The guard competition has been one of, if not, the most talked about battle of the 2010 training camp and preseason. With only one preseason game nothing appears to be decided. A quote from Justin Smiley on Tania Ganguli's Twitter account illustrated just how close of a battle it is:
"We’ll see this week, whether I’m the starting guard or I’m cut."
The margin is that slim. When it's that close of a battle, factors beyond on-the-field performance come into play. Injury history and salary can come into play. With Smiley due $2.5 million and a $750,000 roster bonus in 2010 only, coupled with a propensity for shoulder injuries, Smiley already has some factors stacked against him.
But the biggest obstacle in his pursuit for a roster spot may be the 2011 draft.In the trade that brought Smiley to Jacksonville, the Jaguars sent the Dolphins a conditional 7th round draft pick. In the event that Smiley doesn't make the Jaguars roster the 7th round selection would remain with the Jaguars.
As Surteal said in his discussion of Greg Jones:
"Gather the picks that would help you in the 'QB Draft of the Decade' and develop younger talent for the long run."
The drafting of a young quarterback to lead the Jaguars into the next decade appears to be a given in a draft that will all but certainly feature one of the stronger quarterback crops of the last 20 years. It's a definite possibility that the player Gene Smith decides to take comes after the Jaguars trade up to acquire a higher pick. If that's the case the Jaguars will need all the fire power they can get and every pick they can get would help. That could possibly include the 7th rounder saved by releasing Smiley.
Even if the Jaguars don't make a move involving that 7th round selection or even don't make a move at all, the value of a draft pick is high for a team run by Gene Smith.
Justin Smiley has one more game to prove his worth in a tight positional battle. The odds are stacked against him, though. In addition to proving he's healthy and worth his salary, he must also show he is worth sacrificing a 7th round draft pick.