Jaguars free agency so far has been a lot about paying players based on their potential. In fact, the team has handed out $175 million with $78 million of that being guaranteed money.
That’s a lot of cash.
Almost all of that money is going to players with limited starting experience. In fact, if the Jaguars are paying per start then they are paying $1.4 million per game started by these players, who have a combined 120 starts among them. The vast majority of those starts belong to Jared Odrick (41) and Julius thomas (25).
Are the six players signed by the Jaguars worth $175 million? Are they all worth $1.4 million every time they see the football field (and we sincerely hope they don’t miss time for injury)?
That’s the gamble the Jaguars are willing to take.
The great gamble of Jaguars free agency in 2015 is that the players they are paying good money to will be able to develop based on their potential. It’s a risky strategy, especially when many teams in free agency go after the sure thing, the guy who is proven to come in and help immediately. Well, all these players will help immediately because the Jaguars have so many holes, but they may not prove to ever grow into the type of players the Jaguars are hoping they will be (or are paying them like).
Is that fine for a team with just seven wins two years into a massive overhaul? At this point, it is. The Jaguars are comfortable with where the NFL Draft has gotten them thus far and they are comfortable with the way their team is shaping up. There are still holes to address and they’ve done a good job building up plenty of cap space to address those holes in this season.
This Jaguars free agency gamble may be more in line with a calculated risk. It’s not just blind spending (though some think it is), though it is certainly still risky.
So, how do we measure success with the 2015 NFL Free Agency class in Jacksonville?
To me, the biggest marker for success will be seeing wins increase year over year. That’s not getting to 8-8 and stalling for the next four seasons. That’s going from 3-13 in 2014 to 6-10 to 9-7 to 11-5. That’s getting to the playoffs on a consistent basis, or at least knocking on the door of the playoffs.
On a more micro level, it’s seeing these same six players still playing out their contracts with the Jaguars when they end. Not taking pay cuts because they haven’t panned out. Not being traded away because the Jags can’t keep their salaries any longer. These guys need to succeed at what they were brought to Jacksonville to do.
That may be a bit optimistic, though. This is the NFL after all. So, for now how about we mark it as at least 50% of the guys signed by the Jaguars successfully finishing their contract with the team and living up to or exceeding expectations. That’s a lot of touchdowns for Julius Thomas. That’s a lot of downs and productive pass rushing from Jared Odrick. That’s Davon House becoming a starting-caliber cornerback. That’s Dan Skuta defining the OTTO position in Gus Bradley’s defense.
These players are a gamble and we all know it going in.
For the Jaguars and future franchise success, however, that’s a gamble the team is more than willing to make.
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