Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said he's satisfied with his free-agent additions to date, but that the team is "not done" adding players to its roster.
"We've identified guys in certain areas. Where we can add them, we will. We know who and at what spots. The three of us," Del Rio said, including himself, personnel boss "Shack" Harris and salary cap manager Paul Vance, "have a good understanding of where we're headed."
After the first week of the free-agent period, the Jaguars have added seven players. The Jaguars have about $10 million of salary cap room remaining, and they would increase that amount dramatically should they decide to remove the "franchise" tag from safety Donovin Darius.
"A lot is left. We have a lot of work to do. There will be a draft, then another phase of free agency, then the June cuts," Del Rio said. "We're trying to take a sound approach to building a good football team. The first couple of days we felt like we were hitting singles; adding good, quality guys who make your team better. Where we're headed and the plan we have is sound."
Those "singles" came in the form of tight end Todd Yoder, linebacker Tommy Hendricks, offensive lineman Mike Compton, and cornerbacks Lewis Sanders and Dewayne Washington. The Jaguars also re-signed offensive lineman Sammy Williams. None of those six players were full-time starters last season, but each either addresses a specific need or, in Sanders' case, represents distinct upside potential.
Yoder and Hendricks are young, special teams standouts who also offer depth at their positions. In signing Sanders, the Jaguars are gambling this might be the point in his career the injuries stop. Compton and Washington are accomplished veterans the Jaguars believe have a couple of seasons left in their tanks. Williams is insurance at tackle.
Then there's Deon Grant, who the Jaguars signed Monday. Grant is a three-year starter who will turn only 25 this Sunday. He is young, talented and coming off what some believe was a breakout season in 2003. If the others are "singles," then Grant is rounding second and on his way to third.
"His better football is ahead of him. This is a guy who is more mature now than when I got my hands on him two years ago in Carolina," Del Rio said.
Grant was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2000. He spent that year on injured reserve following a serious hip injury in training camp. Grant became a starter in 2001, then Del Rio joined the Panthers as their defensive coordinator in '02. Del Rio obviously saw enough in Grant to make him the Jaguars' most significant acquisition of this year's free-agency period.
"We have been patient in the marketplace. We've identified a few areas where we thought we need to solidify ourselves," Del Rio said.
"Compton is a guy who's been a starter in this league and who will ensure there will be a certain level of productivity. Getting Sammy back was big. Bringing in an experienced guy like Dewayne was a nice pickup, and we got an up-and-coming guy in Lewis Sanders. (Yoder and Hendricks) are quality players who make you a better football team," Del Rio said of his team's start in free agency. "It was capped off yesterday by getting a safety who should be in the prime of his football career," he added.
It's interesting to note the Jaguars have not addressed in free agency the one position at which this year's draft is expected to be strongest. Wide receiver is a position of distinct need for the Jaguars, and this year's crop of wide receivers is thought to be one of the strongest in draft history.
"Every team does," Del Rio said when asked if the Jaguars factored in this year's draft pool when the team identified its free-agent targets. "You look at the talent available in the draft," he added.
But before they reach into that draft pool, the Jaguars are likely to remain active in free agency.