PALM BEACH, FL – The Jaguars aren't necessarily done in free agency, but there's no real time frame for a next move, either.
Gene Smith, the Jaguars' general manager, said after re-signing several of its own players and three free agents from other teams during the first two weeks of pro free agency, the team essentially is monitoring the market and continuing to prepare for the April 26-28 NFL Draft.
Smith said the Jaguars could still address need areas such as wide receiver and defensive end in free agency, but such moves might not come immediately.
"I think the majority of teams are monitoring things," Smith said Tuesday afternoon at the NFL Owners Meetings at the Breakers resort. "There may be some things after the draft for some teams."
Asked if that pertained to the Jaguars specifically, Smith said, "Could be."
The Jaguars in the last three weeks re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey, safety Dwight Lowery, linebacker Russell Allen and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, and also signed wide receiver Laurent Robinson (Dallas), quarterback Chad Henne (Miami) and cornerback Aaron Ross (Giants).
Smith said this was an unusual year for free agency because many players around the league signed one-year deals following the lockout last off-season. That has made more so-called "second-wave" free agents available, and has allowed teams to hold off signing those players until after the draft to determine what needs remain unfilled.
"This year, there are more players available, and some of them may be available after the draft," Smith said. "People are waiting to see what they can do after the draft."
Smith, speaking between meetings Tuesday, said while he feels good about the Jaguars' defense following the first wave of free agency, pass-rush defensive end remains "a focus."
"Clearly, I think we're doing a good job rushing the quarterback," Smith said. "We've got to do a better job sacking the quarterback. Getting more speed and athleticism on the edge is always going to be our goal."
Smith said the Jaguars' improved secondary could offset somewhat any issues on the defensive front. Smith said he likes the team's experience in the secondary, and that the addition of Ross gives the Jaguars at least four capable cornerbacks, including Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and nickelback Drew Coleman.
"If you're unable to affect the throw, you have to have the ability to affect the catch," Smith said. "You have to have multiple corners to match up against some of the spread sets you see in the NFL. … We have to find a way to pressure the ball more and that will really help our secondary even more."
Smith said even with the addition of Robinson, the team still could address receiver in free agency or the draft, and he also said he expects wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan to have a positive effect on the position.
"We do have some players that have ascending ability," he said. "You never know at the receiver position. Players can be cut not just once but multiple times at that position but still end up having very productive NFL careers. Some players develop later than others. Some of it is the position they're in and what hands they're in. There are some relatively young, talented players who still have the opportunity to emerge."
*Smith reiterated a point he made recently about this year's defensive end class in the draft, saying the year's class is not as strong as last year's for either 4-3 or 3-4 ends. Several ends in last year's class made an immediate impact, including Aldon Smith of San Francisco, J.J. Watt of Houston and Ryan Kerrigan of Washington. "That talent pool changes year to year," Smith said.
*Smith indicated there's a strong chance end Matt Roth will not return. Roth signed a one-year contract last preseason, and after missing the last six games with a concussion has not been re-signed. "We'll continue to look at all options, but I am prepared to go to the draft and see what we're able to do there in some situations;" Smith said. "I know he's entertaining other teams. I've certainly encouraged him and his agent to do so at this time."
*Smith said he remains confident right tackle Eben Britton will start next season after missing 12 games last season with a back injury. He missed time in training camp with a herniated disk and later was placed on injured reserve after an infection to the area. "It's unfortunate how that played out a year ago," Smith said. "He's doing very well. He's highly motivated to be back. He's a guy who has a lot of starts in the league as a young player despite his injuries. The silver lining will be because of the fact that he's persevered through it he'll be mentally stronger as a player." Britton said recently he expects to be 100 percent next season and Smith said doctors believe that should be the case. "They have a better grasp on certain injuries than five or 10 years ago," Smith said. "The back is one. Guys are coming back and doing well and I'm comfortable he will."
*Smith said while Ross was signed to compete with Mathis for a starting role, Mathis and Cox were the starters until sustaining knee injuries this past season and could open next season in the same role. "Obviously Aaron's coming into compete, but if Rashean comes back healthy and Derek comes back healthy those were our two starters coming out of last season," Smith said. Cox said recently he expects to participate in the off-season program that begins next week, but Mathis' return is less certain after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.