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2018 free agency: Looking ahead (and back)

Posted Mar 19, 2018

Senior writer John Oehser looks ahead at the rest of the Jaguars’ 2018 offseason – and takes a look back at the first wave of 2018 free agency

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser looks ahead at the rest of the Jaguars’ 2018 offseason – and takes a look back at the first wave of 2018 free agency

1.Bortles’ backup will be a major issue. What was evident early last week became official Friday when longtime Jaguars backup quarterback Chad Henne signed to play the same role in Kansas City. The move assures that for the first time since 2013 the Jaguars’ top two quarterbacks will not be Blake Bortles and Henne – and also moves backup quarterback near the top of the team’s most-pressing unsolved issues. General Manager David Caldwell provided no hints on the issue last Thursday when discussing the team’s free-agent signings, saying the team will address the issue either in free agency or the draft. Here’s what we do know after free agency’s first wave: the Jaguars aren’t going to spend big to bring in high-profile veteran “competition” for Bortles. The major intrigue here will be the draft. While the Jaguars seem likely to address the positon somewhere in the draft, the guess here that won’t be in the first round or even in the second. Still, the team filled enough needs in free agency to draft best available player in Round 1. What would happen if BAP was a quarterback? Stay tuned.

2.The draft will matter. There have been observers who have floated the idea of the Jaguars trading up in a big way in the first round for a quarterback. Part of this theory has been that the Jaguars’ roster doesn’t have room for drafted players to make the team. A couple of thoughts on this theory. One, you need good rookie classes every year for the long-term development of the roster; the Jaguars certainly need good, young players developing to take the place of high-priced veteran players who could be released for salary-cap reasons in the coming offseasons. Two, and more pertinent in the short term, is there are clear places on this roster where the team likely will need production from drafted players; interior line and running back stand out, but drafted players could make an impact at linebacker and in the secondary, too. Three: there are absolutely six-to-seven spots around the roster where rookies can and probably will make the roster, including all three levels of the defense, offensive line and running back.

3.The special teams focus was significant. This was covered pretty extensively last week, but it’s worth another note: the Jaguars entered the offseason absolutely wanting to upgrade special teams – and they spent a significant amount of free-agency resources doing so. The Jaguars signed Los Angeles Rams safety Cody Davis, Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul and Detroit Lions safety Don Carey to play big roles on special teams; the players don’t eat major chucks of salary-cap space, but they’re significant enough cap hits compared to rookies that it shows a commitment to special teams beyond what many teams show – and beyond what the Jaguars have shown in years past. The Jaguars believed after last season they needed to improve special teams. They spent like it last week.

4.Will there be a No. 1? The Jaguars’ wide-receiver position will be intriguing this offseason. With Allen Robinson not re-signing, the Jaguars re-signed Marqise Lee and signed Donte Moncrief to a one-year deal – and second-year veterans Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook seem likely to have roles. The sense here is the Jaguars may not have a true No. 1 receiver in the sense that Robinson played the role in 2016, when he played 94.2 percent of the snaps. Cole by comparison played 66.52 percent of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps last season with Lee – who missed two games late in the season – playing 65.45 percent of the snaps. A more rotational wide receiver group similar to last season with Moncrief and Lee starting and Cole playing extensively seems likely next season. Would Westbrook play a role in the slot in this situation? Could Lee move inside to the slot in passing situations and on third downs? Could the Jaguars still draft a player at the position? All seem possibilities and all are questions that could be answered as the offseason continues.

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