The Jacksonville Jaguars can make significant roster progress in the 2014 NFL offseason with the right moves in free agency and in the 2014 NFL Draft. The team has roughly $50 million in cap room to play with and plenty of room going forward in the future, so they have the ability to break the bank on a couple of players if they so choose.
So, if we were in charge of the Jaguars, how would we approach the offseason?
The initial move I would make for the Jaguars is releasing veteran defensive end Jason Babin, because I'm planning on signing another veteran pass rusher who is younger. This saves the Jaguars around $6 million on the cap, giving even more money to play with.
The first move I would make in the 2014 free agency period is signing former Cincinnati Bengals pass rusher Michael Johnson. Johnson finished the season with just 3.5 sacks on the season, but that's wholly misleading from his overall impact. He finished the season with 40 quarterback pressures according to ProFootballFocus, which was tied for the Bengals team lead. He was also second on the Bengals with 16 hits on the quarterback.
I would give Johnson a similar deal to what the Bengals signed Carlos Dunlap for, but naturally would need to add about 10 percent due to the yearly increase. This means I would give the 27-year old Johnson a five-year deal worth roughly $43 million with $13 million guaranteed with an $8 million signing bonus.
This leaves the Jaguars with a deal, if structured correctly, they can get out of in 2016 with minimal dead money or in 2017 with a cap gain.
Remaining cap room: $47.5 million.
The next move I make in free agency is targeting an interior offensive lineman. I don't want to shell out the kind of money on a center Alex Mack is going to cost, so that's a position I look to fill internally or in the draft. This means I target 25-year old guard Jon Asamoah. Per PFF, Asamoah was a top 10 ranked right guard but I sign him with the intention of playing on the left side of the line.
For Asamoah, I give him a contract similar to that of Baltimore Ravens guard Marshall Yanda, meaning it's in the five-year, $32 million range but with only $13 million guaranteed with an $8 million signing bonus.
Remaining cap room: $44 million
After addressing my two biggest needs outside of quarterback in free agency I try to bolster the roster with some under-the-radar-type free agents to add to the rotation and depth on the team. This means I'm looking at upside deals and shorter-term contracts. Role players.
The Jaguars have some talent at the receiver position, but even if they get Justin Blackmon back for a decent amount of games, they're still a squad of smurfs. This means I target a bigger receiver, like say Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice, who's a virtual certainty to be released because of his cap hit.
Rice has a worrisome injury history, but that's one of the reasons he might be worth a minimal investment risk in the open market. The 27-year old is a 6'4" receiver who can get down the field, excels on sideline catches and has a huge catch radius. If you can sign Rice to a "prove it" type deal, in the range of a two-year, $4 million deal with a guaranteed roster bonus in the second season of roughly around $2 million, it's a win-win deal. If Rice stays healthy and contributes, you pay the $2 million roster bonus and think about the future going forward.
Next I go back to the well on the defensive line and add a rotation option to give Sen'Derrick Marks a breather. He played way too much in the 2013 season and while effective, if he had a legitimate rotational option he might be more so. This means I'm going to target Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who at only 27 years old is still in that age threshold I want to target.
I sign Clinton McDonald to a three-year deal worth roughly $10 million with $2 million guaranteed and more available in a 2015 roster bonus.
Then I bring in Tarvaris Jackson as my backup quarterback, since I'm targeting a quarterback in the NFL Draft. I give Jackson something similar to what Chad Henne got back in 2011, a two-year deal worth around $6.5 million with a $2 million signing bonus. I think Chad Henne is going to get more play than we all think in free agency and I think Jackson would be an ideal "compete" with a rookie/spot-starter type backup for the short-term.
I'm not going to worry about adding in the Jaguars fringe-free agents and RFA/ERFA players. I think the majority of them are back in some capacity and I think the team lets Will Blackmon hit free agency.
Remaining cap room: $37 million
Since I've hit both the offensive line and the pass rush heavy in free agency, I'm free to do whatever I'd like with the third overall pick. Personally, I'm going to target Teddy Bridgewater with my first round pick. I feel that he can be at least an above average starter in the NFL and a good possibility to develop into a franchise starter.
I don't know if Bridgewater will be available at the No. 3 overall pick, but based on quite a few mock drafts from the draftnik big guns, he will be, so I snap him up and address the biggest overall need remaining on my roster.
Following picking up my quarterback in the first round, I look to add another young pass rusher in the second round. This time I'm looking for someone to play the SAM linebacker role, who can rush the passer with either his hand on the ground or from the linebacker position on a blitz. Someone like Kyle Van Noy, Dee Ford or Jeremiah Attaochu.
After that I then look to address center, running back and wide receiver or linebacker in the subsequent rounds, possibly even take a second quarterback depending on who presents themselves.