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A look ahead: On to the offseason

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JACKSONVILLE – Like it or not, it's here.

The 2016 offseason indeed is upon us. So, in the wake of the Jaguars' 2015 season – after a week of end-of-season press conferences and wrap-ups – we offer a quick first look at the coming offseason.

As Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell mentioned in his end-of-season press conference last Tuesday, the coming months are important. Really, really important. The Jaguars showed improvement in 2015, but more is needed. That's obviously true on defense, but it's true on offense, too.

When you finish 5-11, it's true everywhere.

So, yes, the offseason will be active – and expensive. Expect at least a few high-profile – and high-priced – signings when free agency opens March 9. And, of course, expect the normal frenzy leading to the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

The pre-draft frenzy begins in a big way in a week and a half at the 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl. That's the first major event on the pre-draft schedule, with NFL head coaches, assistants, scouts and general managers converging on Mobile, Alabama, for a week to scout some of the nation's top seniors. The Jaguars' coaching staff will coach the game for a third consecutive season.

After that, it's the NFL Scouting Combine in February, with free agency and Pro Days in March before the offseason program begins in mid-April. That month ends with the 2016 NFL Draft, then it's on to minicamps and organized team activities in May and June.

The first priority for the Jaguars? Hiring a defensive coordinator.

That became necessary last week when Bob Babich was dismissed from the position. A search for the position began immediately, and Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel reportedly interviewed Tuesday. No other staff changes have been made, but the defensive staff could depend on what happens with the coordinator position.

What other changes will take place? What will the offseason bring?

Stay tuned, but here's an early look at the Jaguars' 2016 offseason with key dates, draft order, Jaguars players scheduled to become free agents and a look at 2016 opponents:

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KEY DATES

*Senior Bowl, January 30 (Mobile, Alabama):The key days here are the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday leading to the game, with coaches, scouts and general managers making Mobile the temporary center of the NFL world. The game is the first major offseason step toward the draft, and serves as a mini-January NFL convention.

*Franchise/transition tag window, February 22-March 7.Teams can restrict player movement via free agency by designating one potential free agent as their franchise or transition players during this time. Most news in this area occurs late in the window.

*NFL Scouting Combine, February 23-29 (Indianapolis, Indiana).This is the NFL's major offseason convention, with coaches, scouting staffs, general managers and media gathering for the better part of the week. The nation's top draft-eligible players are there for interviews, medical examinations and on-field workouts.

*Pro Days (nationwide, March through early April):Throughout March and early April, scouts, coaches and general managers will attend on-campus workouts for college players throughout the country.

*Free Agency begins, March 9.Look for the Jaguars to be active in unrestricted free agency, likely adding players on defense and perhaps on the interior of the offensive line. The Jaguars will enter free agency among the teams with the most cap space in the NFL, and Caldwell indicated last week that the team will be active. The Jaguars signed eight unrestricted free agents last offseason. (Jaguars players scheduled to become free agents below).

*NFL Annual Meetings, March 20-23 (Boca Raton, Florida)Owners, head coaches and general managers will gather in Boca to discuss rules changes and league business.

*Schedule announced, mid-April.The league typically announces the schedule a week or so before the NFL Draft.

*Beginning of offseason program, April 18. Players can begin supervised conditioning at team facilities. That "Phase 1" period of the program last two weeks, followed by three weeks of "Phase 2" in which players can participate in individual and instructional drills.  Offseason workouts are voluntary except for a three-day mandatory minicamp. Teams that hired new head coaches may begin April 4.

*2016 NFL Draft, April 28-30 (Chicago, Illinois)The Jaguars hold the No. 5 overall selection in Round 1 (Entire draft order below).

*May rookie minicamp.The Jaguars typically hold their rookie minicamp the weekend following the NFL Draft.

*End of offseason program, mid-June.The final four weeks of the offseason program are known as "Phase 3," which includes 10 non-padded OTA team practices and a three-day non-padded mandatory minicamp. The offseason program typically ends around mid-June.

FREE AGENCY

Begins March 9

Jaguars players scheduled to become free agents:Chad Henne, quarterback; Marcedes Lewis, tight end; Stefen Wisniewski, center; Clay Harbor, tight end; Andre Branch, defensive end; Sam Young, right tackle; Bryan Anger, punter; Bernard Pierce, running back; Bryan Walters, wide receiver; Ryan Davis, defensive end (restricted free agent); Abry Jones, defensive tackle (RFA); Nic Jacobs, tight end (exclusive rights free agent).

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NFL DRAFT

April 28-30

2016 NFL Draft order (Top 10 selections)

1.Tennessee Titans

2.Cleveland Browns

3.San Diego Chargers

4.Dallas Cowboys

5.Jacksonville Jaguars

6.Baltimore Ravens

7.San Francisco 49ers

8.Miami Dolphins

9.Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10.New York Giants

2016 REGULAR SEASON OPPONENTS

(Schedule typically released in April)

*Home: Baltimore, Denver, Green Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, Indianapolis (London), Houston, Tennessee.

*Away: Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, San Diego, Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee.

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