Wayne Weaver will meet with head coach Jack Del Rio and personnel boss "Shack" Harris tomorrow, to hear their thoughts and strategy for the upcoming free agency period. Weaver hopes he will be told this year's crop of free agents is deep and affordable.
"I'm anxious to hear their thoughts, strategies and the players they've targeted," Weaver said. "I'm excited. I think there are some free agents out there we can find without getting the real big guys."
Weaver won't rule out the possibility of his team making a premium acquisition, but he would prefer to find those players who might solve two or three needs for the same price it might cost to sign one player to solve one need.
"If there was someone we thought was a real difference-maker, we'd be foolish not to consider him. But, in general, there are a lot of players who can upgrade our football team; a lot of talent just behind the top candidates. New England has done the best job of that," Weaver said.
The Super Bowl-champion Patriots are the NFL's model for success. The Patriots have used the draft to build the nucleus of their roster, and free agency to fill in the gaps. Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, David Patten, Christian Fauria, Roman Phifer, Roosevelt Colvin, Tyrone Poole, Antowain Smith and Mike Cloud came to the Pats in free agency. Colvin was a pricey acquisition, but the Patriots have otherwise spent their money in stingier amounts.
"If there are three players or two players you can get for the same money or less (as one player would cost), then you've got to weigh which makes you a better football team. I think you're going to say I'd rather have the two or three guys. This is a team sport. If you can upgrade your team at several positions, logic would tell you that's probably a less-risky proposition," Weaver said.
Free agency will certainly offer its big-money risks. Heading that list will be defensive end Jevon Kearse, a star-quality player at a position where the Jaguars have a distinct need. Signing Kearse would strike a blow to the Jaguars' most bitter rival, and Kearse's Florida roots would make him a popular player in Jacksonville. But Kearse would also represent the risk of all free agency risks. He's an oft-injured player coming off a major foot injury, and any contract he signs will occupy a significant portion of that team's future salary caps.
Is he a player the Jaguars have targeted? Or will the Jaguars discipline themselves to do it the New England way?
That's what Weaver will learn tomorrow when he meets with Del Rio, Harris and salary cap boss Paul Vance.
Here's what we do know: The Jaguars will have the salary cap room to do anything they want.
Currently, the team is $5.3 million under the league's $80.6 million cap figure. That's after having added to their cap the $4.1 million salary the Jaguars presented Donovin Darius when they assigned him the "franchise" tag this week.
If the Mark Brunell trade to the Redskins goes down as expected on March 3, and if Brunell waives the $2 million roster bonus the Jaguars would owe him, their room under the cap would swell to $13.8 million. And if the Jaguars don't pay Tony Brackens the $1 million roster bonus due him on March 3, the team's cap room would grow to $16.1 million.
What all of that means is the Jaguars have great flexibility in how they deal with their roster. They could be a major player in first-week free agency, wait a couple of weeks and start picking from the next wave of players, wait a little longer and grab the bargain guys, or do a little of each. And the team will probably use some of that cap room to extend contracts of players they've identified as the core of the team's future.
Is it possible that only a couple of years ago the Jaguars were facing the worst salary cap mess in history?
"It's been very painful to get to where we are, considering the emotional decisions we've had to make," Weaver said, referring to the departures of players such as Tony Boselli, Keenan McCardell and, soon, Brunell. "But they were the right decisions and those decisions have been validated."
These days, Weaver is watching two other teams in his division – Tennessee and Indianapolis – making the same mistakes the Jaguars made in 1999-2001, which is to say creating room on their current-year salary cap by pushing money into the future.
"We've been there. We're the poster boys. Teams who are not looking at how these things evolve and learn from others' mistakes are making a big mistake," Weaver said.
Weaver says he's learned his lesson. He likes where his team stands today. He likes the idea of having cap room, flexibility and making decisions that will allow his team to "get the most bang for your buck," he said.
"You build your football team through the draft. You make sure you take care of those players who are part of your future. Free agency is the third piece that improves your football team," Weaver added.
Tomorrow, Weaver will listen to this year's plan for improvement. Then he'll offer his opinion.