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Sunday, February 22, 2009
Fearing big deals, Jags still need free agents

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Jaguars look to revamp, they could be replacing as many as seven starters from their depth chart.

While they've talked about how they will steer away from big ticket free agency and build from the inside through the draft, those holes are too big for a draft class to fill. The Jaguars have six picks in the draft and are not expecting any compensatory selections to beef up the class.

So it's reasonable to expect the Jaguars to take the free agency approach other teams have employed in recent years that won't get fans especially excited in March but could pay off in November.

Using the one-man's-trash-is-another-man's-treasure approach, they could seek players who come at reasonable costs and have the potential in their systems to pan out as effective pieces.

Examples from elsewhere last year: quarterback Chad Pennington in Miami, linebacker Kawika Mitchell in Buffalo, return man and corner Chris Carr in Tennessee (a restricted free agent with no compensation attached), running back Mewelde Moore in Pittsburgh, linebacker Brandon Chillar in Green Bay and nose tackle Bryan Robinson in Arizona.

New GM Gene Smith indicated to Michael Wright recently that selective free agent shopping in the discount aisle is part of the plan a year after the team handed big bucks to receiver Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence, who they recently cut.

"We'll look at all positions where we feel a player may improve our roster," Smith said. "There is a role for pro free agency. I know a lot of people feel that a large number of players usually get overpaid and end up underperforming, and there are examples of that every year. When you pay a player a large sum of money there are naturally higher expectations placed on him. Some play up to the expectations and some don't.

"Bottom line, it's tough for any new player to come into a new environment and new system and have an immediate impact. ... Some certainly will be role players and others will be competing for starting positions There are some positions that will be of more emphasis than others. We may not be the so-called 'big players' on opening day, but we'll stay the course on the targeted players we have an interest in."