JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars parted ways with two more veterans Friday, releasing a pair of prominent members of the secondary.
Those won't be the only changes in the coming days and weeks.
Safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Aaron Ross, two of the team's most high-profile free agent signings over the last two seasons, have been released, the team announced Friday morning – four days before the start of the NFL's 2013 free agency period.
Free agency opens Tuesday – the official start of the new league year – but under a new league rule, teams can negotiate three days early this offseason. That means teams can begin negotiating with the agents of potential free agents at 11:59 Friday, meaning players such as cornerback Derek Cox, linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrence Knighton, center Brad Meester and fullback Greg Jones can begin testing the open market.
The Jaguars will allow all 13 of their unrestricted free agents – a list that also includes running back Rashad Jennings and offensive lineman Eben Britton – to become unrestricted free agents.
The entire list of UFAs: Cox, Smith, Knighton, Jennings, Britton, cornerback Rashean Mathis, offensive lineman Steve Vallos, cornerback Antwaun Molden, quarterback Jordan Palmer, cornerback Will Middleton and running back Jalen Parmele.
The team informed Mathis this week he would not be offered a contract this offseason, while talks are expected to continue with representatives for Meester and Jones.
With players such as Knighton, Cox and Smith, there remains a chance they could test the market and still negotiate a return to the Jaguars.
While the moves on Friday involved two players who have signed big contracts in recent seasons – with Landry signing before the 2011 season and Ross signing last offseason – they remain consistent with what Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said at the recent NFL Scouting Combine, when he said the expected changes before and after the opening of free agency wouldn't be financial.
"The changes will be based on performance," Caldwell said.
Landry, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Baltimore, played in all 16 games in each of his two seasons with the Jaguars and registered 291 tackles and three interceptions. He signed as part of a free agent class that also included linebackers Clint Session and Paul Posluszny, cornerback Drew Coleman and defensive end Matt Roth. Only Posluszny remains with the Jaguars.
Ross, who spent his first five seasons with the New York Giants, started nine of 14 games in his lone Jaguars season, finishing the season with 65 tackles and 12 passes defensed.
The team also by Tuesday must decide whether to extend tender offers to restricted free agents such as tight end Zach Potter, defensive end George Selvie and wide receiver Jordan Shipley, while also deciding whether to tender restricted free agent center John Estes, linebacker Kyle Bosworth and fullback Brock Bolen.
The team is expected to actively pursue resigning Meester and Jones.
Meester, the team's longest-tenured player, said at the end of last season he would like to return to play for at least another year. Bringing him back on a short-term deal makes sense. He is a reliable player with a history of staying healthy, and the is relatively young and transitioning from former line coach Andy Heck to zone-blocking principles under offensive line coach George Yarno.
Meester has started 16 games each of the last four regular seasons.
Jones' return could be under similar circumstances.
Jones, a nine-year veteran, long has been one of the NFL's best blocking fullbacks, and the Jaguars' offense is expected to have a significant role under new coordinator Jedd Fisch. Jones has missed just 13 games because of injuries in nine NFL seasons except for 2006, a year in which he missed the entire season with a knee injury.
The possible departure of Cox, Smith, Knighton, Britton and Jennings would bring to six the total number of veterans with extensive starting experience to officially not be re-signed, with the team having informed Mathis of the decision earlier this week.
"These guys have given a lot to the organization and they're a big part of it," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Thursday. "I may not have had the chance to meet them face to face, but I respect what they've done and what they've done for this organization."
Cox started 44 games since being selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, with Smith – the franchise's all-time leading tackler – having started 124 games and registering 1,096 tackles since being selected in the second round of the 2004 draft.
Knighton, a third-round selection in 2009, started 50 games the past four seasons, and Britton – a 2009 second-round selection – started 30 games, including 22 in his first two seasons before injuries limited him to eight starts the past four seasons.
Jennings, a seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft, started nine games in four seasons, missing the 2011 season with a knee injury.
The lone player from the 2009 draft class is left tackle Eugene Monroe, the No. 8 overall selection in that year's NFL Draft.