Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnathan Cyprien

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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the position battles to watch during training camp was going to be at free safety, but that may not turn out to be much of a competition after all.

With Josh Evans not participating in organized team activities (OTAs) or this week's mandatory minicamp after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur, Winston Guy has taken advantage of the extra reps and will go into camp as the favorite to be the starter next to strong safety Johnathan Cyprien.

[+] EnlargeWinston Guy
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesWinston Guy is known for his physical play, but he's focusing on being more of a ball hawk.
It's a new role for Guy, who played in just three games as a rookie for Seattle in 2012 and rotated with Evans for much of the second half of the 2013 season after the Jaguars claimed him off waivers on Sept. 1.

"Going into my third season I'm more comfortable with a lot of things," said Guy, who played in 14 games (two starts) and made 24 tackles last season. "I've been in the same defense. I just feel like now it's my time to be able to show what I've got. Gus [Bradley] has given me the opportunity to be able to play and I've just been taking full advantage of it and just going out there every day just to get better."

Bradley liked Guy during the only season the two were in Seattle together -- Bradley was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator from 2009-12 -- and saw him as a player similar to Earl Thomas: a hard-hitting safety with the ability to roam the back end. That allows the Jaguars to play Cyprien closer to the line of scrimmage without worrying about getting beat over the top.

"One of the things that Winston does is he's got good enough instincts where he can go from red line to red line," Bradley said. "Winston has enough range and moxie in the game that we're trying him out at free and we're seeing him handle it. To have a free safety that can do that and provide that physical play, that's what we really need to see right now."

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Guy certainly is physical. He had four big hits last season, three of which drew penalties and one of which resulted in a fine. Guy knocked the ball loose from Houston receiver Andre Johnson and nearly knocked out Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon with a hit on the sideline. That drew a penalty for a hit on a defenseless receiver, but not a fine.

Guy also was penalized for unnecessary roughness for a hit on Indianapolis receiver Da'Rick Rogers. The fine came from his hit to the helmet of Buffalo receiver Marquise Goodwin, which also drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. Guy was fined $9,000 but got it reduced in half on appeal.

Guy said he's still going to be aggressive and take the big hit when he can but is going to be more careful so he won't draw penalties that keep drives alive.

"This year I'll be smarter," he said. "I think now it's that time for me to be a ball hawk, just going after the ball, just thinking about the ball all the time. I feel like I'll take the hit when it's necessary but I'm just trying to think smarter, think more of being a playmaker, being a ball hawk, just being in the right position for me to make the right plays.

"I feel like I'm not going to change my game just because the rule is changing. I might try to put myself in a better situation to minimize a call like that but I've just got to be able to just keep playing aggressive."

That may end up winning him a starting job.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- You’ll have to excuse Marcedes Lewis if he’s a little tired early next week. He’s been burning the candle at both ends – and on both coasts.

The Jaguars’ ninth-year tight end will have made two trips from Jacksonville to Long Beach, California, in six days. The first was to see his younger sister graduate high school and the second will be to conduct his annual football camp. In between he participated in OTAs and will be preparing for next week’s mandatory three-day minicamp.

Lewis
All with the encouragement of coach Gus Bradley.

"Unbelievable," Bradley said of Lewis’ whirlwind week, which began last Saturday when his foundation put on a football camp in Jacksonville for the first time for 350 kids at Lee High School. "These guys are amazing and there are many stories like that."

Lewis flew out to Long Beach to surprise his younger sister, Nikia Withers, at her graduation from Long Beach Polytechnic High School. The ceremony began at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday and Lewis was back on a plane at 10:30 that night.

He arrived in Jacksonville at 9:30 Thursday morning, too late for the team meeting. But that wasn’t an issue because Lewis cleared it with Bradley first and was still able to attend individual meetings before the team hit the practice field at 10:55 a.m.

Lewis will participate in Friday’s final OTA and then take a 3:30 p.m. flight back to Long Beach so he can be there for the Marcedes Lewis Foundation sixth annual free football camp at Long Beach Poly on Saturday. He’s not alone. He said his foundation is flying in the five other tight ends on the Jaguars roster, as well as receivers Ace Sanders and Mike Brown and safety Johnathan Cyprien to help work the camp.

After the camp, which Lewis said will have about 600 participants, he’s having a barbecue at his mother’s house for the volunteers. Then he’s flying back to Jacksonville on Sunday.

He’ll get one day off and then be back on the field Tuesday-Thursday for the team’s minicamp.

"This is a big family so for them to be able to make it possible for me to be able to go home and surprise my sister and then be able to come back and us not miss a beat, it means a lot to me," Lewis said. "They trust me, because it takes trust. Regardless of whether [the OTAs are] mandatory or not, it’s mandatory to me."
Got questions about the Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 
Want to hang out in one of the two new pools that are being constructed at EverBank Field? It's not going to be cheap.

Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union reports that to gain access to the pools fans have to buy a $350 cabana seat ticket. There will be four cabana seat sections with 50 seats in each so there will only be 200 fans allowed to use the pool at each game. Jaguars president Mark Lamping said the team is concentrating on selling the cabana seats to groups.

"One group might buy all 200, another group might buy 50," Lamping said. "We've had companies buy the entire pool for several games."

If the team sells every cabana seat ticket for every home game it will generate $490,000 in revenue.

Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars-related content from around the Web in our Reading the Coverage feature:

CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco lists safety Johnathan Cyprien among his 25 potential breakout players in 2014.

Former Jaguars running back Justin Forsett wrote a piece for The Sporting News in which he talks about fool's gold.

The T-U's Ryan O'Halloran writes that rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is dealing with a learning curve and injured receivers.

Pro Football Focus ranks the rosters in the NFL. The Jaguars are last .

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars begin organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday. While the players are only allowed to wear helmets and are restricted to six hours of work per day it marks the first time the veterans and rookies will be together, so it’s the first chance to get a glimpse at how the team may look in September.

Here are five things to ponder during the 10 OTAs and mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks:

Gerhart
The running back depth chart: Despite the Jaguars' confidence in Toby Gerhart, there is still some doubt among those outside the team over his ability to be a feature back. He has not done it since his days at Stanford, spending the past four seasons backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. The plan is around 20 touches per game, but if he’s not able to handle that workload or be productive, there are not a whole lot of options behind him. Second-year player Jordan Todman, who backed up Maurice Jones-Drew last season and ran for 109 yards in his only start of the season, is the only proven ball carrier behind Gerhart. Denard Robinson has to fix his ball security issues. Seventh-round pick Storm Johnson has quickly become a fan favorite, but he was taken that late for a reason. Moments after drafting him, coach Gus Bradley said Johnson really struggles in pass protection and he also has trouble holding onto the football. After Johnson, it’s undrafted rookies Beau Blankenship and Terrance Cobb.

Who’s No. 5-6? There are four locks to make the team at receiver: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. After that, there’s a wide-open competition for the fifth and sixth spots between Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis, Damian Copeland, Tandon Doss, Allen Hurns and Lamaar Thomas. Doss has more career catches (26) than any of the others, plus he’s got good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds). However, his issue in Baltimore the past three seasons was running routes consistently and drops. He is a solid kick returner and that gives him an advantage over the others. Brown and Taylor were on the roster last season and have valuable experience in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system, but so does Hurns, a former Miami standout who played two seasons under Fisch as the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator.

Henne
Bortles vs. Henne: It’s not really a competition between first-round pick Blake Bortles and veteran Chad Henne at this point, but it will be interesting to see them throwing together. The thing to watch will be the 11-on-11, in which Henne should have a significant advantage. He is completely comfortable in the offense and therefore his throws should be quicker and more decisive. If Bortles looks comparable, that may be a clue the competition in training camp may start off closer than most anticipated.

Joeckel’s return: Luke Joeckel spent only about a quarter at left tackle before suffering a fractured ankle that kept him out for the rest of the 2013 season. He spent all of training camp and the first four weeks at right tackle, so this will essentially be his rookie season at left tackle. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich will at times put four leos on the field on third down, so it’ll be interesting to watch Joeckel match up against some of the pass-rushers. One matchup I’d like to see is Joeckel vs. rookie Chris Smith, who doesn't have prototypical leo size (he’s 6-1) but has long arms and is very quick off the line. The Jaguars want to see Joeckel play the way he did before getting injured against St. Louis when he pretty much stoned Robert Quinn, who went on to record 19 sacks last season.

Safety dance: Johnathan Cyprien is the starting strong safety. That’s set in stone. But the situation at free safety is less certain. Josh Evans (sixth round) and Winston Guy (waiver wire) shared the spot last season, but the Jaguars signed a pair of undrafted rookies -- Craig Loston and Jerome Junior -- to compete with Evans and Guy along with Chris Prosinski, Joe Young and Sherrod Martin. Evans really shouldn’t have been on the field as much as he was last season but was forced into action because of an injury to Dwight Lowery in Week 3. That experience should give him an advantage going into OTAs. This position battle will be one of the more interesting ones to watch throughout training camp and preseason.
If you're making a trip to Las Vegas anytime soon, you might want to put some money on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The LVH sports book has set the Jaguars' over/under victory total at 4.5 and CBSSports.com's Will Brinson is yet another writer who sees it as a no-brainer to take the over.

Here's part of his reasoning:
"... Jacksonville says they'll start Chad Henne over Blake Bortles, but come on. Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson will make an impact on the passing game and Toby Gerhart's a sleeper for 1,000 yards this season. The defense is full of youth and is only getting better with guys like Dwayne Gratz and Johnathan Cyprien. The Jags are a long way from being a Super Bowl contender but they're better than a five-win team next year."

As an added bonus, Brinson throws out a #DUVAL, too.

Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars-related content from around the Web in our Reading the Coverage feature:

SI.com's Chris Burke doesn't believe the Jaguars are blowing smoke when they say the plan is for Bortles to sit his rookie season. He also has the Jaguars 28th in his post-draft power rankings.

Former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, writes The Florida Times-Union's Gene Frenette.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Predictions

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. -- The Jaguars begin offseason conditioning on Wednesday. There is minimal on-field work allowed and only strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field, so there’s not much football coaching going on.

But this is the first look at the 2014 Jaguars. They’ll look a lot different after next month’s draft, but here’s an early look at the offensive depth chart. The offensive depth chart appeared Monday:

Defensive line

Starters: LDE Red Bryant, DT Roy Miller, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, LEO Chris Clemons.

Reserves: DE Tyson Alualu, DE Ryan Davis, DT Ziggy Hood, DT Abry Jones, DT Jordan Miller, DT Drake Nevis, LEO Jason Babin, LEO Andre Branch, LEO Gerald Rivers.

The defensive line got a serious upgrade in free agency with the additions of Bryant, Clemons and Hood, who also can play end. It needed it, especially against the run (29th in the NFL last season). Bryant will be a big help there because he plays the end spot that’s main responsibility is setting the edge and stopping the run. The pass rush is better, too, though both Clemons and Babin are in their 30s and the team will likely draft a pass-rusher -- possibly Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack in the first round -- at some point in the draft. The depth at tackle needs to be addressed, too.

Linebacker

Starters: WLB Geno Hayes, MLB Paul Posluszny, SLB Dekoda Watson.

Reserves: OLB John Lotulelei. OLB LaRoy Reynolds, MLB Nate Stupar, OLB J.T. Thomas.

The signing of Watson didn’t get much attention outside of Jacksonville but it could turn out to be one the team’s best acquisitions of the offseason. He’s going to play strongside linebacker on first and second down and then move to leo on third down to give the Jaguars a chance to get four pass-rushers on the field at one time. Posluszny is a tackling machine and Hayes should be better in 2014 after playing through a knee injury in 2013 and undergoing offseason surgery. The backups were big special-teams contributors.

Cornerback

Starters: LCB Dwayne Gratz, RCB Alan Ball.

Reserves: Will Blackmon, Mike Harris, Jamell Fleming, Jeremy Harris, Demetrius McCray.

Re-signing Blackmon was a good move because he can play either spot as a fill-in starter and also play a nickelback. Plus, he and Ball -- one of the team’s top free-agent signings last year -- have become the leaders of a pretty young group of corners. With the exception of those two players, the other corners have been in the league two or fewer years. Gratz is the player they’re counting on to make a big jump in his second season. Just because the Jaguars are happy with their top four corners doesn’t mean they won’t draft one, though.

Safety

Starters: SS Johnathan Cyprien, FS Josh Evans.

Reserves: Winston Guy, Chris Prosinski, Sherrod Martin, Joe Young.

Coach Gus Bradley said after the season he was surprised at Cyprien’s cover skills and he’s expecting big things from him in his second season. Evans was thrust into a starting role before he was ready last season and really struggled. Guy came on late in the season and the competition between the two for the starting job will be an interesting one to watch.

Jags begin offseason workouts

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
12:00
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars players report on Tuesday for the offseason conditioning program and it’ll be the first time the majority of the players will meet with the free agents the team signed in March.

Though the workouts are voluntary, the Jaguars are expecting 100 percent participation.

ESPN’s Field Yates provides a detailed breakdown of what can and can’t be done during these workouts so I won’t waste any time here recapping that, but there are several questions to consider as the Jaguars begin preparations for the 2014 season.

What’s the top priority this week?

Aside from making sure the players are in shape, it’s the assimilation of the new players and starting to build team chemistry. One of the most surprising things about the 2013 season was the lack of strife and animosity inside the locker room. Despite losing their first eight games by double digits, the players never doubted coach Gus Bradley or tuned out his message. The locker room remained upbeat and positive. Bradley did a good job of establishing the culture and now it's up to the players to maintain that and ensure that new additions fit in.

How are the injured players?

Everyone is progressing well and should be cleared for full participation by the June minicamp. Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel has had about seven months to recover from his fractured ankle so he’s naturally further along than center Mike Brewster, who fractured his ankle in Week 15. Receiver Cecil Shorts (sports hernia), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) are also recovering from offseason surgeries.

Which second-year player could make the biggest jump?

Receiver Ace Sanders, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, and safety Johnathan Cyprien should all be better than they were as rookies, but the player that could make the biggest jump is Joeckel. That’s partly because of his injury situation, which ended his season in Week 5. But it’s also because he’s back at left tackle, his natural position. Joeckel spent all of training camp and the first four weeks at right tackle because Eugene Monroe was the Jaguars’ starting left tackle. When Monroe was traded in Week 5, Joeckel slid over to left tackle. It was evident in the little he played there before his injury that Joeckel was much more comfortable on the left side. He neutralized St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn in the short time he was on the field before getting hurt when someone fell across his leg. Joeckel should make significant strides from where he was before he got hurt.
Fans will get an early look at how much -- or if -- the Jacksonville Jaguars' secondary has improved before the 2014 regular season even begins.

For a few drives, anyway.

The NFL released the preseason schedule Wednesday afternoon, and the Jaguars will face three of the league's top quarterbacks in games 2-4. The Jaguars begin the preseason by playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but follow that with games at Chicago and Detroit before finishing the preseason at home against Atlanta.

That means the Jaguars will face Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in successive weeks. That'll be a good early test for second-year cornerback Dwayne Gratz and second-year safety Johnathan Cyprien, at least until they go to the bench early in the first halves of those games.

Starters usually play into the third quarter in the third preseason game and that means a longer day against Stafford and Johnson. Stafford threw for 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2013. Johnson caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Jaguars are a combined 13-7 in the preseason against the Bucs (6-3), Bears (1-0), Lions (0-1) and Falcons (6-3).

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
8:00
AM ET
Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
ORLANDO -- Fourteen Jacksonville Jaguars received performance-based incentives of more than $100,000, led by rookie safety Josh Evans.

Evans, a sixth-round pick out of Florida in 2013, was thrust into a starting role because Dwight Lowery sustained a concussion in a Week 3 loss to Seattle. Evans was expected to spend the season in a reserve role but instead ended up playing 653 of a possible 1,016 snaps (64.3 percent). That additional playing time earned him $181,381.06 to bring his total compensation for 2013 to $437,205.

Performance-based pay compensates players whose playing time was much higher than what their salary would have paid. Players whose base salaries are very low -- which is usually low-round draft picks and undrafted free agents –--stand to earn the most money under the program.

In addition to Evans, the following players earned more than $100,000: offensive tackle Austin Pasztor ($175,996.58), offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield ($155,588.53), receiver Mike Brown ($142,384.82), cornerback Will Blackmon ($134,617,61), cornerback Alan Ball ($129,120.82), receiver Ace Sanders ($127,592.32), safety Winston Guy ($112,796.88), cornerback Mike Harris ($110,352.63), fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou ($108,097.31), safety Johnathan Cyprien ($108,018.59), receiver Cecil Shorts ($104,795.99), cornerback Demetrius McCray ($104,681.44) and tight end Clay Harbor ($102,227.69).

On the other end of the spectrum was running back Delone Carter, who received $182.17.

Jaguars players received a total of $3.46 million in performance-based pay, which is the league limit for each team. However, the players will not be paid until April 1, 2016.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars re-signing cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal may fly under the radar nationally, but it’s a key move that the team needed to make.

The 29-year-old Blackmon had the best season of his career in 2013, playing in 15 games (eight starts) and making 40 tackles with one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery after signing a one-year contract with the Jaguars days before the final preseason game.

Blackmon
Blackmon
But it’s more than what he did on the field that makes him valuable. Coach Gus Bradley consistently praised Blackmon for his leadership in the meeting room and presence in the locker room. That’s important because seven of the 10 defensive backs on the roster have two or fewer years of experience.

Cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray were rookies in 2013. So were safeties Josh Evans and Johnathan Cyprien. Cornerbacks Mike Harris and Jamell Fleming and safety Winston Guy are entering their third seasons. Safety Chris Prosinski is entering his fourth.

Blackmon is entering his eighth season and cornerback Alan Ball, who signed last March, is entering his seventh.

Blackmon helped Gratz handle missing five games after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Evans was forced to play much more than anticipated after a concussion to Dwight Lowery and Blackmon helped him learn on the fly.

Blackmon may end up not being on the field as much in 2014, especially if the Jaguars sign cornerback Walter Thurmond, but it’s still a valuable signing.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider