As we are all excited and caught up with all the action leading up to the 2012 season of Jaguar football, I want to go ahead and look all the way to next spring, and discuss what I believe is one of the most important decisions the franchise will face.
I'm talking about Daryl Smith of course.
Daryl signed a 5 year contract in 2008, which will make him an unrestricted free agent next year. As all Jag fans know, Daryl Smith has been a stud every time he steps on the field, and is arguably are most valuable asset on defense. He is currently the franchise leader in tackles, having surpassed DD recently, and is easily one of, if not the, most underrated 4-3 outside linebacker in the league. Daryl did get some national recognition last year, being rated by Pro Football Focus as the 2nd best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league, behind only Von Miller of Denver.
The Jaguars will have some important financial decisions to make next off-season, and we all can only hope they put the money where they need to. MJD is obviously not happy about his contract, and it is looking as if he will not get an extension done this off-season, which will mean that next year Drew will most likely be very adamant about getting one done. I do think that if Maurice can have another great year this year, that he will get a deal next year. This situation though will hopefully not shadow the importance of Daryl Smith getting a new deal though, which I believe is almost as great of an importance. Keep in mind Drew still has 2 years left, but he wants a deal done before that.
There is another huge factor needed to be discussed here though with Jones-Drew's situation, because our beloved backup RB Rashad Jennings will become an unrestricted free-agent in the 2013 off-season. That in itself presents an issue because both of our valuable running backs will be dealing with contract issues at the same time. Rashad has proven, when healthy, he can easily be a starter in this league, and a very effective relief to MJD, thus being very essential to the Jags. With Drew holding out already this year, Jennings is getting time with the 1st team, and I'm assuming is going to earn a lot of playing time this up coming season.
With Jennings and Jones-Drew's both presenting major importance next spring, the team will need to address this issue immediately, as we need to please and reward Drew, and also Jennings, and keep a dangerous backfield together for many years to come. With that being said, Daryl Smith's contract needs to be of equal importance.
With Paul Posluszny being locked up as our anchor MLB for years to come, the outside linebacker position is gonna be in trouble next year if we can't retain our GT star. Smith has quietly become the leader of our defense, not only is he the old vet on the corp., he is consistently the best. Its hard to compare his play to that of 'the Poz', has he has proved in only one year that he will be looked at as a great Free Agent signing, as he has showed he can do what we brought him in for, and when lined up along side of Daryl, our line backing corp., is easily one of the most dangerous in the league, not matter who lines up in the third spot, as Allen and Session are both capable. This brings up another point, and important factor, in the signing of Smith next year: Clint Session.
Session, when healthy, has shown he can be a monster and a force as the 3rd linebacker in our rotation, but with concussion problems last year, we can only hope that he can return to play like we know he can. Russel Allen though, is quickly becoming a star in Jacksonville, working hard to make the roster almost every year, and being a very solid contributor to the Jaguar defense when called upon. Allen has all the tools and potential to be a starter at outside linebacker in this league, and when either Session or Allen is paired with Poz and Daryl, I can only imagine the fear in the opposing offenses' faces. The only thing though, is the impressive play of Allen and Session hinges on whether or not they are lined up with Poz and Smith, saying that they would probably be less effective if not mirrored by great play. What I'm basically trying to say is that Daryl Smith is very important to this defense, and his impact on the field heightens the play of those around him. He is a one man wrecking crew, with the versatility almost unheard of in a linebacker, especially like Daryl who doesn't get the recognition he deserves.
With all that being said, Shad Khan, Gene Smith, and the Jaguars organization will have some important issues to deal with next season, and as a die hard fan, feels its necessary all these players discussed get locked up. MJD, Jennings, and Smith are all well deserving, and I believe would all want to stay in Jacksonville (not sure about Jennings, but hopefully), so without even looking into any other contract issues for next season, I already see three huge concerns for the team.
What do you think will be next years most important off-season issue and/or possibilities for routes the Jaguars take on players and finances?
MJD's extension? Will he get the deal he wants? Will he hold-out again? (which could hinder the time able to be focused on others) Or will he get a deal done this year?
Rashad Jennnings? Will he want to continue to be apart of a dangerous backfield on a team in ascent, or will he understand his potential and possibly want to be a starting RB?
Daryl Smith? Already publicly stating he would like to finish his career a Jaguar, makes his issue a little easier and less stressful, but will he get the contract he deserves? Will the Jaguars handle his contract with the delicacy it deserves?
Other. Is there another player, or maybe even a future Free Agent acquisition that you think would be as/ or more important to the Jaguars for the 2013 off-season?
Let me know what y'all think, I'm interested in how everything is going to shape up. Most importantly though, excited for the 2012 Jaguars season, coming soon. GO JAGUARS!