JACKSONVILLE – So it begins …
And if you're asking what "it" is … if you're asking "just what is beginning?" … well, if you're asking those things, then you're just not paying attention to the Jaguars or NFL right now.
What's beginning is what Jaguars fans have been awaiting for a while.
What's beginning is what the Jaguars' front office has been anticipating for a while.
What's beginning is free agency – or at least the NFL's official lead-up to free agency, anyway. Teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents Wednesday after 4 p.m., and they officially can begin talking with the agents of those players Monday.
That doesn't mean there will be official news, and it doesn't mean there will be reports all over jaguars.com in the next couple of days. This two-plus-day "discussion" period (also known as the legal tampering period) will be about rumors, reports and Twitter – and it will be about of waiting and re-checking Twitter timelines – but make no mistake:
The reports and rumors about the Jaguars should come fast and often.
The Jaguars without question will be aggressive, and they're prepared to spend. The league-high salary cap space is a real thing, and so were the words of General Manager David Caldwell earlier this offseason when he said the team would be aggressive in free agency.
And while Caldwell said at the recent NFL Scouting Combine that free agency would be expensive – and that players likely would get overpaid – the reality remains that the Jaguars likely will be one of the teams really, really overspending.
Is that a good thing? That remains open to debate. The thought here remains that free agency is a risky way to build a roster. Caldwell absolutely agrees with that.
At the same, time, Caldwell's building plan for the Jaguars from the time of his 2013 hiring was to focus heavily on free agency in the 2015 and 2016 offseasons, supplementing the roster with free agency after beginning to build the core through the draft.
The Jaguars indeed spent big money last offseason, signing eight unrestricted free agents – including front-line guys such as Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick and Jermey Parnell – and the core indeed is coming into shape, particularly on offense.
This offseason, the focus unquestionably will be on defense.
And just as unquestionably, the focus will begin in a big way this week.
Here's a look at likely positions of focus for the Jaguars entering the week.
1.Edge rusher.This is a no-brainer, with the Jaguars' Leo pass rushers in the midst of a needed offseason overhaul after struggling last season. The market is set by Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon, and another name being connected with the Jaguars in media reports is Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin. Chances of the Jaguars signing this position: As high as imaginable.
2.Free safety.Another no-brainer, and the Jaguars have a clear need at the spot. Kansas City franchise-tagged Eric Berry, but Eric Weddle of the Chargers, Tashaun Gipson of the Browns and Reggie Nelson of the Bengals are scheduled to hit free agency. Chances of the Jaguars signing this positon: Very high, because it's risky to enter the draft assuming Florida State safety/cornerback Jalen Ramsey will fall to the Jaguars at No. 5 overall
3.Defensive tackle.This isn't the perceived need as edge rusher because the Jaguars have nose tackle Roy Miller and three-technique Sen'Derrick Marks. Both are good, but you need more than two players at the position. The market's biggest name is Denver defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Chances of the Jaguars signing this position: Higher than people might think.
4.Cornerback.Like tackle, this isn't perceived as a major need because the Jaguars have Davon House and Aaron Colvin. But you need at least three quality corners, and signing an outside corner would allow Colvin to play nickel. The Panthers franchised Josh Norman and the Rams franchised Trumaine Johnson, but Sean Smith of Kansas City and Janoris Jenkins of the Rams are better players than normally hit free agency.
5.Interior offensive line.Does this mean guard or center? Both, and it remains to be seen where the Jaguars will focus. They definitely want to upgrade interior offensive line, but will that mean signing a guard and moving Brandon Linder or A.J. Cann to center? Or will it mean signing a center and letting those two stay at guard? Stay tuned, but top options on the market include Browns center Alex Mack. The Jaguars pursued him in free agency two years ago and he recently opted out of his contract to become a free agent.
What direction will the Jaguars go? That remains to be seen, and the above-mentioned names – while well-known – do not at all represent the entirety of the free-agent class. Only Caldwell and those privy to his thinking know the Jaguars' plans, and those will become clear in the coming days.
Yes, it is beginning, and the next few days will be newsy.
That means the wait is over, and it means the next few days for the Jaguars will be as exciting – and as important – as any few days around the franchise in a long, long time.