Gabbert gets hurt, but I would like to see the Jaguars give more help to last year’s 1st round pick, and franchise QB(!!!), elsewhere. Getting some true playmaker receivers was key, and the Jaguars ended up overpaying a player who has had one good year in his career, has struggled elsewhere, and has a long history of injuries since he bacame a pro. I hope Laurent Robinson will be the next Jimmy Smith, but I wonder how he will perfrom in an offense where basically there are no playmakers in his position to support him.  That was not exactly the case in Dallas in ’11… I know there were very few real Nr. 1 wideouts left on the market; But still the Jaguars front office could’ve made a push to sign Vincent Jackson, who will make big plays no matter who else is on the field.
Can we say that about Robinson?…

What can you do for us Laurent? Source: Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Now there are no other really good free agent receivers left.
Further, it scares me a bit, if the Jaguars targeted Laurent Robinson, and targeted him alone from the WRs. Do they know they have basically nothing at the position?  With all due the respect, they’re just a bunch of guys!  Because if they do know this, and they still decided to target (and overpay) just one WR who had a couple big games, it’s forcing me to scratch my head.
And there’s the price!
$32.5 million (with around $14 million guranteed) for 5 years for a player who had one good year and has dealt with injuries throughout his career as a pro is more than risky. If Robinson will have only limited success in the first years, this contract will hurt him in every way. The fans will be calling him a FA bust, while his high salary will make him a probable cut candidate (just ask David Garrard about how helpful the money is in dealing with those issues all the time…).
I’m in a wait-and-see mode about addressing the rest of the Jaguars’ needs. They need a starting DE and a corner who can jump in if Mathis’ ACL doesn’t heal 100% or if he becomes injured again.  I see a lot of good corners in the draft with starting potential: Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick, Janoris Jenkins- although I wonder if these two’s off the field issues might be a problem for Gene Smith (who is still rating character heavily-probably a little bit too much) and Josh Norman.

I wish someone on the Jags could do this... Source: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

With the Raiders’ release of DE Kamerion Wimbley, I think the Jaguars can afford to sign him (and that would mean -sadly-  the end for Aaron Kampman in Jacksonville).  There’s also more potential in the draft.  At DE I see 4 players in the first round who can boost the Jaguars’ pass rush: Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus and Quinton Coples (although I think Coples is not the pass rusher the Jaguars searching for a while), and Vinny Curry who will be there in the early 2nd round. Meanwhile I have some issues with the high profile WR prospects (yes, even with Justin Blackmon) and I wonder which one of them could really help the Jaguars…

I hope the Jaguars can bring in at least one starting caliber veteran DE via free agency to the team (maybe bringing back Matt Roth, but right now I want to see a push for Wimbley). If that happens and the Jaguars will bring back William Middleton, the Jaguars can really focus on upgrading their passing game in the draft.
If I must rate what the Jaguars done in free agency in the 1st week, I give them a B-. Their defense is almost set (they are only two key contributors – a real pass rush threat and a new starting caliber corner- away for being an elite defense).  While the passing game needs major upgrades, most likely coming from the draft, I hope the Jaguars can still manage to reach one or two deals (keep your eye on Wimbley) until the end of the April.
- Zoltan Paksa

Tags: Dwight Lowery Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars Jeremy Mincey Justin Blackmon Kamerion Wimbley Laurent Robinson NFL Free Agency 2012 Oakland Raiders Popular