(March 6)-The addition of linebacker Tommy Hendricks Friday night helped softened the loss of kicker Shayne Graham earlier in the day. So, after the opening flurry of action in free agency, the Jaguars stand with Hendricks and tight end Todd Yoder signed, Fernando Bryant, Jamar Nesbit and Leander Jordan lost, and the team's troubled kicking game in need of more attention.
Hendricks agreed to a deal that gives the Jaguars a degree of insurance against the possible loss of linebacker Danny Clark in free agency. As it stands, the Jaguars could lose three starters from last year's much-improved defense. Tony Brackens was released this past Tuesday, Bryant signed with the Lions on Friday, and Clark is testing the free-agent waters.
The addition of Hendricks and Yoder represent a conservative start to free agency by the Jaguars, who are practicing restraint at a time when much of the NFL is burning up salary cap space at a record pace. Of course, the Jaguars' aggressiveness in free agency in the past resulted in salary cap problems that have been the major cause of four consecutive losing seasons.
Hendricks and Yoder also represent the team's free-agent model: Young, affordable players on the rise.
Yoder became the Jaguars' first acquisition of the free agency period, when he signed a three-year deal on Friday. At about the same time, the Jaguars were informed by the Cincinnati Bengals of their intention to match the contract offer made to Graham on Thursday.
Graham was a restricted free agent who had been assigned the low tender by the Bengals, which meant Graham would've required no draft compensation to the Bengals had the Jaguars been successful in their bid to acquire him. The Bengals had seven days to match the offer and retain Graham. Apparently, the decision to match was not difficult.
Yoder, an unrestricted free agent from Tampa Bay, is considered an accomplished blocker and special teams player. He played in all 16 games with one start last season, when he caught seven passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-4, 250-pounder also had nine special teams tackles. An undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt in 2000, Yoder is 25 years old.
Hendricks, 6-2, 235, completed his fourth season in the NFL last year. He will be 26 next October and instantly gives the Jaguars depth at linebacker and improves special teams. In Miami, Hendricks made his mark as a reserve linebacker and special teams standout, but the Jaguars' interest in him is for the player he might become.
Unrestricted free agent offensive lineman Mike Compton visited the Jaguars on Friday. Compton, 6-6, 310, would be in his 12th NFL season next fall, after spending the last three years with the New England Patriots as a guard/center. He will be 34 next September, has played every position on the offensive line and would help the Jaguars replace Nesbit and Jordan, who've signed with the Giants and Chargers respectively. Compton had been an "ironman" throughout his career, until last season when he suffered a foot injury that landed him on the injured reserve list on Sept. 22.