The Jacksonville Jaguars came off a 5-11 season in 2011 and thought they were poised to possibly take the next step and compete for the playoffs. The team signed a few players in free agency, including some of their own. New Jaguars general manager David Caldwell implied he felt the team was a little out of control with how they addressed free agency in season's past however, at the 2013 NFL combine.
"The delusional part came from the amount of money they spent in free agency last year thinking they may be one or two pieces away and then to come back and have the end result be a 2-14 season," Caldwell told the media at his press conference on Friday. "There is a good core of players here that we feel good about it. We have our work cut out for us.
In the 2012 offseason the Jaguars handed out new contracts to wide receiver Laurent Robinson, cornerback Aaron Ross, quarterback Chad Henne, re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey and safety Dwight Lowery.
"There are no changes coming that are financial, the changes will be based on performance," Caldwell told reporters when he was asked about changes based on salary.
This response to me however, is a little open ended. One could argue that if a player's performance isn't living up to the financials, it could be a reason to cut them.
If you look at the past two season's worth of free agency moves, it's clear Gene Smith thought the roster he was building was a lot close to competing than it really was.
Note: Not entirely sure how accurate these numbers from Spotrac.com are, but it's what I have to work with.
|Player||Offseason||Term||Total||Guaranteed||Est. Dead Money|
|Paul Posluszny||2011||6 yrs||45 M||15 M||6|
|Laurent Robinson||2012||5 yrs||32.5 M||13.8 M||6.4|
|Dawan Landry||2011||5 yrs||27.5 M||10.5 M||3.9|
|Jeremy Mincey||2012||4 yrs||20 M||9 M||6|
|Clint Session||2011||5 yrs||25 M||11.5 M||3.6*|
*Counts as $3.6M dead money against the 2013 cap no matter what.
A lot of these contracts aren't good, if you look at production versus the cost of the player, but the problem is if you cut some of these players you're left with not only dead money, but left with filling a starting position on the team. There are likely going to be major changes on the roster, but the moves may not be motivated by money, more so performance.
These players likely won't all be cut from the roster, that is unless Caldwell wants to just completely gut the Jaguars roster of Gene Smith's contracts and eat the money now, while the team is starting to rebuild or wait until it's an easier cut and keep the players as starters for another season or two.
"The veterans are important," Caldwell told the media. "There is a leadership role we're going to need but the most important thing is to get the talent in there and guys that are committed to playing and competing."
The Jaguars don't seem like they're going to be big players in free agency this season, and as a team who's rebuilding I wouldn't expect them to be. The question becomes if the Jaguars want to fully embrace rebuilding and start over completely. I don't necessarily think they'll eat that kind of dead money right away, but you have to remember Shad Khan was hoodwinked by Gene Smith and company before, and sold as the team being much closer than it actually was.
It's possible the team could gut everything and eat the contracts now and start to build from scratch through the draft. If they're not going to be active in free agency in 2013, they're not likely to be active in 2014, but by the time the 2015 offseason rolls around they'll have a pretty clean slate as far as the salary cap. Really the only players on the roster the team needs to worry about re-signing to potential big contracts are Eugene Monroe and Cecil Shorts III.
"We’re going to have a very young team this season and it’s going to be built through the draft and through college free agency," Caldwell told the media on Friday when asked about free agency.
Personally, I'm not sure that will be the route the go, but it will be interesting to watch. General manager David Caldwell continues to harp on youth and competition at his press conferences and has gone out of his way to mention the team will be building through the draft and not free agency.