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Week in focus: A few free-agent thoughts


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a quick, close look at the week that was around the Jaguars …

Free-agency keys

The talk among Jaguars observers these days is pretty much all-free-agency, all-the-time.

It's giddy, anticipatory talk, and as the week comes to an end, there's little to do but wait – and, of course, look ahead.

So, what to expect as we approach March 9, the start of the new league year and the day the Jaguars and 31 other teams can begin signing free agents?

As we covered in Friday's View from the O-Zone, absolutely expect the Jaguars to be aggressive. They have around $85 million in salary-cap space, and all signs are they plan to be very active pursuing top-tier unrestricted free agents.

As for just who those players will be …

That's anyone's guess, though it seems safe to assume that with a league-high amount of cap space they will be in on a lot of big names at their need positions. Those positions: free safety, edge rusher, interior offensive line, cornerback and perhaps defensive tackle.

Thoughts to remember as March 9 approaches:

*Free must be free for the right reason.Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell during the recent NFL Scouting Combine said a red flag when it comes to free agency is players who were released or not re-signed by teams with ample cap space. If a team has money and wouldn't spend it on their own player, what does that say about the player? Two of the Jaguars' major signings last off-season – Julius Thomas (Denver) and Jared Odrick (Miami) – came from teams that simply couldn't afford to re-sign them. Look for a similar pattern this offseason. Free agents in a similar situation this offseason include defensive end Olivier Vernon (Miami), linebacker Bruce Irvin (Seattle) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (Denver). …

*Nothing in free agency is "free" – or even close.Caldwell often has said he doesn't like free agency. The prices are too high for what you get, and Caldwell knows the increased salary cap will inflate salaries even more. None of that means the Jaguars won't spend. Caldwell's ready for the sticker shock. The Jaguars will spend through it – if it's the right player.

*Older may be OK.In certain cases, Caldwell has indicated he may stray from the ideal target free-agent range of fifth- or sixth-year veteran in the 25-to-27-year-old-range. A shorter-term deal for the right "older" free agent is possible this offseason.

*Needs need to be filled.Caldwell ideally will enter the draft with starting-level options at every position on the roster. That could mean most – if not all – of those perceived-need positions listed above getting addressed in a big way next week.

Those are just a few thoughts. Stay tuned.


Ready to lead …

When Telvin Smith joined live this week, a topic was his role within the organization – and what he must do to fulfill that role.

Smith, entering his third offseason, said without question it's time for him to be a leader on and off the field. He said part of fulfilling that role is adding weight and becoming more durable.

Caldwell and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley both have mentioned that as an offseason priority for Smith, and the starting weakside backer this week said he agreed.

"The ability to play … no one questions that," Smith said. "It's just the ability to be durable. That's what I want to show the front office, my teammates – that they can count on me for 20 games in a season, all snaps. That's the biggest thing for me. I want to step into that leadership role, to where you can say, 'I know he's putting in his work.'

"Everyone in the organization knows it [adding weight] Is a task for me to achieve. If they see me doing that, I feel like it's gaining more respect and showing them what I'm willing to do when I'm asking them, 'What are you all going to do?'''

To be fair to Smith, he hasn't been fragile. A 2014 fifth-round draft selection, he never Missed an NFL game until missing the final two games this past season with a shoulder injury sustained in a Week 15 loss to Atlanta.


Around the Jaguars …

*Smith arguably was he Jaguars' best defensive player last season. That doesn't mean he was thrilled with his season. "I felt like last season was a bust,'' he said. "I came in and I said, 'Pro Bowl or bust,' and obviously I didn't make the Pro Bowl. At the end of the day, I didn't make it and that's what mattered. I have to go in and prove not only to my peers on this team but to the league and coaches I'm a player to be reckoned with. I want people to say, 'We have to scheme for this guy.' Instead of saying the Pro Bowl is my goal [for 2016], I think it's going to be more, 'How much of an impact can Telvin Smith have on this team to see how far we can go?' If we grow together as a team all the accolades will come with that." …

*Mario Williams' release by Buffalo Tuesday in advance of free agency prompted questions about whether the Jaguars might pursue the veteran defensive end and former No. 1 overall draft selection. The pros: Williams is a defensive end and he had 14.5 sacks in 2014. The cons: he's 31 and had five sacks in 2015. Another worry is the Bills presumably released him for a reason. Because he was released, teams can negotiate with and sign Williams before the March 9 start of the league year. The thought here is if the Jaguars were going to pursue Williams, they would have done so already. …

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