AFC South: Justin Blackmon
@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.
On the surface, cutting Blackmon seems like the logical move. He has already violated the league’s substance-abuse policy three times and is another failed test away from possibly losing his career. He has maintained minimal contact with the organization, and GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley know very little of Blackmon’s progress.
It seems best to just cut bait, wish him well, and go in another direction.
But the Jaguars won’t do it, even though it’s possible Blackmon might not play at all this season, because there is not much benefit -- financially or on the field --- to doing so.
Blackmon is not taking up a roster spot, and the team doesn’t have to pay his salary while he is suspended. He doesn’t count against the salary cap, either, so there is no monetary reason to let him go. Plus, if the Jaguars release him they might not be able to recoup some of the $11.9 million in bonus money they paid Blackmon when he signed his contract after being the fifth overall selection in 2012.
The clock has stopped on Blackmon’s contract. It will start again if he is reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meaning the Jaguars will have him under contract for three more seasons at a pretty reasonable salary. He was to make $289,745 in 2013, and though his salary jumps to $2.07 million and $2.91 million in the last two years, thatis still economical for a player with his ability.
That is another reason the Jaguars don’t want to part with the former Oklahoma State standout. When he has been on the field he has been pretty darn good. He has 93 receptions for 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in just 20 games, including 29 catches for 415 yards and one touchdown in four games last season.
The Jaguars would rather not see that kind of talent end up with a division rival, which would be a risk if they cut him.
If Blackmon returns to the field to join Shorts and Ace Sanders and the two rookie receivers the team drafted in the second round last month (Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson) develop as hoped, the Jaguars would have a deep and productive group of receivers. Possibly even one of the better units in the AFC.
Despite his off-field problems, Blackmon is not a bad teammate or a problem in the locker room. He works hard in practice and the weight room. Those things have never been an issue with Blackmon, and management doesn’t anticipate them becoming a problem if he were ever to return.
Keeping Blackmon is a low-risk move that could end up with a high payoff. They could get one of the game’s better young receiver back, but if they don’t, it’s not taking a financial toll on the franchise.
What they did Friday night makes it pretty clear that they're not planning on having him -- period.
The Jaguars took a pair of receivers in the second round of the NFL draft -- Marqise Lee with the 39th pick and traded up to take Allen Robinson with the 61st selection -- and plan on both being in the starting lineup in the season opener alongside Cecil Shorts. They're also going to be the building blocks, along with No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles, of the Jaguars' offense for years to come.
"There's some unknowns there," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said of Blackmon, who has 93 receptions for 1,280 yards in two seasons. "You don't know how it's working out. I just don't want to shut it off. I was hoping that it would be better than maybe where it's going, but we'll see.
"We haven't heard much [from Blackmon], and it doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction. Just like [general manger] Dave [Caldwell] said: 'We can't count on him.'"
Caldwell said he didn't want to address Blackmon's status again since he spoke about it during the Jaguars' pre-draft luncheon, but he did say the team cannot cut Blackmon while he's suspended. When asked if they would cut him when he was reinstated: "If that happens."
By taking Lee and Robinson, though, the message is pretty clear. Caldwell had the 6-foot, 192-pound Lee as the No. 1 receiver on their board and was surprised to see him still available when the second round began. He was worried Lee wouldn't make it to 39 and tried to work out a trade with Houston, which had the first pick.
But Lee kept sliding and the Jaguars quickly snatched him up. Lee has the playmaking ability that the Jaguars receiving corps has lacked on a consistent basis. He caught 248 passes for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons with the Trojans, including 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012.
"He's explosive," Caldwell said. "He can make defenders miss. He's very instinctive. He's got a feel for zones. He can separate in and out of breaks very well. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's a threat to take it to the house.
"He's a playmaker, and we need playmakers."
The 6-3, 220-pound Robinson is the big, physical receiver the Jaguars have lacked for years. He caught 177 passes for 2,479 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. He was the Jaguars' No. 2 receiver, and they traded their third-round pick (70th overall) and a fifth-round pick (150th overall) to San Francisco to get him.
"This is a big target, and big targets are good in this league," Caldwell said.
Especially when you can count on them.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: The Jaguars got their first-round pick some help by taking USC receiver Marqise Lee with the seventh pick of the second round (39th).
My take: Lee was considered a first-round talent but slid into the second round because teams are concerned with the sprained left MCL that he suffered last season, according to multiple reports. Even so, this is a fantastic pick because it addresses the team's biggest need on offense after quarterback. He fits the qualities the Jaguars were searching for in a receiver: size and play-making ability. Lee (6 feet, 195 pounds) had a monster sophomore season (118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 TDs) but he was hurt by his knee injury and poor QB play last season (57 catches, 791 yards). Lee also has experience as a kickoff returner.
The Blackmon factor: The Jaguars needed to make receiver a priority because of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon, the team's first-round pick in 2012. Blackmon is serving an indefinite suspension because of his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy and general manager David Caldwell said last week that the team was not planning on having Blackmon in 2014.
What's next: The Jaguars should continue to address needs on offense in the third round, likely taking an offensive lineman in the third round with the 70th overall selection.
Whether Houston takes Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick or trades with Atlanta -- which seems to be the hot rumor this week -- the former South Carolina standout isn't going to be around when it's time for the Jaguars to make the third overall selection.
So the Jaguars could be left with a pretty tough choice: linebacker Khalil Mack or receiver Sammy Watkins.
A player with 28.5 career sacks and an NCAA-record 16 forced fumbles (Mack) or the most explosive offensive player in the draft who had nearly 1,500 yards receiving last season (Watkins).
For ESPN Insider and draft analyst Todd McShay, it’s not an easy choice. He went with Mack in his latest mock draft , but McShay can make just as strong an argument for Watkins.
"It's a coin flip," McShay said. "It really could go either way.
"I think you've got to have your defensive front and your offensive front taken care of and I think [taking Mack] would [do that]. To me, with two guys of equal grades that would be the difference-maker for me. I would want to have my fronts taken care of, but I would have no problem with Watkins."
What about quarterback? The Jaguars do have a need there because Chad Henne is not the long-term answer. But the consensus among NFL draft experts is that there are four elite players at the top of the draft and none of them are quarterbacks: Clowney, Mack, Watkins and offensive tackle Greg Robinson. Caldwell and Bradley have been adamant that whichever quarterback they draft will not play immediately so it makes little sense to take a quarterback with the No. 3 pick and put him on the bench.
The Jaguars need an immediate impact player and they're guaranteed to get one of the four elite players in the draft. They can add a quarterback in the second round, or later if they choose -- or even next season.
"If you go back to the way Seattle was built -- and I'm not saying that that's what they're necessarily trying to do specifically -- but when Russell Wilson came in they had the vast majority of the pieces of the puzzle figured out," McShay said. "In San Francisco when they brought in Colin Kaepernick they got all the fans pissed off and everyone was booing them when they took two first-round picks and spent them on offensive linemen, but they grinded through drafts and did the right things."
In McShay's view, taking Mack or Watkins is the right thing.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack fits right into Bradley’s defense as a "leo," a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is to rush the passer. The Jaguars certainly need help there after finishing last in the league the past two seasons in sacks (20 in 2012 and 31 last season). But Mack also is athletic enough to drop into coverage and even play in the middle if needed.
"The versatility that he brings, the ability to play on the line, off the line, inside, outside, it makes them a lot more flexible," McShay said. "It would instantly upgrade their pass rush."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Watkins, who caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, gives the Jaguars a big, physical outside target who also happens to be perhaps the most dangerous player in college football since Peter Warrick. He also runs a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.
The Jaguars certainly need a playmaker on offense, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon's situation.
"You think you're going to have a young quarterback that you're trying to develop," McShay said. "Whether he’s going to be playing this year or not remains to be seen, depending on where they take him and what happens in training camp and all that, but regardless you think that next year this time we’ll be talking about a young quarterback for Jacksonville moving forward. To bring in a young receiver like Sammy Watkins, you’d like to have that, to grow old together, if you will.
"I like Cecil Shorts. I like what Ace Sanders did last year, the versatility with Denard Robinson and all that, but Sammy Watkins ends the debate or the concern."
We’ll find out what Caldwell and Bradley think on May 8.
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 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.
To commemorate that milestone, I'm looking back at each draft and giving you the best and worst selections in each round. Today is the first round.
These rankings are based on what the player did with the Jaguars. If they failed to produce with the Jaguars but had success somewhere else -- whether they left as free agents, were cut and caught on somewhere else, or traded -- that's a negative.
I'm expecting some disagreement, which is fine. Your feedback is welcome (click the email link at the bottom), and I'm going to post some of the best comments (read: those without profanity) on April 16.
Here we go ...
Round 1: Best pick
Tom Coughlin selected offensive tackle Tony Boselli with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft and Boselli became one of the cornerstones of the franchise's surprising early success. He went on to make five Pro Bowls and was voted to the All-Pro team three times in his seven-year career with the Jaguars.
Boselli started 12 games as a rookie and all 16 in his second season. By his third season, he was regarded as one of the best tackles in the game. That soon changed into him being regarded as the best tackle in the game. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut short a career that could have ended with Boselli being the first Jaguars player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
RB Fred Taylor (1998) holds Jaguars career records in rushing yards (11,271) and attempts (2,428) and single-game records in yards (234) and attempts (37). He is currently 15th on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
LB Kevin Hardy (1996) ranks fourth on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (28.5) and fourth in team history with 789 tackles. He had 10.5 sacks and was voted to the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl in 1999.
DT John Henderson (2002) is third on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (29), which is a significant achievement for a defensive tackle. He also ranks fifth in team history in tackles (563) and is a two-time Pro Bowler.
Round 1: Worst pick
The Jaguars took receiver R. Jay Soward with the 29th overall pick in 2000. It turned out to be the biggest bust in team history.
Soward eventually admitted that he battled alcohol issues throughout his career and smoked marijuana regularly while he was at USC. That's why his NFL career ended with just 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown, three carries for 28 yards, and 18 punt and kickoff returns.
Soward struggled just getting to practices and meetings on time. Coughlin sent limos to pick Soward up to make sure he made it on time. He was suspended multiple times for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
DE Derrick Harvey (2008) never came close to living up to the hype of being the eighth overall pick. He was an elite pass-rusher at Florida but managed just eight sacks in his three seasons with the Jaguars.
QB Blaine Gabbert (2011) was 5-22 as a starter and threw 22 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions in 28 career games. The No. 10 overall pick also couldn't stay healthy. He missed games because of injuries to his shoulder, forearm (the final six games of the 2012 season), thumb, hamstring, and a cut on his hand. He failed to finish six of his last 10 starts (including preseason) because of those injuries.
WR Justin Blackmon (2012) has already violated the league's substance abuse policy three times in his first two seasons and is currently suspended indefinitely.
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.
But the two have had only minimal contact via text messages because NFL rules prohibit Blackmon from visiting the team's facility while serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
"To be able to sit down and visit with him, that part I miss."
That used to be a regular occurrence. They would sit down each week during the season and have conversations that sometimes lasted more than an hour. Most of those talks had nothing to do with football. But Bradley hasn't had any contact with Blackmon for several weeks.
Bradley had heard that Blackmon was back in Jacksonville and that was confirmed when he heard about Blackmon's early-morning, one-car accident on March 15.
The Jaguars are still unsure of Blackmon's availability for the 2014 season -- he will be able to petition NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the season begins -- and the team is planning on being without him.
The Jaguars already added receiver Tandon Doss in free agency and Bradley said the team will likely draft at least one more receiver.
"It's something that we will address," Bradley said. "We looked at [Emmanuel] Sanders and didn't get him. Somewhere in those 11 picks, yeah, you'll probably see us take a wide receiver. We'll see. We've got to take best available."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes the popular decision isn't the correct decision, and that's the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Chad Henne.
The team needs a franchise quarterback and fans are clamoring for the team to draft Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles and hand over the keys to the offense. The last thing fans want is the status quo at quarterback.
However, that's likely what they're going to get now that Henne and the team have agreed to a two-year extension. General manager David Caldwell has been hinting at it over the past two months. Even if the Jaguars do draft a quarterback, Caldwell said it's unlikely he'll be ready to play right away. Caldwell also said that with another year in the offense, some additional playmakers, and better offensive-line play, Henne could keep the team afloat.
That's a pretty good indication Henne will take the first snap in the 2014 season opener and for a significant length of time after, as well. Possibly even the entire season.
If Caldwell is correct and whichever quarterback the team drafts is not ready to play for the first part of the season or longer -- whether it's one of the big three in the first round or someone else in the second or third round -- then sticking with Henne is the correct decision. He gives the team the best chance to win games in that scenario.
Henne did a solid job under less-than-ideal circumstances last season: He started 13 games and threw for 3,241 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, becoming the first Jaguars quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season since David Garrard in 2009. The 28-year-old Henne led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record in the second half of the season after an 0-8 start, and he had nine TD passes and five interceptions in the final five games.
He did it with a depleted cast, too. He lost his best receiver (Justin Blackmon) to an indefinite suspension, didn't get much from tight end Marcedes Lewis because of a calf injury, and then lost his second-best receiver (Cecil Shorts) for the final three weeks because of a sports hernia.
Henne's signing doesn't guarantee the Jaguars won't take a quarterback in the first round, but the team could choose to address a similarly pressing need by taking a pass-rusher, whether it's Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack.
If the Jaguars do take a quarterback in the second or third round -- which seems a near certainty if they draft a pass-rusher in the first round -- Henne can serve as a mentor to the young quarterback, a role that wouldn't be suited for Blaine Gabbert.
Henne isn't the long-term answer, but he is the team's top option heading into the 2014 season -- popular or not.
Who’s on the roster: Justin Blackmon, Mike Brown, Chad Bumphis, Jeremy Ebert, Stephen Burton, Taylor Price, Denard Robinson, Jabin Sambrano, Ace Sanders, Cecil Shorts, Kerry Taylor, Lamaar Thomas and Stephen Williams.
NFL free agents of interest: Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Brandon Tate and Golden Tate.
Need meter: 5. The Jaguars could get by without adding a receiver in free agency, because it’s likely they’ll draft at least one. The position group needs an upgrade at the top end, but to get a big-time player the Jaguars will have to spend big-time money, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do that on a receiver. Regardless of whether it’s a free agent or a draft pick, it’s likely to be a bigger, more physical receiver, because that’s one thing the Jaguars lack. Burton (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) fits the description, but has just 15 catches in three seasons and battled a concussion much of last season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch and interview prospects at the NFL combine.
Here's a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on offense and some potential targets:
Quarterback: There's no question this is the Jaguars' top need, although pass-rusher is only slightly behind. Caldwell wants to re-sign Chad Henne before free agency begins next month, but Henne is a bridge player or someone who can mentor a young quarterback and begin the season as the starter if the rookie isn't ready. The Jaguars haven't completely given up on Blaine Gabbert, either, but he's entering the final year of his contract and it would be surprising if he were re-signed after 2014.
Potential targets: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray.
Interior offensive line: The Jaguars have to find a center to replace the retired Brad Meester and a left guard to upgrade from Will Rackley. The Jaguars will address this area in free agency as well but the team also wants to add some young talent. The Jaguars appear set at both tackles (Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor) and right guard Uche Nwaneri has two more years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to make $4.775 million in each year, though, and could be a cap casualty after 2014. Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon can play guard and center but neither appears, now anyway, to be the long-term answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the team took an interior offensive lineman in the third round, especially if the Jaguars took a quarterback earlier.
Potential targets: G Gabe Jackson, G David Yankey, G Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, C Weston Richburg, C Russell Bodine.
Potential targets: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk, Dri Archer, Andre Williams.
Receiver: The Jaguars aren't planning on getting anything from Justin Blackmon in 2014 because they don't yet know his status, which is the correct way to approach his situation. Cecil Shorts is entering a contract year but has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Lamar Thomas, and Stephen Burton are complementary players. The Jaguars need to find a bigger, physical receiver. If they do that in free agency, this area drops to the bottom of the offensive needs list.
Potential targets: Josh Huff, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams.
Tight end: Marcedes Lewis came on strong at the end of the season and he should be a 50-catch player in Jedd Fisch's offense if he stays healthy. After Lewis, though, there isn't much. Clay Harbor is a flex tight end but he's a free agent and the Jaguars will have to decide if they want to re-sign him. Danny Noble is raw and needs more work. The Jaguars want a bigger tight end who can line up next to Lewis in two-tight-end formations.
Potential targets: Marcel Jensen, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Crockett Gilmore, Jake Murphy.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are projected to be roughly $50 million under the salary cap in 2014, so GM David Caldwell doesn't have to worry about re-negotiating any deals or cutting high-priced players to fit under the cap.
Posluszny is scheduled to count $9.5 million against the cap in 2014. Though he has been the Jaguars' best defensive player since he signed a six-year deal with the team in 2011 and is coming off his first Pro Bowl, that's a pretty significant cap number for a middle linebacker. In fact, he'll be the Jaguars' highest-paid player in 2014.
That's not much of an issue now because the Jaguars don't have a high-paid quarterback, receiver or defensive back to worry about within the next few years. But Posluszny will count $9.5 million against the cap in 2015 and $7.5 million against the cap in 2016 and those are numbers that are too high and it's likely the team will try to re-work the deal at some point after 2014.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis will be the Jaguars' second-highest paid player in 2014 with a cap number of $8.35 million. It appeared during the 2013 season that Lewis would be a cap casualty because he missed nearly six full games with a calf injury and really didn't make much of an impact in the passing game when he did return. But he was certainly a weapon over the final five games, catching 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch got Lewis more involved over the final five weeks and with a full season in the lineup Lewis could reach 50 catches in 2014.
Even so, it'd be a surprise if Lewis were back in 2015 because he is scheduled to count $8.3 million against the cap and that's a lot of money to invest in a tight end not named Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski.
Other players with high cap numbers in 2014 are defensive end Jason Babin ($6.175 million), right guard Uche Nwaneri ($5.894 million) and receiver Justin Blackmon ($5.048 million). Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he's making elite defensive end money and he's not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA.
It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract.
Blackmon is under an indefinite suspension and won't count against the cap unless he is reinstated. He can apply to commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the 2014 season begins.
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and suspended receiver Justin Blackmon probably top the list, but neither has taken it to the level that Richard Sherman did last Sunday. They yip at opponents during games but leave it on the field.
And that’s just the way Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants it. A little dialogue on the field is fine during the game, but nothing dramatic or outrageous that puts someone in the spotlight because of what he said. No public feuds, bulletin board material or boasts allowed.
"I think that generally we talk about really focus on the team and try to keep the attention on the team, but we understand things like that can happen," Bradley said. "It’s a heated moment and sometimes it can happen. As quickly as possible we want to bring it back to the team."
The Jaguars haven’t had any instances of out-in-the-open trash talking under Bradley, which isn’t surprising considering the team lost its first eight games by double digits and finished 4-12 in 2013. The closest thing you could find is defensive end Jason Babin tackling Arizona running back Andre Ellington by his dreadlocks and ending up with a handful of hair from Ellington’s head.
Babin downplayed the incident after the game.
"Seems like everyone’s making a big deal about it," Babin said. "But it’s just one of the plays in the football game."
The Jaguars have done some in-house trash talking, though. Marks recovered a fumble against Cleveland and appeared headed for his first career touchdown when he was caught from behind by Browns guard John Greco. Marks’ teammates really let him have it for getting run down by an offensive lineman.
But Marks didn’t mind and even admitted he deserved it.
Breakdown of starts: Cecil Shorts (13), Mike Brown (6), Justin Blackmon (4), Ace Sanders (4), Kerry Taylor (4), Stephen Burton (2).
Shorts still led the team with 66 catches for 777 yards and three touchdowns despite battling shoulder and groin injuries throughout the season. He struggled in the role as the team’s No. 1 receiver when Blackmon was suspended for the first four games but handled it much better during Blackmon’s second suspension.
He was the only other proven receiver on the roster when the season began but fourth-round draft pick Ace Sanders and first-year player Mike Brown developed into solid complementary receivers. Sanders, drafted mainly to be the team’s punt returner, got more work early because of Blackmon’s suspension and a back injury that kept Brown off the field for four of the first five weeks. His 51 catches were the third-highest among rookie receivers this season.
Brown (32 catches, 446 yards, 2 touchdowns) had the best per-catch average (13.9 yards) among the Jaguars’ wide receivers. He was impressive in his return to the lineup after a four-week absence due to a broken vertebra, catching five passes for 120 yards in his second game back, making him the only receiver beside Blackmon to have a 100-yard receiving game.
Taylor was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. He was signed Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.
Looking ahead to 2014
Players under contract: Blackmon, Shorts, Burton, Sanders, Brown, Taylor, Stephen Williams, Jeremy Ebert, Lamaar Thomas, Chad Bumphis, Jabin Sambrano.
The skinny: Shorts will be in the final year of his contract so he’ll have that as some added motivation to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Sanders, Brown and Taylor will go into camp as the Nos. 2-4 receivers and should be improved in their second season in the offense.
The wildcard is Blackmon. He can apply for reinstatement before the season begins. If he is reinstated, the Jaguars have to decide whether to cut or keep him, knowing that if they do keep him they run the risk of him failing another drug test and being suspended again.
It’s likely the Jaguars also will draft a receiver or try to add one in free agency. It’s also likely that whoever they add will be a bigger, physical receiver, which is something they do not have on the roster. They need a receiver that can go up and win the 50-50 battles for balls, especially in the red zone. Right now tight end Marcedes Lewis is the only player on the roster who has proven he can do that.