JACKSONVILLE – We're 35 days away.
That's right. With the Super Bowl and all of its aftermath now firmly behind us, we are 35 days – just five weeks – from the start of the 2015 NFL league year, which means five weeks from the start of free agency.
Once the offseason starts, it goes fast.
The Jaguars have indicated strongly they will be active during free agency, which officially begins March 10 at 4 p.m. Where precisely they will spend we don't know, and if General Manager David Caldwell gets his way, we likely won't know until sometime in the late afternoon or early evening that day.
So, for now, it's about projection and speculation.
And the projection/speculation is the Jaguars will seriously explore spending on offense, with tight end and right tackle a probability, and wide receiver and running back a real possibility.
We offered an early look at offensive players available in free agency Monday, but as of February 3, the defensive side of free agency appears strong, too, with linebacker Justin Houston – one of the NFL's top pass rushers – scheduled to become a free agent along with Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, one of the NFL's top talents at his position.
Early reports indicate that both players are likely to re-sign with their teams, but so far, those are just reports.
Darrelle Revis, perhaps the NFL's best defensive back in the last half decade, is expected to become an unrestricted free agent. That will happen if the Patriots opt to not exercise a $20 million clause in his contract.
Another key member of the Super Bowl champion Patriots' secondary, safety Devin McCourty, also is scheduled to become a free agent. Observers have speculated that the Jaguars – who appear likely to address free safety in free agency of the draft – could target McCourty.
That can only happen if the Patriots opt to allow McCourty to become a free agent, which they can prevent by re-signing him or assigning him with the franchise or transition tag.
That's the case with all free agents, and that will be the primary storyline around the NFL in February and early March. The 2015 free agent class looks very, very good now. How will it look March 10? Stay tuned.
Here's a look at the defensive players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next month:
Justin Houston (linebacker), Chiefs
Jason Pierre-Paul (end), Giants
Jerry Hughes (end), Bills
Brian Orakpo (linebacker), Redskins
Pernell McPhee (linebacker), Ravens
Others: John Abraham (linebacker), Cardinals; Sam Acho (linebacker), Cardinals; Akeem Ayers (linebacker), Patriots; Kroy Biermann (linebacker), Falcons; Adrian Clayborn (end), Buccaneers; Dwight Freeney (linebacker), Chargers; Greg Hardy (end), Panthers; Brandon Graham (linebacker), Eagles; James Harrison (linebacker), Steelers; George Johnson (end), Lions; Arthur Moates (linebacker), Steelers; Derrick Morgan (linebacker), Titans; Brooks Reed (linebacker), Texans; O'Brien Schofield (linebacker), Seahawks; Jabaal Sheard (linebacker), Browns; Anthony Spencer (end), Cowboys; Osi Umenyiora (linebacker), Falcons; Jason Worilds (linebacker), Steelers.
About the edge rushers: This is a huge group because it combines 3-4 linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. There is good depth here, though Pierre-Paul perhaps isn't the elite-level free agent he might have been a few years ago. Houston is the best pass rusher scheduled to hit free agency, but it would be surprising if he's not re-signed or given the franchise tag. The Jaguars' defensive front was a strength last season, and though they could address pass rush in the offseason it seems more likely to be through the draft.
Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Nick Fairley, Lions
Terrance Knighton, Broncos
Dan Williams, Cardinals
Jared Odrick, Dolphins
Others: Letroy Guion, Packers; Tom Johnson, Vikings; Tommy Kelly, Cardinals; Henry Melton, Cowboys; C.J. Mosley, Lions; Stephen Paea, Bears; Corey Peters, Falcons; Ahtyba Rubin, Browns; Pat Sims, Raiders; Corey Wootton, Vikings.
Three-four and run-oriented ends: Tyson Alualu, Jaguars; Alex Carrington, Rams; Jarvis Jenkins, Redskins; B.J. Raji, Packers; Cory Redding, Colts.
About the defensive tackles: Suh is far and away the most-intriguing prospect here. He is an elite-level, once-in-a-generation free agent. Those guys usually don't reach free agency, and reports early this week were that the Lions likely would re-sign him. They also have the option of franchising him – at a one-year price of $26.9 million.
Brandon Spikes, Bills
Rolando McClain, Cowboys
David Harris, Jets
Rey Maualuga, Bengals
Mason Foster, Buccaneers
Others: Jasper Brinkley, Vikings; Dane Fletcher, Buccaneers; Larry Foote, Cardinals; Moise Fokou, Saints; Nate Irving, Broncos; Jamari Lattimore, Packers; Colin McCarthy, Titans; Jason Trusnik, Dolphins.
About the inside linebacker: This isn't a star-studded group and with Paul Posluszny appearing likely to return, it's not a must-sign area for the Jaguars this offseason.
4-3 Outside Linebackers
Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Malcolm Smith, Seahawks
Bruce Carter, Cowboys
Jonathan Casillas, Patriots
Justin Durant, Cowboys
Others: Chase Blackburn, Panthers; Lance Briggs, Bears; Mark Herzlich, OLB, Giants; Ramon Humber, Saints; Ashlee Palmer, Lions; J.T. Thomas, Jaguars; Geno Hayes, Jaguars; Spencer Paysinger, Giants; Jacquian Williams, Giants.
About the outside linebacker: Many of the bigger linebacker names are in the "edge-rushers" category, but the Jaguars could look to this list to address their strong-side, Otto role. A lot of speculation likely will focus on Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, who played for Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley before earning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors last year.
Byron Maxwell, Seahawks
Darrelle Revis, Patriots* (A free agent if the Patriots don't exercise a $20 million option)
Brandon Flowers, Chargers
Antonio Cromartie, Cardinals;
Tramon Williams, Packers
Others: Alan Ball, Jaguars; Tarell Brown, Raiders; Perrish Cox, 49ers; Chris Culliver, 49ers; Kareem Jackson, Texans; Rashean Mathis, Lions; Patrick Robinson, Saints; Buster Skrine, Browns; Walter Thurmond, Giants.
About the cornerbacks: This is a good free-agent cornerback class. If Revis becomes a free agent – as is expected – it gets even better. There appear to be bigger defensive needs for the Jaguars than corner, but if impact players are available …
Devin McCourty, Patriots
Rahim Moore, Broncos
Da'Norris Searcy, Bills
Antrel Rolle, Giants
Louis Delmas, Dolphins
Others: Mike Adams, Colts; Nate Allen, Eagles; Stevie Brown, Giants; Christopher Conte, Bears; Quintin Demps, Giants; Marcus Gilchrist, Chargers; Jeron Johnson, Seahawks; Dawan Landry, Jets; Ron Parker, Kansas City; Darian Stewart, Ravens; Jimmy Wilson, Dolphins.
About the safeties: The Jaguars have a young secondary that's gaining experience, but free safety appears to be one position that could be upgraded. Speculation among Jaguars observers has focused on McCourty, but it would be surprising if the Patriots don't re-sign him. The safety position also is heavy in the restricted free agent area, so keep an eye on players such as Tashaun Gipson of Cleveland, Will Hill of Baltimore and Rodney McLeod of St. Louis. As is the case with the entire free agent class, the next five weeks could change things dramatically. Stay tuned.