AFC South: Chris Clemons

Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, which means all three will have to be on the active roster, because Stanzi is ineligible for the practice squad. Stanzi should start the season as the No. 2 because he’s more ready to play than Bortles, but that will likely flip-flop at some point. Stephen Morris is a practice squad candidate.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

If the Jags elect to keep only four backs, Todman and Johnson likely would battle for the final spot. That is assuming Robinson continues to be very good in camp. He might end up getting more playing time than any of the other backs after Gerhart if he shows he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Johnson has to prove he can pass block and doesn’t have problems with ball security.

RECEVIERS (6)

The first four players should be locks, but it will be an interesting competition for the final two spots among Brown, Taylor, free-agent signee Tandon Doss, undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, and former practice-squad player Chad Bumphis. Doss missed most of the organized team activities and minicamp because of a calf injury, allowing Taylor, Bumphis and Hurns to get valuable reps. Doss was not a consistent receiver in his three seasons in Baltimore and has more value as a returner, but Sanders’ strength is as a punt returner and the Jags have other options at kickoff returner. I have Taylor narrowly beating out Hurns because of his experience, but I can easily see that being flipped if the Jags want to add more size. Hurns is 6-foot-3; Taylor is 6-0.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jensen flashed during OTAs and gets the edge over three other players. He’s a big kid (6-6, 270) who is a raw version of Lewis, one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Jensen will need a year or two to develop and likely will be used as an extra blocker more than a pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Some of the battles for starting jobs along the line are going to be intriguing during camp. Joeckel and Beadles are safe, but every other spot is up for grabs. Even Pasztor, who started 12 games last season, is uncertain because we don’t know how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up during camp. If it’s fine, then he will win the starting job at right tackle. McClendon and Linder are battling for the right guard spot, and Brewster is going to have to hold off Bowanko and two others to be the starter at center. Bradfield has value because he can play both tackle spots.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

This should be the biggest upgraded position on the roster thanks to the additions of Clemons, Bryant and Hood. Despite public perception, Alualu isn’t on the bubble for two reasons: He played solidly last season, and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster as talented as he is to back up Bryant. The Jags are excited about Smith, who could end up playing more than Davis as the No. 3 LEO (hybrid end/linebacker) by the time the season is over.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Either John Lotulelei or J.T. Thomas, two key special teams players last season, could stick if the Jaguars decide to keep an extra linebacker instead of five cornerbacks, or if Hayes’ surgically repaired knee doesn’t respond well. Reynolds did a solid job subbing for Watson (groin) during OTAs and minicamp at the new OTTO position (replaces strongside linebacker).

CORNERBACKS (5)

The Jags will have to decide whether to keep fourth-year player Mike Harris or Jeremy Harris, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. The 6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris is a better fit for what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks than the 5-10, 188-pound Mike Harris, who was a member of former GM Gene Smith’s final draft class. Blackmon has been working inside as well, which also makes Mike Harris expendable. Fourth-round draft pick Aaron Colvin will begin the season on the PUP list and doesn't count against the roster limit.

SAFETIES (4)
Chris Prosinski has seemingly been a bubble player since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011, but there is too much competition for him to survive this time. Martin started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons, and that experience gives him the edge. Evans seems to be the name everyone mentions when talking about the first Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but though he might lose his starting job to Guy, he’s likely to stick around at least another year.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

 NFL Nation's Michael DiRocco examines the three biggest issues facing the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into training camp.

Offensive line: Only one of the five spots is settled heading into camp: Zane Beadles, whom the team signed in March, is the starting left guard. Almost every other spot is up for grabs. I use "almost" because Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, will start at left tackle, and the team drafted him to be the line's cornerstone. He spent the first four games last season at right tackle and played a quarter at left tackle before a season-ending injury. While the Jags believe he's going to be an elite player, he still has to prove it. Mike Brewster is the leader at center, but he has never snapped in his three-year career. Right guard will be a battle between Jacques McClendon and rookie Brandon Linder. Austin Pasztor started 12 games at right tackle last season but will be pushed by Cameron Bradfield, who started the final 11 games at left tackle after Joeckel's injury. Regardless of who wins the position battles, the line has to be better than it was last season. The Jaguars averaged a franchise-worst 78.8 yards per game rushing last season, and a big reason was the play of the interior of the offensive line.

Wide receivers: The Jaguars know what they have in fourth-year player Cecil Shorts (123 career catches). They believe they know what they've got in second-year player Ace Sanders, provided he continues to develop following his 51-catch rookie season. But who are Nos. 3-6? It would seem second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson would naturally be the next two, but both missed most organized team activities and all of minicamp with injuries. They're supposed to be fully cleared for camp, but they missed valuable time working with receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, a technician of the finer points of routes, footwork and hand position. Rookie receivers are a crap shoot in the NFL, and there's no guarantee if both are healthy that they'll be able to contribute as much as Sanders did. Kerry Taylor and Mike Brown combined to catch 54 passes last season. Taylor is a bit bigger (6-foot, 200 pounds) than Brown (5-10, 200 pounds), but both can play in the slot or outside. Taylor might have a slight advantage because he was healthy throughout the offseason, while Brown was one of seven receivers who missed significant time because of an injury. A group of undrafted players, led by former Miami standout Allen Hurns, also will compete for the final two spots on the roster. It's important that this group stays healthy, too, because the injuries really affected the offense during minicamp. It was hard for any of the quarterbacks to move the ball consistently.

Pass rush: The Jaguars have had one of the worst pass rushes over the past five season and finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2013 and 2012. Buffalo led the NFL with 57 sacks last season. The Jaguars have 51 in the past two seasons combined, including 20 in 2012. The team took steps to remedy that by signing defensive end Chris Clemons (58 career sacks) and linebacker Dekoda Watson, a young player whom the Jaguars plan on using in their new otto position and rushing the passer on third downs. However, he sat out OTAs and minicamp with a groin injury and former undrafted rookie LaRoy Reynolds got the reps there. Third-year defensive end Andre Branch came on late last season (five of his six sacks in the last seven games) and had a great offseason, and the coaching staff is counting on him rotating with Clemons. The Jaguars felt good enough about Branch and young players Ryan Davis and Gerald Rivers that they released Jason Babin (62.5 career sacks) on the last day of the minicamp. However, Davis and Rivers have played in a combined eight games and have a combined eight tackles and one sack, so that's making a leap of faith that they'll be able to produce in a reserve role.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jason Babin's release is a mild surprise only in that the 34-year-old defensive end didn’t even make it to training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was going to be a bubble player after the addition of several pass-rushers via free agency and the draft.

Babin
That he was released Thursday morning is an indication the Jaguars are not only pleased with how veteran Chris Clemons, whom they signed as a free agent, has performed in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, they are excited about several other young pass-rushers.

Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised third-year player Andre Branch, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2012, throughout OTAs. His burst off the ball and quickness around the edge is noticeable, and he has consistently been in the backfield during 11-on-11 drills. Though the players are only wearing helmets and prohibited from full contact, Branch appears to be ready to become the kind of consistent player he was during the second half of the 2013 season, when he recorded five of his six sacks in the final seven games.

"You see Andre Branch really focused and really capturing every opportunity," Bradley said.

Fifth-round pick Chris Smith doesn’t fit the Jaguars’ typical measurables for what they want in a LEO -- a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is rushing the passer -- but they liked what they saw from him during Senior Bowl week so they took a chance. The 6-foot-1, 266-pound Smith is a little shorter than ideal, but he has long arms and runs well.

"He had a couple good rushes [Wednesday] and I think he’s a guy that the more comfortable he gets and the more reps he gets we’ll see what he’s doing," Bradley said. "He’s got the traits we’re looking for. Now we just need to see it in training camp."

Second-year player Ryan Davis played in seven games last season and had one sack and made one huge play: an interception that sealed the Jaguars’ victory in Houston. He is another player who doesn’t have the typical LEO size (he’s 6-2, 260) but he’s an effort guy and the Jaguars are intrigued by his development.

Gerald Rivers is another second-year player that has worked at LEO. He has the prototypical LEO size (6-5, 258).

The key traits Branch, Smith, Davis and Rivers all share are youth and potential. At 34, Babin wasn’t going to get any better. It’s likely, even with reduced snaps because of the addition of the 32-year-old Clemons (58 career sacks), that he was going to be less effective. But there is room for improvement for the four younger (and cheaper) players, and that is better for the health of the roster beyond the 2014 season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With quarterback Blake Bortles signing his contract Wednesday morning, the Jacksonville Jaguars need only to sign second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to get all the pieces in place.

For the 2015 season.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
John Raoux/AP PhotoCoach Gus Bradley and Jaguars management have been working on a plan to fortify the team's depth for not only 2014, but also 2015 and beyond.
The Jaguars are clearly targeting 2015 as the season the team makes significant strides and competes for a playoff spot. It will be coach Gus Bradley's third season, the culture will be well established, and the talent level should be miles better than it was when Bradley and general manager David Caldwell took over in January 2013.

The offensive and defensive systems will be entrenched and Bradley, a former defensive coordinator, will have had three years to find players who fit his scheme.

This doesn’t mean the Jaguars view 2014 as a wasted season. That wouldn’t be accurate. The moves Caldwell made in free agency -- particularly signing guard Zane Beadles, defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, linebacker Dekoda Watson and running back Toby Gerhart -- immediately make the Jaguars a much better team in 2014.

The defense should be better and will keep the Jaguars in more games and quarterback Chad Henne should be more comfortable in the offense, which should yield more than four victories.

But everything points toward 2015.

Caldwell and Bradley have named Henne the starter for '14 and have said they don’t want Bortles to be on the field. They want him to learn and develop without having the pressure to win games so he'll be ready to take over as the starter, most likely in 2015.

Lee and Robinson will get extended playing time in 2014, but it’s rare for receivers to make any significant impact as rookies. Ace Sanders did in 2013, catching 51 passes, and Justin Blackmon did in 2012, but they are the exception rather than the rule. After a year of seasoning, Lee and Robinson should become major parts of the offense, along with Bortles, in 2015.

Caldwell’s selection of cornerback Aaron Colvin in the fourth round is clearly a move that was made with 2015 in mind. Colvin suffered a torn ACL during Senior Bowl week and will begin this season on the physically unable to perform list. It's unlikely he’ll get on the field in anything but a special-teams capacity and that won’t come until the final third of the season. Colvin was a high-round talent who fell because of his injury, and he could turn out to be one of the steals of the 2014 draft, especially if he becomes the starter opposite Dwayne Gratz -- but that shrewd move won’t pay off for another year.

Linebacker Telvin Smith, one of the Jaguars' fifth-round picks, is an intriguing player because of his length and speed. However, he weighs only 218 pounds and while that was OK as a player in the ACC, he has to add weight in order to hold up to the rigors of the NFL. He'll get playing time in 2014 but he’ll benefit from a year in the Jaguars’ weight program and should be ready for a much bigger role in 2015, possibly as a replacement for weakside linebacker Geno Hayes.

The Jaguars aren't giving up on 2014, but they’re preparing to make big strides a year later.
Got questions about the Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

@ESPNdirocco: There really aren't any front-line guys that are on the bubble, to be honest. Defensive end Jason Babin and Tyson Alualu should make the team unless several younger players have outstanding training camps, but I still think they're pretty solid to be on the 53-man roster. Defensive backs Mike Harris and Chris Prosinski are going to be pushed by some undrafted guys. There may be a surprise or two but I really don't see many front-line guys on the bubble.

@ESPNdirocco: I know that the thought of Ace Sanders getting cut has gained legs recently but I'd be very surprised if he didn't make the roster. He caught 50 passes as a rookie and it's even more impressive when you consider the Jaguars really hadn't planned on using him that much as a receiver but were forced into it by injuries. The only way I see Sanders being iffy to make the roster is if he continues to be just average as a punt returner. That's his forte and that's why the Jaguars drafted him. The expectation is that he'll have a smaller workload at receiver because of the addition of the two rookies and that should allow him to concentrate more on returning punts.

@ESPNdirocco: The pass rush should be significantly better with the additions of Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood and Dekoda Watson. When healthy, Clemons is a double-digit sack guy even at 32 years old. Hood returns to his natural spot as a three-technique defensive tackle and that should boost the interior rush significantly. Watson is playing the new otto position, which replaces the strongside linebacker and includes some pass-rush duties. Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised Andre Branch throughout OTAs and the 34-year-old Jason Babin should be more effective by playing less snaps. The Jaguars had 31 sacks last season and it'd be a surprise to me if they didn't top 40 in 2014.

@ESPNdirocco: There is no date. Blackmon has to petition the NFL to be reinstated and then it's up to commissioner Roger Goodell to determine what additional punishment -- whether it's a further suspension or a fine -- he would face. 

Got questions about the Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It wasn’t a spectacular debut, but that’s not important. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons being on the field was significant enough.

Clemons made his Jaguars' debut on Monday after missing the first week of the team’s organized team activities while dealing with family issues. Despite being familiar with the defensive scheme because of his time with Jaguars coach Gus Bradley in Seattle, Clemons eased into the rotation and drills as he got acclimated to his new surroundings and teammates.

[+] EnlargeChris Clemons
John Raoux/AP PhotoThe Jaguars beefed up their defensive line with veteran additions like end Chris Clemons.
"It was pretty much what I expected," Clemons said. "It was great getting out here with the guys and allowing my teammates to get to understand me and me understand them and me watching them work and them watching me work."

Clemons, 32, signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract with the Jaguars in March after being let go in a salary-cap move by Seattle. He is expected to bolster a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the past two seasons. He should take over for Jason Babin as the starter at the leo spot.

Clemons, however, was the only player that didn’t attend any of last week’s OTAs. He and Bradley had several phone conversations during the week, and Clemons assured Bradley he would be here this week.

"Gus has always been great," Clemons said. "He understood that I had family issues. We all have issues that we go through that we can’t control. Me being one of the leaders of my family, I had to step in and take control of that issue, so Gus understood that. We’ve always had that open communication with each other."

Clemons said he has been working out and is in pretty good shape and the fact he’s familiar with the defensive scheme from his time in Seattle has kept him from being too far behind. Now that he’s here, though, he says one of his duties is to help Bradley cultivate an environment similar to what’s happening in Seattle.

"The mindset is the first thing," said Clemons, who has 58 sacks and 13 forced fumbles in his 10 seasons in the NFL. "You want to bring that aggressive mindset here and get the guys to understand that it takes a team effort to win. Not one person won a Super Bowl by themself. So to bring that mindset here and to get everybody on board and be a collective group and to have that unit that once you go out on the field you know what everybody else is doing.

"That’s one of the reasons why being here [at OTAs] is important. The main thing was just getting here and getting that understanding and bringing that focus and that aggressiveness here."

Bradley said Clemons will quickly be accepted by the other players and his absence last week won’t be an issue.

"He will get around them all in the locker room. I know they had their first D-line meeting too and he was in there," Bradley said. "He will mesh around them well. Those guys are true professionals and they will get him caught up on everything. Clemons and I have had extended conversations throughout this time and he came in here, went through all the philosophy and things like that so he had a clear picture. Now it’s just a matter of getting reps for him."

Analyzing McShay mock: Jaguars 

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:15
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, which is now two weeks away. Though the roster has improved since general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley took over in January 2013, there are still a lot of holes to fill.

The top needs remain a quarterback and a pass-rusher, but adding a big-play receiver or elite offensive lineman aren't ridiculous options for the Jaguars with their first pick.

ESPN Insider draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider lists the picks he would make if he were the GM of each team. It's not a projection of what teams will do. McShay makes an interesting choice for the Jaguars.

NFC: East | West | North | SouthAFC: East | West | North | SouthPredictions

Breakdown: If the Jaguars are going to get off to a good start in 2014, they’ll have to do it against some pretty tough competition. They play three of their first four games against teams that made the playoffs last season, including two on the road (Philadelphia to open the season on Sept. 7 and San Diego three weeks later). In fact, the Jaguars play five games against four teams (Indianapolis twice) that made the playoffs last season and four of those games come within the season’s first nine games. In addition to Philadelphia and San Diego, the Jaguars play host to Indianapolis on Sept. 21 (home opener) and play at Cincinnati on Nov. 2. If the Jaguars are going to challenge the .500 mark this season, they can’t afford to play like they did in the first half of the 2013 season when they lost all eight games by double digits.

Complaint department: The Jaguars have just one home game in the season’s first month and play four of their first six games on the road for the second consecutive season. It’s not as bad as it was in 2013, when they played at Oakland and Seattle in Weeks 2-3, but it still robs the team of gaining a little momentum from an attendance boost because of the new scoreboards and amenities at EverBank Field. There’s also a stretch in which the Jaguars don’t play a game at EverBank for nearly a month because of the annual Florida-Georgia game, the game against Dallas in London, a bye week and the Great Jacksonville Agricultural Fair.

Secondary concerns: We’ll quickly get a chance to see how much cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien have improved in their second season and whether the pass rush is any better. The Jaguars start the season by facing a run of pretty darn good quarterbacks in the season’s first five games: Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. The Jaguars finished the 2013 season tied for 25th in pass defense (247.6 yards per game) and tied for last in sacks (31). The addition of defensive end Chris Clemons and linebacker Dekoda Watson, plus a potential high draft pick, should improve the rush.

Strength of schedule: 29th, .453 | Vegas over/under : 4.5

Jaguars Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Dallas, 1 p.m. (in London)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 18, Tennessee, 8:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Houston, 1 p.m.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s nothing wrong with swinging for the fences every once in a while. Sometimes it works and you do hit one into the stands.

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell took a shot with Alex Mack. He didn’t connect because the Cleveland Browns quickly decided to match the Jaguars’ five-year, $42 million ($26 million guaranteed) offer sheet Mack signed earlier on Friday. But it was a heckuva swing.

Caldwell deserves a lot of credit for attempting to steal one of the game’s best offensive linemen away from a Browns team that made a mistake by not using the franchise tag. The contract was structured in a way that was supposed to make it difficult for the Browns to accept by including a clause that allowed Mack to void the deal after two years, but Browns management accepted that risk.

Even though Caldwell was unable to pull it off, it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren’t going to be the last guy picked for the dodgeball game any longer. Owner Shad Khan has made a significant financial contribution to the team’s facilities -- spending $11 million to renovate the weight room and locker room and $20 million to help finance the stadium and scoreboard improvements -- and now he is showing he’s willing to do the same when it comes to improving the roster.

Adding seven free agents, including guard Zane Beadles ($30 million over five years) and defensive linemen Red Bryant ($19.5 million over four years) and Chris Clemons ($17.5 million over four years), was a good indication of that commitment, but his willingness to give Caldwell the green light to pay that much money to land Mack offers even more proof.

Caldwell has steadily improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Taking a shot at Mack was a shrewd gamble that would have accelerated the rebuilding process. It didn’t work, but the Jaguars are no worse than they were before Mack signed the offer sheet.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The next five days are not going to be easy for Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

At any moment, they may find out that the Cleveland Browns have decided to match the offer the Jaguars made to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. That news could come Friday night or they may not find out until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, which is the deadline for the Browns' decision.

Until then, all they can do is wait and hope that the potential contract is structured in a way that will deter the Browns from accepting despite having the significant cap room available (roughly $30 million). ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the contract is for $42 million over five years, including $26 million guaranteed. The contract also allows Mack to void the deal after the first two years and includes clauses that prohibit him from being traded or tagged again.

That deal isn't exactly team friendly, but it's much worse for the Browns than it is the Jaguars -- and for that the fans can thank former general managers Shack Harris and Gene Smith. Caldwell can afford to pay Mack that much guaranteed money because he doesn't have to worry about having to pay big money to re-sign any current Jaguars players within the next three to four years.

None of the players from Harris' final two drafts (2008 and 2009) remain on the roster. Eight of the 26 players that Smith drafted from 2009-12 are still with the team, but none will deserve big contracts. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is gone and receiver Justin Blackmon is currently serving an indefinite suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. A team would be foolish to sign Blackmon to anything but a minimum deal.

With the rookie salary structure keeping signing bonuses and contracts reasonable, the Jaguars will be able to handle Mack's front-loaded contract over the next three seasons. Even if players from the 2013 draft class like safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, left tackle Luke Joeckel or receiver Ace Sanders do become elite players, they are on four-year deals that won't expire until after the 2016 season.

The Jaguars added seven free agents (not counting Mack) but some of those contracts include bonuses tied to playing time and most are front-loaded, especially for older players such as defensive end Chris Clemons and defensive tackle Red Bryant.

So the Jaguars can certainly afford Mack, and if the Browns decline to match the offer the Jaguars will have solidified the left side of their offensive line for at least the next three years until Joeckel' s rookie deal is up after 2016.

Caldwell deserves a lot of credit if he can pull this off, and it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren't going to be last guy picked for the dodge ball game any longer. Caldwell has rapidly improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. This potential Mack signing shows he's not a na´ve, easy mark, either.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Ray Farmer, who is in his first season with the team, certainly didn't handle the Mack situation as deftly as Caldwell. Instead of giving Mack the franchise tag, which guaranteed Mack a salary of $11.6 million in 2014 and meant any team that signed him would have to part with two first-round picks, they used the transition tag. That saved the Browns about $1.5 million in salary in 2014 and they had the right to match any offer that Mack received, but it also meant they wouldn't get any compensation if they didn't.

It was a gamble, and regardless of their decision on Mack they've lost. They either lose one of the best offensive linemen in the game or they agree to a contract that they can afford now but will impact their ability to extend the contracts of some of their other stars, like cornerback Joe Haden, receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Plus, they could get Mack for 2014 and 2015 and lose him with no compensation if he exercises the clause that allows him to void the deal after two seasons.

The Browns may very well decide to match the Jaguars' offer, at which point the Jaguars will be no worse off than they were before Mack signed his offer sheet on Friday. But credit Caldwell for taking a calculated shot, one that could play a significant role in changing the franchise's direction.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft after finishing 4-12 in 2013. The roster needs so much help that the Jaguars could go in various directions with their selection, although the team’s biggest needs are quarterback and pass-rusher.

Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider Insider today, and it’d be tough to argue against his choice.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It would be hard for the Jacksonville Jaguars to blow their first-round draft pick.

General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have so much talent from which to choose at No. 3 that it would be hard to find fault with whatever decision they made. Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson, or any of the three quarterbacks are all good options.

The same applies for the second round as well, especially if the Jaguars are going offense because Caldwell said this is a deep draft for offensive talent.

It's on the third day of the draft, however, where it gets a lot tougher. How the Jaguars perform in Rounds 4-7 will be the key to the success of the draft, Bradley said.

"I think that's where we really have to do well," Bradley said. "The first round, obviously, and the second round you have to do some things there. But this draft will be determined by how well we do in those rounds.

"Example: Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, guys like that can make a big difference there. We focus on all areas, but that's an area that we've got to concentrate on, too."

Sherman (2011) and Chancellor (2010) were both fifth-round picks who developed into key members of the Seattle secondary. That's the kind of result for which the Jaguars are hoping for this year.

They've set themselves up with enough ammunition. Because of trades with Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco, the Jaguars have eight picks in rounds 4-7, including three in fifth round. That should increase their odds of finding at least one player who could develop into a starter.

In reality, though, they're fighting against tradition. Looking back over the past 10 years of fifth-round picks by every NFL team doesn't exactly reveal a lot of success. There are some familiar names -- Sherman, Chancellor, Riley Cooper, Chris Clemons (the defensive back), Rob Ninkovich, and Brent Celek, for example -- but the majority of the picks turned into marginal players at best or were out of the league within a year or two.

The Jaguars haven't had much success with players selected in rounds 4-7 over the past decade, either. They hit on three in 2004 -- receiver Ernest Wilford (fourth), kicker Josh Scobee (fifth) and defensive end Bobby McCray (seventh) -- but since then only five players taken in those round became significant contributors: safety Gerald Sensabaugh (fifth round in 2005), guard Uche Nwaneri (fifth round in 2007), running back Rashad Jennings (seventh round in 2009), receiver Mike Thomas (fourth round in 2009) and receiver Cecil Shorts (fourth round in 2011).

It's too early to tell if any of the players taken in rounds 4-7 the past two seasons will become significant contributors, but it appears the team hit on receiver Ace Sanders (fourth round in 2013).

Bradley said the Jaguars will try to find players in those rounds that fit a specific role. Sanders, for example, was drafted to be the team's punt returner. It's the same approach they used in free agency with linebacker Dekoda Watson, a special teams standout who played situationally on defense with Tampa Bay. The Jaguars project him as a strongside linebacker on first and second downs and a leo on third down.

"For us he was intriguing. We have a spot for him," Bradley said. "We know exactly where we want to play him. That's what can happen [in] the fifth, sixth round. Hey, we really like this guy. We have a spot that he can come in and do some good things."

Find enough of those guys on the third day and Bradley will consider the draft a success.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars coach Gus Bradley knows that people automatically assume he's going to want to sign any Seattle Seahawks player that becomes a free agent or is released.

Especially if they're defensive players. He spent three seasons as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator (2009-12) and helped construct the defense that stymied Peyton Manning's high-scoring offense to win the Super Bowl.

Shanahan
Bradley
And he did sign two players he used to coach during free agency -- defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant -- so that only reinforced the belief.

But he's not going to stop looking at those players, especially if he thinks they can help during the franchise rebuild.

"I think that could be a perception of it and I want to be careful of that," Bradley said. "But if they're good players ... If there's an opportunity for someone that if I have coached, or been a part of coaching, and they've given so much to me and helped our staff as a coaching staff, that in turn if I can have the opportunity to help them, I'm going to look into it. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, that's just how I am."

Bryant and Clemons certainly can help the Jaguars. Bryant, who signed a four-year deal worth $19.5 million, is an upgrade over Tyson Alualu at the run-stuffing defensive end spot. Clemons, who signed a four-year, $17.5 million deal, instantly improves a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the last two seasons.

The Jaguars also had cornerback Walter Thurmond in for a visit, but he instead signed with the New York Giants.

"I think that sometimes as coaches, especially with guys that you brought up, sometimes you can get emotionally involved with guys that you have as coaches but that's not necessarily the best fit for your team," Bradley. "And I think that's where [general manager] Dave [Caldwell] and my conversation has gone and with the other coaches, and so we stay true and we say, ‘Alright, like a Red Bryant. Do you want Red Bryant because it's emotional? You know what you're getting and you like it. Or on tape does he warrant it?"

There's no doubting the signing of Clemons and Bryant was warranted. Thurmond would have been, too, and that's more important.

"I could see that perception [that the Jaguars are signing too many Seattle players]," Bradley said. "But we're looking for all good players and they fit that category."

Free-agency review: Jaguars

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:08
AM ET
Clemons
Most significant signing: The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks the past two seasons, so adding defensive end Chris Clemons, who has 58 career sacks, was a good move. The 32-year-old Clemons had just 4.5 sacks last season after compiling 33.5 from 2010 to 2012, but he was returning from a torn ACL he suffered during the 2012 playoffs. He's a speed rusher, which is something the Jaguars haven't had since Tony Brackens (1996-2003).

Most significant loss: There is still a chance the team can re-sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but it would be surprising at this point because the Jaguars signed Toby Gerhart last week. Jones-Drew is finding that the market for running backs isn't as lucrative as he hoped. The Jaguars aren't likely to re-sign tight end Allen Reisner or defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, but they didn't figure into the team's plans beyond 2013, anyway. Seattle signed receiver Taylor Price, who has missed the past two seasons with a foot injury.

Gerhart
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars needed to pursue a running back because of the uncertainty with Jones-Drew, but signing Gerhart was unexpected. It's a good fit, though, because Gerhart is exactly what the Jaguars wanted. He's young (he turns 27 later this month) and has low mileage (276 carries in five seasons). At 6-foot and 231 pounds, Gerhart is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can give the Jaguars positive yardage on first down. The Jaguars averaged just 3.4 yards per rush on first down last season, the third-lowest total in the league.

What's next: The Jaguars aren't done in free agency. General manager David Caldwell said he'll let the market settle and then go bargain hunting, an approach that worked last year with defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Caldwell would like to add another guard or center, an outside linebacker and a big, physical receiver. Those spots will also likely be addressed in the draft because the Jaguars have 11 picks. Beefing up the defensive line and adding guard Zane Beadles gives the Jaguars flexibility in the draft. They aren't stuck drafting for need.

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