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Week ahead: A free-agency primer

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - December 26, 2021 - The Jacksonville Jaguars take on the New York Jets for Week 16 at MetLife Stadium. The Jaguars lost the game, 21-26.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - December 26, 2021 - The Jacksonville Jaguars take on the New York Jets for Week 16 at MetLife Stadium. The Jaguars lost the game, 21-26.

JACKSONVILLE – Let the tampering begin.

With the 2022 NFL League Year beginning Wednesday at 4 p.m., one of the busiest and highest-profile periods of the NFL offseason is scheduled to begin Monday at noon.

It's the NFL's so-called "legal tampering" window, during which teams can negotiate with the agents of players projected to become unrestricted free agents in 2022. While teams can negotiate beginning Monday at noon, deals can not be made official – and therefore cannot be announced by teams – before Wednesday at 4 p.m.

What to expect from the Jaguars in the coming days?

General Manager Trent Baalke during the recent 2022 Scouting Combine spoke of being "very aggressive," also noting that aggressiveness in free agency must be "within reason" with a focus on identifying the "right players."

"We've seen it played out multiple times when you go into free agency and you have a need and you way overpay to fill that need and then a year later, you're disappointed and you move on from the player," he said. "We have to be smart and we have to identify the right players, hopefully recruit the right players in free agency or draft the right player in the draft that fill those needs. You can't pay $11 million for a $3 million player. Over time that doesn't work.

“We have to draft, develop and re-sign our own players under our second contracts so we don’t have to go outside in free agency to fill major needs.” General Manager Trent Baalke

Head Coach Doug Pederson discussed free agency similarly, saying, "Aggressive is good, but you have to have a systematic approach to free agency."

"You don't just go out and sign guys," Pederson said, adding: "With the resources we do have, I think we can be aggressive and maybe get a couple of guys who can really impact our team this season."

Neither Baalke nor Pederson have offered specifics in terms of positions or players of focus. Media reports in recent days have indicated the Jaguars could pursue multiple positions including wide receiver, offensive and defensive line, safety and tight end.

The Jaguars enter the week with 15 players projected to become unrestricted free agents: guard A.J. Cann, linebacker Lerentee McCray, tight end James O'Shaughnessy, defensive tackle Taven Bryan, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., cornerback Tre Herndon, guard Andrew Norwell, offensive lineman Will Richardson Jr., defensive lineman Adam Gotsis, wide receiver Tavon Austin, tight end Jacob Hollister, cornerback Nevin Lawson, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive lineman Jihad Ward and linebacker Damien Wilson. Safety Andrew Wingard, linebacker Dakota Allen and running back Dare Ogunbowale are scheduled to become restricted free agents. The Jaguars last Tuesday placed the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson, limiting the veteran starter's ability to become an unrestricted free agent.

Cann and Norwell entered 2021 as the Jaguars' starting guards, with Cann missing the last 13 games of the season with a knee injury. Chark, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2019 season, missed the final 13 games of the 2021 season with a broken ankle.

Wilson and Wingard started 17 and 15 games, respectively, last season. O'Shaughnessy started six games last season and McCray has been a key special teams player since joining the Jaguars in 2017. The Jaguars selected Bryan in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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