March 12. It’s a special date for the die hard football fans who watch every offseason move as if their very lives depended on it. March 12th is when free agency begins, and with it comes a feeding frenzy. What will happen with Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace? What about veteran running backs such as Steven Jackson and Rashard Mendenhall? It’s quite exciting seeing as how March 12th is the first day of the new league year. So much to see!
Then comes the question…what will the Jaguars do in free agency? There are many fans who are sick and tired of the “we will build through the draft” mantra that has become ever so popular over the last few months. Free agency, especially the first days, are extremely dangerous. The Jaguars have had a few nice signings over the last few years such as Paul Posluszny. Most of the time though, those signings turn out to be Aaron Ross and Laurent Robinson. The Jaguars just haven’t been able to get it right. It’s apparent they will not be active in free agency this year, and if they are I’ll definitely write a post about how wrong I was. I’ll eat my words with a side of shame, but just going off of what Caldwell is saying-don’t expect much, at least not in the first days.
I’m not going to spend time writing about how the best way to build a team is through the draft. I do agree with that strategy, but I’d like to address something that is just important as the 2013 draft which actually does involve free agency.
Early on, GM Dave Caldwell talked about evaluating the roster. Before the Jaguars do anything, before fans speculate anything, before draft gurus mock another college prospect at No. 2, evaluating the talent on the current roster is the single most important thing happening for the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 12th. Don’t get caught up in the hype of all these sexy free agents going here and there and wherever. It seems in all the draft talk we’ve forgotten about the first thing that must take place in order for the team to take on new identity, and it centers around our current crop of free agents.
Derek Cox was not tagged. As a matter of fact, Caldwell came out early and said that he would not be using the franchise tag. It’s looking like Daryl Smith might not be back either. Eben Britton is as good as gone. Rashean Mathis and Brad Meester should be done as well. Other than Cox (who is talented, but injury prone) and Eben Britton (who just isn’t any good), what do free agents such as Mathis, Meester, and fullback Greg Jones have in common? You guessed it – they don’t have much tread left on the tires. Don’t even get me started on Rashad Jennings and why he shouldn’t be back.
Look. I’m not going to list a “core” of players because anyone who knows anything about their favorite team can tell you which players are going to be a part of the future and who isn’t.
But what about possible progress-stoppers? Players such as Mathis and Meester and Greg Jones really take away playing time from the young guns. I would have liked to have seen more from 2012 5th round pick Mike Harris last year, but Mathis began complaining about his lack of snaps and just like that he had taken away valuable playing time from the promising rookie. Greg Jones is way too expensive at his age. Meester is on the decline, but his heart and effort for the team will always be in the right place. There’s a lot of talent along the interior line in this year’s rookie class, however, and it might be time to go younger.
The most intriguing Jacksonville Jaguar free agent to me has to be Terrance Knighton. I’ve been very hard on Mr. Knighton as he has driven me crazy with his inconsistency over the years, but with a new coaching regime in place could he be more motivated to consistently play at the level we’ve seen him reach at times?
We will keep Derek Cox for the right price as we should. I’d also like to see Daryl Smith stick around, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 on a team that wants to go younger.
On March 12th when free agency begins, you can’t expect splash signings. What you can expect is a clearer picture of the roster moving forward and, more importantly, what we might be looking for in the draft.
-David R. Johns