At the team's "State of the Franchise" address this past week, new Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell emphasized his stance on using the draft to fill the holes that plague the team's roster, while admitting the team will be more passive aggressive when it comes to being big time players in unrestricted free agency.
“We’ll be active but we’re not going to be overly active.", Caldwell said during an interview with the T-U's Vito Stellino. "We’re not going to go after high-priced free agents. We’ll be ready if something we like presents itself, but we’re not going in to make a big splash.".
While fans will likely take that comment over the next few weeks leading up to the beginning of the free agency period as Caldwell stating the team will simply rest on it's laurels and wait for the draft, it's important to note that nowhere in that statement or in any others made by Caldwell since he's taken over last month, did he say the Jaguars will simply avoid free agency at all costs. The team is in the beginning stages of a total roster overhaul, and with that will undoubtedly come quite a few holes that the team will address with intelligent "target spending" via veteran free agency.
It's well known now that Caldwell was a part of the front office in Atlanta that faced a similar rebuilding process back in 2008. Most familiar with the Jags general manager are quick to point out that he was groomed under Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff during this time period as the Falcons GM's protege'. With that in mind, we likely have at the least a good blueprint as to how Caldwell will attack free agency both this off-season, and going forward.
So let's take a look at just how the Falcons addressed free agency during Caldwell's time with the team. These are transactions involving both newly acquired signings, as well as re-signing of the team's own free agents, trades, and franchise tags placed. Contract information is also provided when available.
Traded CB DeAngelo Hall to Oakland Raiders for 2nd Rd pick in '08, 5th Rd pick in '09
Signed RB Michael Turner (6 yrs/35.4 mil/15 mil bonus)
Signed K Jason Elam (4 yrs/9 mil/3.3 mil bonus)
Signed CB Von Hutchins (4 yrs/9 mil/2.35 mil bonus)
Signed S Erik Coleman (4 yrs/10 mil/3 mil bonus)
Signed TE Ben Hartsock (4 yrs/9 mil/Bonus UNK)
Signed DT Kindal Moorehead (2 yrs/1.325 mil/Bonus UNK)
Signed DT Rashad Moore (Terms UNK)
Signed DE Simon Fraser (Terms UNK)
Signed FB Corey McIntyre (Terms UNK)
Signed C Alex Stepanovich (Terms UNK)
Re-signed DT Tim Anderson
Re-signed QB Joey Harrington
Re-signed QB Chris Redman
Signed CB Dunta Robinson (6 yrs/57 mil/22.5 mil bonus)
Re-signed CB Brian Williams
Extended QB Chris Redman
Re-signed OT Tyson Clabo
Re-signed RB Jason Snelling
Re-signed OL Harvey Dahl
Re-signed OL Quinn Ojinnaka
Re-signed P Michael Koenen
Re-signed RB Jerious Norwood
Signed DE Ray Edwards (5 yrs/30 mil/11 mil bonus)
Signed CB Kelvin Hayden (1 yr/2.5 mil/Bonus UNK)
Signed S James Sanders (1 yr/2 mil/Bonus UNK)
Re-Signed LB Mike Peterson
Re-Signed OT Tyson Clabo
Re-Signed RB Jason Snelling
Traded 7th rd pick to Philadelphia Eagles for CB Asante Samuel
Franchised CB Brent Grimes
Signed LB Lofa Tatupu (2 yrs/Money UNK)
Re-signed S Thomas DeCoud
Re-signed DE Kroy Bierman
Re-signed WR Harry Douglas
Looking at the transactions listed here, you can see a similar plan of attack to the free agency period, that Caldwell stated in his interview earlier in the week. The exception being in 2008, which should be pointed out was the first year that Dimitroff took over as general manager and began the revamping of the Falcons roster.
Even in 2008, however, the strategy was not to unload the Brinks trucks at the doors of as many "high profile" free agents as they could talk to, much like the strategy of a team such as the Washington Redskins, or the Jaguars in 2011.
Rather, the Falcons approach has been to target one or two specific mid-upper tier players, and get them, while re-signing the players already in-house they feel can continue to maintain the core of the roster. It should be noted that in each of Caldwell's five years with the Falcons, the team acquired what can be considered a "high profile" player at a position of need, via either free agency or a trade.
When applied to this upcoming off-season, this could possibly mean signing a player to bolster the secondary, such as Dolphins CB Sean Smith or Ravens CB Carey WIlliams; finding a DE before the draft, in Lions DE Cliff Avril or Bengals DE Michael Johnson; Shoring up the offensive line with Lions RT Gosder Cherilus or Chargers OG Louis Vasquez; or yes, trading for/signing QB Alex Smith or Matt Flynn.
The team also was not afraid to use the franchise tag to keep a player. This should be especially noted, given the status of soon to be free agent Derek Cox.
Of course, just because the Falcons took this approach doesn't mean that Caldwell will follow the script sort to speak, with the Jaguars. Often times general managers will act based off a myriad of factors, including cap space and discussions with the rest of the personnel and coaching staffs.
This does, however, give us a pretty good idea of what we can expect from the team in some form as we approach the beginning of free agency on March 12th, without the haze of "team speak" in the press.