The Super Bowl is in the rearview, which means the offseason that began for the Jaguars and 19 other NFL teams more than a month ago officially is upon us for all 32 teams – and that includes the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots now, too.
The next official event is the NFL Scouting Combine February 17-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The draft process will continue with the March Pro Day season – amid, of course, a sea of mock drafts – with the 2015 NFL Draft scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Chicago, Illinois.
That’s the draft stuff.
The first part of the offseason is free agency. Look for talk about that to pick up this week and grow to a deafening buzz through the combine and into early March. The Jaguars are expected to spend significantly more than in the past two offseasons. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell indicated as much shortly after the season, and Owner Shad Khan reiterated it during Super Bowl week last week.
So, yeah, the Jaguars are prepared to spend.
Look for pre-free agency speculation around the Jaguars to focus on right tackle, free safety, outside linebacker and tight end – and perhaps wide receiver and running back. There could be surprises come the opening of the free agency period March 10 at 4 p.m., but for now those are the early choices among observers as the Jaguars’ primary free-agency area of need.
The good news for the Jaguars? This is considered a good free agency class. There are elite receivers such as Dez Bryant (Dallas) and Demaryius Thomas (Denver) scheduled to be free agents. There are elite running backs such as Demarco Murray (Dallas), and elite tight ends such as Julius Thomas (Denver). There are good offensive linemen such as tackle Bryan Bulaga (Green Bay) and guard Mike Iupati (San Francisco) and safety Devin McCourty (New England) has been mentioned by many observers as a possible target.
The not-so-good news?
Free agency is still 36 days away, which means plenty of time for teams to negotiate with/re-sign premium players or to take players off the market by placing the franchise or transition tags upon them. The free-agent market in early March often looks dramatically different than the market in early February, and that’s expected to be the case this season, too.
Who will be available? Stay tuned, but here’s an early look at the offensive side of the 2015 NFL free agent market (we’ll examine the defensive free agents Tuesday):
Mark Sanchez, Eagles
Ryan Mallett, Texans
Brian Hoyer, Browns
Jake Locker, Titans
Christian Ponder, Vikings
Others: Jason Campbell, Bengals; Jimmy Clausen, Bears; Matt Flynn, Packers; Blaine Gabbert, 49ers; Matt Hasselbeck, Colts; Shaun Hill, Rams; Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks; Case Keenum, Texans; Luke McCown, Saints; Colt McCoy, Redskins; Matt Moore, Dolphins; Kyle Orton, Bills; Tyrod Taylor; Michael Vick, Jets; T.J. Yates, Falcons.
About the quarterbacks: As usual, the free-agency class at quarterback isn’t considered strong. It’s also not a position where the Jaguars are expected to be active.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Mark Ingram, Saints
C.J. Spiller, Bills (has the option of becoming a free agent)
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Frank Gore, 49ers
Others: Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts; Justin Forsett, Ravens; Roy Helu, Redskins; Darren McFadden, Raiders; Knowshon Moreno, Dolphins; Cedric Peerman, Bengals; Bilal Powell, Jets; Stevan Ridley, Patriots; Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons; Antone Smith, Falcons; Shane Vereen, Patriots.
About the running backs: Murray is the by far most intriguing name on this list, with his free-agency status expected to be a major story throughout the month. The Cowboys are expected to be limited in cap space, and also need to re-sign unrestricted free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant. Players of Murray’s caliber usually don’t reach free agency, but he could be an exception. Though the Jaguars like Denard Robinson and Tony Gerhart at running back, this would appear to be a logical draft-day area of focus. Still, if the right free agent is available …
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Randall Cobb, Packers
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
Torrey Smith, Ravens
Others: Kenny Britt, Rams; Michael Crabtree, 49ers; Andre Holmes, Raiders; Denarius Moore, Raiders; Hakeem Nicks, Colts; Eddie Royal, Chargers; Dane Sanzenbacher, Bengals; Cecil Shorts III, Jaguars; Wes Welker, Broncos; Nate Washington, Titans; Reggie Wayne, Colts.
About the wide receivers: This is a very good free-agent class now – and it could remain that way come March 10. While Bryant and Thomas appear unlikely to hit free agency, Cobb could be available. The Jaguars like their young wide receiver trio of Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, but if the right impact veteran is available …
Julius Thomas, Broncos
Jordan Cameron, Browns
Charles Clay, Dolphins
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Niles Paul, Redskins
Others: Owen Daniels, Ravens; Daniel Fells, Giants; Virgil Green, Broncos; Robert Housler, Cardinals; Lance Kendricks, Rams; Tony Moeaki, Seahawks; Anthony McCoy, Bear Pascoe, Falcons; Seahawks; Lee Smith, Bills; Matt Spaeth, Steelers; Jacob Tamme, Broncos.
About the tight ends: The Broncos don’t likely want to lose Thomas, but with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas also scheduled to become a free agent, re-signing Thomas will be difficult. If he and Cameron are on the market, that’s a very good tight end class – and the Jaguars seem almost certain to pursue a pass-catching tight end in free agency.
Bryan Bulaga (right), Packers
Doug Free (right), Cowboys
Michael Roos (left), Titans
King Dunlap (left), Chargers
Derek Newton (right), Texans
Others: Joe Barksdale (right), Rams; Byron Bell (left), Panthers; Jason Fox (right), Dolphins; Chris Hairston, Bills; Ryan Harris (right), Chiefs; Corey Hilliard (right), Lions; Jeremy Parnell (right), Cowboys; Troy Polumbus (right), Redskins; Eric Winston, Bengals.
About the tackles: On paper, this isn’t an elite, deep group – though Bulaga is a front-line right tackle. Free also played well in recent seasons, with Barksdale of the Rams also a solid starter. The Jaguars appear likely to address right tackle in either free agency or the draft.
Mike Iupati, 49ers
Orlando Franklin, Broncos
Clint Boling, Bengals
Rob Sims, Lions
James Carpenter, Seahawks
Others: Gabe Carimi, Falcons; Daryn Colledge, Dolphins; Willie Colon, Jets; Dan Connolly, Patriots; Davin Joseph, Rams; Erik Pears, Bills; Joe Reitz, Colts; Adam Snyder, Giants.
About the guards: Iupati and Franklin are the consensus top players at the position, and while Iupati has said he hopes to return, many expect him to hit the market. The Broncos are expected to focus on re-signing Demaryius Thomas, which will make re-signing Franklin difficult. The Jaguars like guard Brandon Linder, and while they could bring in competition for left guard Zane Beadles, that also could be done in the draft.
Rodney Hudson, Chiefs
Stefen Wisniewski, Raiders
Brian De La Puente, Bears
Nick Hardwick, Chargers
Will Montgomery, Broncos
Others: Jonathan Goodwin, Saints; Samson Satele, Dolphins; Dominic Raiola, Lions.
About the centers: Hudson and Wisniewski are the two top prospects in this group and are entering their second contracts. That will make them attractive on the market.