The Jaguars had their work cut out for them this offseason but they also had the most cap space of any team in the league.
- Julius Thomas, TE: Five years, $46MM. $21MM guaranteed.
- Jared Odrick, DT: Five years, $42.5MM. $17MM guaranteed.
- Jermey Parnell, T: Five years $32MM. $14.5MM guaranteed.
- Davon House, CB: Four years, $24.5MM. $10MM guaranteed.
- Dan Skuta, LB: Five years, $20.5MM. $4.6MM guaranteed.
- Tyson Alualu, DL: Two years, $6MM. $4.25MM guaranteed.
- Sergio Brown, S: Three years, $7MM. $1MM guaranteed.
- Stefen Wisniewski, C: One year, $2MM. $500K guaranteed.
- Arrelious Benn, WR: Two years, minimum salary.
- Bryan Walters, WR: Two years, minimum salary.
The Jaguars prioritized finding a playmaker this offseason and they did that by pouncing early on tight end Julius Thomas. In fact, Jacksonville reportedly had an agreement in place with him days before the official start of free agency. Thomas, a 2011 draftee, broke out during his third season in Denver, emerging as a key target for Peyton Manning in 2013. His reception and yards totals both decreased last season as he dealt with injuries (ultimately missing six games), but he still finished with 12 touchdowns. Many believed that Thomas, the No. 4 free agent on PFR’s Top 50 list, would receive heavy interest from the Seahawks, but he chose instead to sign with Jacksonville where he’ll catch passes from second-year quarterback Blake Bortles.
After landing Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins had little use for fellow defensive tackle Jared Odrick. At that point, the Jaguars pounced on the 27-year-old and kept him in the state of Florida. When Luke Adams of PFR listed his top 50 free agents in March, he ranked Odrick 23rd, as the fourth defensive tackle on the board behind Suh, Terrance Knighton, and Nick Fairley. At the time, he estimated that the asking price would be in the neighborhood of $6MM annually. However, Odrick actually got a deal worth $8.5MM per season with $22MM guaranteed overall.
Doug Free started eleven games at right tackle for the Cowboys in 2014, but Jermey Parnell started seven, including the two playoff games while Free was out with injuries. While Parnell wasn’t viewed as a first tier free agent tackle with the likes of Free, Bryan Bulaga, King Dunlap, and Byron Bell, Parnell was in the second tier of attractive options thanks to his solid play in limited time as a starter. Parnell’s deal is worth $6.5MM per year over five years, a big bump from what he was getting in Dallas.
It was reported that several teams were pushing to land Davon House, but ultimately the corner signed a lucrative deal with the Jags. House only saw part-time action in nickel and dime packages with the Packers, but quarterbacks only completed 46.8% of their passes into his coverage last season, per Pro Football Focus. PFF’s advanced stats, by the way, placed him fourth among all qualified cornerbacks. The Packers, Jets, Seahawks, Bears, Cowboys, and Vikings had also been viewed as potential players for House.
Skuta, 29, also drew interest from the Dolphins and Eagles, the latter of whom would have had a “ton of interest” in signing him had they not retained Brandon Graham. A key contributor on special teams for the 49ers, Skuta also saw more than 300 snaps at outside linebacker for San Francisco, racking up five sacks. He spent four seasons with the Bengals before joining the Niners in 2013. Skuta’s deal came out to $20.5MM over five years, somewhat surprising given his body of work to date.
It took a while, but former center Stefen Wisniewski found an NFL home when he signed with the Jags in mid-April. Wisniewski had spent his entire four-year career with the Raiders, starting 61 games. The Penn State product missed only three games in those four seasons, and he managed to play 16 games in 2014 in spite of a torn labrum. The injury resulted in Wisniewski undergoing surgery this offseason, and it also provided a possible explanation for the player remaining unsigned for so long. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave Wisniewski high marks for his performance during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as the center ranked in the top-20 among eligible center candidates. He received his first negative rating in 2014, but he still ranked 22nd among 41 candidates.
The Jaguars did a lot of free agent shopping this year but they also retained a notable player of their own in defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. Alualu was the first-round pick of the Jaguars in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was considered to be a reach at 10th overall at the time of the pick, and has been underwhelming at best during his tenure with the team. Clearly, however, they believe that the 28-year-old is capable of doing much more going forward.
Sergio Brown, 27, made a career-high eight starts in 2014. All in all, the free safety recorded 34 tackles, 6 pass deflections, one fumble recovery, and one sack on the year. Last year, Brown re-signed with the Colts on a one-year deal worth $1.4MM with a $300K signing bonus.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) was pretty impressed with Brown’s work in 2014, ranking him as the 24th best safety in the NFL with a 5.3 score.
- Alan Ball, CB
- Will Blackmon, CB: Released
- Red Bryant, DE: Released
- Geno Hayes, LB
- Sherrod Martin, S
- Jacques McClendon, G
- Ace Sanders, WR: Waived
- Cecil Shorts, WR
- Will Ta’ufo’ou, FB
- J.T. Thomas, LB
- Jordan Todman, RB
Will Blackmon, who has spent the last two seasons with the Jaguars, was one of the top three cornerbacks for the team during his time in Jacksonville, starting 12 of 23 games. His 2014 campaign was cut short by a broken finger, which landed him on the injured reserve list with about two months left in the season. The 30-year-old was notified of his pending release in February as the team opted to go younger in the secondary.
Bryant, 31, was long rumored to be a cap casualty. Bryant saw time in all 16 games in his first and only season for the Jaguars. In total, he racked up 23 tackles to go with one pass deflection and one sack. Bryant graded out as being just below average according to Pro Football Focus‘ (subscription required) metrics, coming in with a -1.6 grade. Overall, that placed him No. 31 out of 59 qualified 4-3 defensive ends. Bryant’s contract called for him to earn $19MM in total between the years of 2014 and 2017. However, his only guaranteed money came in year one between his $3.5MM roster bonus and $1.225MM base salary in ’14.
Cecil Shorts, 27, spent the first four years of his NFL career in Jacksonville, totaling 176 receptions for the Jaguars. His best season came in 2012, when he racked up 979 yards on just 55 receptions, reaching the end zone seven times. The former fourth-round pick has been nagged by injuries over the last two years, and averaged just 10.5 yards per catch in 2014. Now, he’s in Houston and if he’s healthy, he could be a difference maker for the Texans.
Alan Ball, 30, spent the last two seasons in Jacksonville and was quietly one of the best parts of the Jaguars’ secondary. In 2013, Ball recorded a +7.5 Pro Football Focus grade in over 1,000 snaps, ranking 22nd among 110 qualified cornerbacks (subscription required). His 2014 season was cut short by a biceps injury, which landed him on injured reserve after seven games, but he still held his own in the first half of the season, recording 22 tackles and an interception.
J.T. Thomas, 27 in August, appeared in all 16 games for the Jaguars last season and made ten starts. In total, he had a career-high 85 tackles to go with five pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) wasn’t all that impressed with Thomas’ play in 2014, giving him an overall grade of -16.1, placing him as one of the worst inside linebackers in the NFL.
Jordan Todman played for Jacksonville from 2012 through 2014, totaling 450 rushing yards on 111 carries and 314 receiving yards on 40 catches during his 33 games with the Jags. The Panthers inked him a one-year deal in late March.
Just days ago the Jaguars released Ace Sanders, a player who once looked like he could be a focal point of the team’s offense. The 23-year-old, selected 101st overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Jaguars, had a decent rookie season, hauling in 51 balls, though he only averaged 9.5 yards per catch and reached the end zone just once. However, Sanders wasn’t a major part of the offense last season, after Jacksonville used multiple 2014 draft picks to add receiving help. Sanders saw just seven targets in 2014, earning most of his playing time on special teams, where he returned 32 punts, averaging 7.1 yards per return.
- Acquired a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 104; S James Sample) and a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 229; TE Ben Koyack) from the Jets in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 103; QB Bryce Petty).
- Marcedes Lewis, TE: Accepted pay cut. Reduced base salary from $6.8MM to $2.65MM. $750K guaranteed. $3MM available via incentives.
- Paul Posluszny, LB: Extended through 2017. Restructured contract to three years, $15MM. $4.45MM guaranteed.
- 1-3: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB (Florida): Signed
- 2-36: T.J. Yeldon, RB (Alabama): Signed
- 3-67: A.J. Cann, OL (South Carolina): Signed
- 4-104: James Sample, S (Louisville): Signed
- 5-139: Rashad Greene, WR (Florida State): Signed
- 6-180: Michael Bennett, DT (Ohio State): Signed
- 7-220: Neal Sterling, WR (Monmouth): Signed
- 7-229: Ben Koyack, TE (Notre Dame): Signed
At No. 3 overall, the Jaguars grabbed the most gifted edge rusher in the draft in Florida’s Dante Fowler. Unfortunately, Jags fans will have to wait a while to see their rising star after Fowler suffered an ACL tear in his first practice. Fowler notched 15 sacks last season and finished his three-year Gators career with 33. Picking No. 3 for the second straight year, the Jaguars were counting on Fowler to elevate their pass pursuit. Jacksonville boasted the seventh-best sack total in the league last season with 45 but finished 22nd in pass defense.
In the second round, the Jags selected Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon. Of course, the Jaguars have been disappointed by the production of Toby Gerhart and they’re hoping to reignite the running game with Yeldon. Yeldon is a tough back who has grimaced his way through a fair share of injuries in college. Mike Mayock of NFL.com pointed out that a lack of speed is the big knock on the youngster, but injuries may have played a part in that.
- Hire Greg Olson as offensive coordinator to replace Jedd Fisch.
- Hired former Bills HC Doug Marrone as assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
- Hired former Bills OC Nathaniel Hackett as quarterbacks coach.
- Learned rookie DE/LB Dante Fowler Jr. will miss the 2015 season after tearing his ACL.
- Claimed QB Jeff Tuel off waivers from the Bills.
- Claimed RB Bernard Pierce off waivers from the Ravens.
- Signed nine undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
Greg Olson’s two-year stint with the Raiders wasn’t overly successful, with his offense finishing in the bottom five in the NFL in DVOA both years, including 30th overall in 2014. Still, Olson didn’t have a ton of talent to work with in Oakland — in 2013, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin split time at quarterback, and this past season, second-round rookie Derek Carr took the reins, with James Jones and Andre Holmes acting as his top receivers. The Jags are hoping that he’ll click with Bortles and give them a powerful offense in the AFC South.
Doug Marrone, who led the Bills to a 9-7 record in 2014, narrowly missing a playoff spot, opted out of his contract following the team’s final regular season game. Marrone’s agreement with the Bills allowed him to receive his full $4MM salary for 2015 despite the fact that he’s no longer coaching the team. Many figured that Marrone already had another head coaching gig lined up but, as it turns out, that was not the case.
A day after he was cut by the Ravens following his DUI arrest, running back Bernard Pierce was claimed off waivers by the Jaguars. Last season, Pierce appeared in 13 regular season games for the Ravens, rushing for a career-low 366 yards off of 93 attempts with two touchdowns. Even with Baltimore’s backfield situation in flux, Pierce was unable to become a major part of the rushing attack, slipping down the depth chart after Justin Forsett emerged as the team’s No. 1 back.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Julius Thomas, TE: $10,300,000
- Jared Odrick, DL: $9,000,000
- Jermey Parnell, RT: $8,000,000
- Paul Posluszny, LB: $6,885,416
- Davon House, CB: $6,500,000
- Luke Joeckel, LT: $5,782,254
- Sen’Derrick Marks, DT: $5,425,000
- Zane Beadles, G: $5,000,000
- Chris Clemons, DE: $5,000,000
- Blake Bortles, QB: $4,694,273
Can the Jaguars turn things around after going 3-13 last season? Much of that will depend on the growth of rising sophomore Bortles, but then again, few quarterbacks could have thrived behind the Jaguars’ weak offensive line last season. Defensively, a big season out of Sen’Derrick Marks plus strong play from new pickup Odrick would go a long way towards helping their cause.