Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said the salary cap was secondary in his final roster decisions.
"All of these decisions are weighed on a football basis, and then they're weighed on a salary cap basis. It was a most difficult decision and a most difficult time saying goodbye to (Carnell Lake)," Coughlin told reporters late this afternoon, following the announcement of the Jaguars' final cuts.
Lake and Jamie Martin were the most prominent cut casualties. The Jaguars also released four draft choices -- punter David Leaverton, guard Chad Ward, wide receiver Richmond Flowers and long-snapper Randy Chevrier -- leaving the team with only five players remaining from their 10 draft selections.
"There were many things I could count on Jamie for. He had not had a particularly good preseason," Coughlin said.
Jonathan Quinn was retained as Mark Brunell's immediate backup, but Coughlin said he will add a third quarterback, probably from the waiver wire.
"I'd like to work with a developmental guy," Coughlin added, inferring that he will probably look for a young, cap-friendly addition, as opposed to trading for a veteran quarterback who would bring with him a higher-than-desired cap figure.
Leaverton lost his battle for the punting job, after the Jaguars made him their first pick (fifth round) of the second day of the draft. That immediately caused critics to suggest that the fifth round is too high to draft a punter, especially by a team with severe roster needs at premium positions.
"Those were need decisions. David Leaverton is a guy I wanted to make our football team. That young man will surface, if he so desires, in the league somewhere," Coughlin said.
Coughlin admittedly drafts almost exclusively according to need. With picks running out and still needing an offensive lineman, Coughlin traded a fifth-round pick in 2002 for a sixth-round choice this year, then used that choice to select Ward.
When asked if he would be better served by drafting the best available player, regardless of position, Coughlin said: "I think we did what we had to do at the time. The past couple of years we've had to address all of our needs in the draft, and it'll probably be that way for a couple of years."
He did not express concern that only five of his picks made the final roster. "That's all right, we had extra draft choices," referring to four compensatory choices; one in the third round and three in the seventh. Two of those four picks, third-rounder James Boyd and fourth-rounder Marlon McCree, made the final roster, and McCree will be the starter at free safety this Sunday in the regular-season opener against the Steelers. McCree and Boyd made Lake expendable.
Coughlin said Lake accepted news of his release with "nothing but class," and when asked if it was a mistake having signed Lake to an expensive free-agent contract in 1999, Coughlin said: "We won 15 games in '99 and he was a big part of that team. We should've played at that level for a couple of years. His injury didn't help."
Lake missed all of last season with a foot injury, and almost all of this past summer's training camp with a hamstring pull.
On a more positive note, Coughlin provided a very optimistic medical report. "(Tony) Boselli is scheduled to practice on Tuesday. (Kyle) Brady should be ready to go. Keenan (McCardell) is going to push as hard as he can. Fernando (Bryant) I expect to go. (T.J.) Slaughter I expect to go," Coughlin said.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.