Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Orakpo

Here is the eighth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Linebacker

Who’s on the roster: Russell Allen, Geno Hayes, John Lotulelei, Paul Posluszny, LaRoy Reynolds, Nate Stupar and J.T. Thomas.

Analysis: Posluszny had another great season in 2013 and capped it with a Pro Bowl appearance. He has led the team in tackles every season in Jacksonville and is the team’s best defensive player. His strength is playing the run and he’s not as effective in coverage. Hayes was a solid free-agent signing last season and played through a chronic knee problem that required offseason surgery. He should be completely healthy by the time organized team activities begin in April. The problem is the outside linebackers didn’t make many big plays and the lack of speed also contributed to the team’s trouble with tight ends. Thomas, Stupar, Allen and Lotulelei have been mainly special teams players though Thomas and Lotulelei did get more playing time toward the end of the season.

NFL free agents of interest: Brian Orakpo, Jason Worilds and Mike Neal.

Need meter: 7. The Jaguars have to get faster on defense and it starts with the linebackers. Posluszny is a machine in the middle but they need to upgrade the outside. Orakpo may cost more than they’re willing to spend but Worilds and Neal should have much more reasonable price tags. Expect the Jaguars to drat at leafst one linebacker as well.
Got questions about the Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

Each day this week I’ll provide an answer to a key question facing the Jaguars in the offseason.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s clear that quarterback and pass rush are the Jaguars’ most pressing needs for the 2014 season.

Marks
After that, though, the Jaguars’ priority isn’t as clear. Interior offensive line, outside linebacker, running back, and receiver are all jockeying for the No. 3 spot in general manager David Caldwell’s needs list. Those positions can’t all be addressed in the draft, so the team will look to fill those needs via free agency.

But don’t expect the Jaguars to be involved in a bidding war for big-name free agents. Caldwell said the team still has to fix the foundation before he’s willing to target the upper-echelon free agents. He’s more interested in signing quality starters and depth guys from the middle-tier of free agents.

"Considering where we are right now as an organization, as a team, we’ve got a lot of building to do," Caldwell said. "We’re not just one piece away where we can go get a high-priced player and then feel like we’re just … You’re never going to be one player away, but a lot of teams are really close and feel like, ‘If we just get this one guy at this one position that’s a glaring weakness we can go get them.’

"We did that in Atlanta in our time. We signed Dunta Robinson and traded for Tony Gonzalez and each year we added a high-priced guy but we didn’t add a lot of depth because we had a lot of depth and a good core of starters. Here we’ve got to get a good core of starters before we start to target some difference makers in free agency."

That means players like Alex Mack, Greg Hardy, Brian Orakpo and Michael Johnson aren’t likely to be on the Jaguars’ radar. They are simply going to be too expensive and the Jaguars could add two, or even three, quality players for the same amount of money.

Taking that approach worked for Caldwell last season. He signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year deal and Marks turned in a career season and was rewarded with a new deal in December. The Jaguars also waited a few days after free agency began to start signing players, which is something the team will likely do again next month.

By waiting, the hope is a player’s price tag goes down to a more reasonable number or that a player that is cut to make room for a higher-priced free agent is then available.

The Jaguars will add several free agents next month, especially along the interior of the offensive line, which in my opinion is the biggest need after QB and pass-rusher. The Jaguars need to beef up both guard spots and find another center now that Brad Meester has retired.

They’ll try to address running back and linebacker as well.

But it’ll be through the draft that the Jaguars will make their splashiest additions.

"I firmly believe that you build it through the draft," Caldwell said. "That was our vision, that was our plan coming into this, and we’re going to stick to it."

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