The NFL officially set the salary cap on Tuesday, at just over $155 million, which as we all expected leaves the Jacksonville Jaguars with mountains of cap space to spend. The team is expected to spend quite a bit in free agency this offseason, but the real question is going to be; Will they limit their own pool of free agents by age once again, or is it time to gamble on older players?
"Obviously, there is risk based on age because older players tend to get hurt and they don’t play as long. But the risk comes into the type of contract you give those guys," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said during the NFL Combine when he met with the media. "The contract structure is important to minimize risk and you don’t mind paying them as long as they’re playing. You can minimize the risk to a degree by the contract, but realize it’s not a long-term fix, but a fix until you can draft guys and develop your own."
Previously the team seemed to avoid older players in free agency, which was smart. They were in the process of rebuilding and paying a player over 30 as a short-term solution didn't make a whole lot of sense. Headed into the 2016 season though, it should be when the Jaguars are starting to try to win games, so chasing after someone like say... free agent safety Eric Weddle, makes a lot more sense.
As Caldwell mentioned, you'll always want to try to tailor those older free agent deals to where you can get out of them if the deal goes south, which is something the team has done up until this point, already.
"The first couple years, we knew we weren’t ready to compete so to sign a 30-plus year old veteran player," Caldwell continue. "We wanted to find young players that could develop so this year, when we’re ready to compete, players like Telvin Smith and Aaron Colvin have the experience."
Caldwell didn't explicitly say it, but it does sound like he'd be more willing to gamble on an older stop gap player in an attempt to "win now" more so than in the past. Free agency always comes with risk, but the key is striking that balance between the risk and the reward.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jaguars chase an older free agent or two this offseason.