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Who's worth the money?


Hold onto your wallets because here we go. Free agency begins this Wednesday and the Jaguars have the salary cap room to be one of the big players in the NFL's version of "March Madness."

How mad will they be? Spring big for Reggie Hayward? Decide to fix it all and shoot the works for a wide receiver, a cornerback, a linebacker, a tackle and a running back, too?

We don't need to answer these questions. We'll have our answers soon enough and Hayward is the guy who will probably trigger the response. He's a 10.5-sack player at the Jaguars' position of greatest need. Defensive ends who can rush the passer go fast and go expensively. Hayward could be gone in the first 24 hours of free agency.

Let's take a look at the overall free-agent crop. Let's look at who the expensive guys are and who the bargains might be.

At defensive end, Hayward is the cream of a meager crop. Derrick Burgess and Chike Okeafor are the next guys down, but Burgess carries injury concerns and Okeafor is one of those risk guys, someone for whom a team will spend above his market value. Who are the bargains? There isn't one. The defensive end crop is a Hayward-or-bust proposition.

Wide receiver could be a trap. Derrick Mason had 96 catches last year but his return skills are gone and that makes you wonder about the age factor. Plaxico Burress will get a big deal, then drop a lot of balls. T.J. Houshmandzadeh will go quickly. If there's a bargain at wide receiver, it may be Corey Bradford.

Cornerback offers a solid crop. Andre Dyson is a top player who is just coming into his prime years. He will get a lot of money and figures to return worth. Ty Law is available but he represents a major risk; a player who will cost a lot of money to find out whether or not he's over the hill. The bargain is Anthony Henry, a big corner with top skills. Henry doesn't have the kind of speed you'd like at the position, but that shouldn't be a big deal at a time when teams are using their corners to play zone coverage.

Linebacker may offer the best pickings. Kendrell Bell is an impact guy. He sacks the quarterback, blows up plays, forces fumbles and roughs up the other guys. Bell is coming off a season dedicated to hernia surgery, so he might even represent a bargain. If there is one guy in free agency with whom a team could hit a home run, Bell might be that guy.

There are others. Jeremiah Trotter and Edgerton Hartwell are solid inside types. Tommy Polley makes plays. Ike Reese is a special teams demon who adds depth at linebacker. Carlos Polk is a special teams guy who has upside at LB.

The offensive tackle crop is OK if you want a starter on the right side or depth on the left side. The premium left tackle isn't available. Stockar McDougle will cost a lot of money, but he's already failed in his first stop. Kareem McKenzie is a right tackle whose price tag will probably make him best-suited as a blind-side blocker for a team with a left-handed quarterback. Oliver Ross and Cooper Carlisle are the bargain guys. Ross is a starting-caliber guy on the right side and he can play left tackle in a pinch. Carlisle is a depth guy on both sides.

Running back offers a player of feature-back ability. Lamont Jordan has played behind Curtis Martin. Now, someone will spend big to find out if the Jets are making a mistake in letting Jordan go. The Eagles let Duce Staley go last year and Staley was on his way to a monster year when he got injured at midseason. Amos Zereoue could be a bargain guy, if he's used properly.

Want a tight end? You could get into the sweepstakes bidding for Bubba Franks, on whom the Packers have wasted the "transition" tag. Chad Lewis is interesting. Anthony Becht could turn out to be a bargain guy.

Quarterback mostly offers backup types, such as Kelly Holcomb. Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia will, no doubt, be targeted for reclamation, which will prove to be mistakes. There's one guy, Mike McMahon, who could turn out to be "The Man." He's young and has great pass-run ability. Success is all about maturity for McMahon. Maybe he's ready.

Fullback? Don't bother.

Guard? Decent crop – Jermane Mayberry, Joe Andruzzi, Rick DeMulling – but can't you find those guys more cheaply in the draft?

Center? Casey Rabach is worth the money at a position that is grossly undervalued.

Pat and Tony Williams may be the best of the defensive tackles. Former Jaguar Seth Payne is a true bargain player.

Gary Baxter is the premium safety. He turned down a very rich deal with the Ravens, which means he expects to break the bank in free agency. Not my bank; not for a safety.

We'll see, starting on Wednesday.

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