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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Jags filling needs for more draft flexibility

By Michael DiRocco

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars were one of the league's more active teams in the first 24 hours of free agency, signing three new players and re-signing a key player in the secondary.

In the case of guard Zane Beadles, running back Toby Gerhart and linebacker Dekoda Watson, each fills an immediate need. That was what general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley had hoped to accomplish entering the week so they could have more flexibility in their approach in the draft.

Beadles, who will start alongside left tackle Luke Joeckel, is the first piece in the Jaguars' effort to rebuild the interior of the offensive line. Gerhart replaces Maurice Jones-Drew as the Jaguars' top back and Watson bolsters a pass rush that was among the league's worst the past two seasons.

"I think we've been active in looking at guys that can fulfill a role for us, but I don't think we've gone crazy," Bradley said. "I think Dave has done a good job with that. We're looking at sustaining this so make sure we get the right guys that we feel can help us."

The Jaguars aren't close to being done, either. Cornerback Walter Thurmond, receiver Emmanuel Sanders, defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, and defensive end Willie Young visited the facility on Wednesday. With the exception of Thurmond, each of those players also would fill an immediate need.

The Jaguars are hoping to add another guard or center, a bigger receiver, and more help along the defensive line. Defensive end Chris Clemons, who was released by Seattle earlier on Wednesday, is a possible target as well and he is reportedly going to visit Jacksonville.

Bradley said the Jaguars also plan to let the market stabilize over the next month and bargain shop for additional help. It worked successfully last season when the Jaguars added defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on a one-year deal several weeks after free agency began. Marks had the best season of his career in 2013 and signed a four-year extension in December.

The team put a big emphasis on improving the defense last year, adding eight free agents on that side of the ball before the draft and then drafting five defensive players in April.  This year the Jaguars are hoping to address the offense in free agency, although Bradley said the offensive talent in the draft is pretty strong.

If the Jaguars can add a receiver and at least one more offensive lineman, that will allow them to be more flexible in the draft. If they don't have to grab players at those spots in the higher rounds they can add an additional pass-rusher, a quarterback, a tight end, or a linebacker.

"I think we want to try to stay away from [having to draft for need] and fill in enough voids through free agency so we truly can stay with [drafting] the best available [player]," Bradley said.