Since the NFL combine has started and we are now in the heart of the NFL offseason, I figured I would give my take on what the Jags need to do to improve as a team. As I begin this FanPost, I am writing under the idea that WR, DE,CB and RT are the four needs that this team has. Five if you count two starting WRs. After the jump I will share what I believe would be a very successful offseason for Gene and the Jags franchise.
As we all know, there are some high profile FAs available this offseason. I have seen everything from Mario Williams to Cortland Finnegan being debated on Big Cat Country, and I have seen some opinions I agree with. Starting with FA, the Jags will come out of the gates firing out contracts and signing players. Shad Khan has already said he wants to spend up to the cap to make this team the best it can be. After assessing this FA's and looking at the depth in the draft this year, I would like to see the Jags pursue these players: Marques Colston, Mario Manningham, Robert Mathis, and Brent Grimes. I see Colston getting a contract that puts him in the top 10 WRs in the NFL, which would get him a contract somewhere in the 8-9 million range. Manningham is going to get a contract somewhere in the 7 million range, which seems fair, since he has certainly proved more than a player with a similar contract, Mike Thomas. Mathis will get paid like a top 10 DE in the NFL, which means he will make around the 9-10 million range. At that point, getting a CB would probably become a little less important since that would be about 25 million dollars spent, but we still need another CB to hopefully start with Cox. If we are unable to get a decent starting CB in FA, which I highly doubt since the Jags defense seems to be a fairly attractive destination, then we should attempt to sign another WR. A third or fourth WR like Harry Douglas or Andre Caldwell would be much better than who is currently on our roster.
Now that I have gone through FA, the other important piece of the offseason is the draft. After addressing WR and DE in FA, the Jags are posed with a dilemma. Do they take another WR or DE to truly fix their two biggest positional issues over the last 6-7 years, or do they go a different route? In a perfect world, Riley Reiff would drop to the 7th spot and we would take him. He was impressive today and would be an excellent RT for the Jags in the future. If he is not there, then I would like to trade down and acquire another 2nd round pick, if not another first. Once trading down, we would grab Jonathan Martin or a WR prospect like Kendall Wright to give the Jags a vertical threat. After trading down, the Jags would use their original 2nd round pick on Vinny Curry and then the other pick on a CB. Some interesting prospects are Chase Minnifield, Josh Norman, Trumaine Johnson and Alfonzo Dennard. They have experience playing against some of the best competition in the country and they would fit into a rotation of Cox, Mathis, and Middleton. After addressing the needs of this team, the Jags would then be free to draft BAP. Getting a TE in the draft like Egnew could really improve the offense. Also, adding another speed threat would help this team immensely, since our offense last year was more physical than explosive. With the depth in this year's draft at WR and CB, Gene should be able to fill those needs. There are a few DE FAs available so I would expect Gene to walk away with one of them as well.
All of this is under the assumption that the Jags are able to resign Mincey, Mathis, Lowery, and Scobee. They all are very important to this team and would help fill some holes. I don't expect Mathis to come back to his true form, but if he can play up to about 75% of what he was last year and be a very good 3rd CB, then he will prove to be very useful. What a lot of people haven't discussed, however, is that the acquisitions the Jags make in FA and the draft really aren't that important in the grand scheme of things. I think we all expect Gene to find better players, but that doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters this offseason is if Bob Bratkowski can develop Blaine Gabbert into a legitimate starting QB in the NFL. If he makes the next step and can lead the team, then the Jags will already be a much better team. This team would have easily been an 8-8 team even with the terrible receivers had Gabbert had a proper offseason to develop. I expect him to make big strides under a real QB coach and this team will get much better. Otherwise, Gene may not be around much longer, since the franchise can't experience another year like last year. Thanks for taking the time to read this!