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On This Day: First Free Agency Class


The expansion Jaguars were flush with cash when they started assembling their roster in 1995. Thanks to the provisions of the NFL expansion agreement, both the Jags and the Carolina Panthers were given the full $37.1 million to spend on their inaugural rosters.

Tom Coughlin went after big guys on the first day the market was open, but big as in linemen, not in name value or star power. There weren't that many big names to chase since the salary cap was only in its third season and few teams had cap trouble of any sort.

So Coughlin scoured the roster of every team in the league, looking for guys whose best football was still in front of them.

In Green Bay he found Don Davey. The defensive lineman was reunited with Jags  defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who coached him with the Packers. Davey was Jauron's "utility infielder," working both inside and out and finishing his career in Jacksonville in 1998 after an untimely knee injury.

Shawn Bouwens came via the Detroit Lions, where Jaguars Vice President Michael Huyghue hung his hat prior to arriving in North Florida. Bouwens wasn't a big money acquisition and wasn't a big-time player either, hence his exit after the 1995 campaign.

Defensive end Joel Smeenge is the hands-down star of the Jaguars' first foray into free agency. Smeenge, whose name almost no one knew, began his career in New Orleans as a linebacker out of Western Michigan.  He made the switch to the defensive end spot and joined defensive line coach John Pease in moving to Jacksonville.

Smeenge became a staple of the early Jaguars defense and despite the addition of Tony Brackens, Jeff Lageman and Bryce Paup, he remains to this day second on the Jaguars' all-time sacks list with 34 to Brackens' 55.

Smeenge and Davey were crucial pieces to the 1996 playoff run, and Smeenge hung around through the 1999 AFC Championship to cement his place in Jaguars lore, if not the Pride…fans loved to sing out with the stadium P.A. announcer Joel Smeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenge after he made a tackle.

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