Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Wendell

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars certainly have been busy in free agency, though things calmed down over the weekend.

General manager David Caldwell has signed five new players, brought back two others, and signed quarterback Chad Henne to an extension. But Caldwell said last week he’s not done yet.

Here are some areas which still warrant his attention:

Center: If training camp started today the Jaguars would be working Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and a drafted rookie at center. That’s not ideal, since Brewster and McClendon have not played a snap at center as pros. The Jaguars need to upgrade here but there aren’t many option available, with the best being Rich Ohrnberger, Brian De La Puente, Ryan Wendell and Mike Gibson. If the Jaguars don’t feel good about any of those players then center becomes a bigger priority in the draft. The player to watch there is Arkansas’ Travis Swanson, who is a player the Jaguars liked at the Senior Bowl.

Guard: The Jaguars signed Zane Beadles on the first day of free agency but they still need another starter because Will Rackley was unable to seize the job last season. Like center, there are slim pickings at guard, with John Jerry, Paul McQuistan (hey, another Seahawks player!), Wade Smith and Davin Joseph topping the list. Expect the Jaguars to draft a guard even if they do add one in free agency.

Receiver: The Jaguars brought in Emmanuel Sanders for a visit, but he ended up signing (after a lot of drama) with Denver. It’s not a big whiff because he doesn’t give the Jaguars anything more than they already have in terms of style of receiver. The Jaguars need a bigger, physical receiver, but there aren’t many of those available, either. One possibility is Sidney Rice (6-foot-4, 202 pounds). He’s had injury issues the last several years and is coming off a torn ACL so he won’t cost a lot of money. If he gets healthy he’s a 50-catch receiver the Jaguars got cheap. If not and he’s cut, it’s not a wasted investment.

Outside linebacker: Signing Dekoda Watson could be one of those under-the-radar moves that people around the league are praising in October. He’s going to play strongside linebacker on first and second down and leo on third down. He instantly upgrades the linebacker spot with his speed, which is something the defense desperately needs. Other than Geno Hayes, the Jaguars’ other outside linebackers are below average. The Jaguars need to continue to upgrade this spot both in free agency and the draft.
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Free-agency primer: Jaguars

March, 7, 2014
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Key free agents: QB Chad Henne, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, CB Will Blackmon.

Where they stand: The Jaguars’ priority is re-signing Henne, ideally before he hits the open market at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Henne has said he wants to return, and GM David Caldwell has said that re-signing Henne, improving the offensive line and adding a few weapons would help keep the offense afloat -- which seems to indicate the Jaguars are leaning toward not taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft if they re-sign Henne. Caldwell said Jones-Drew has earned the right to test the market. The Jaguars would like to bring him back, but Jones-Drew is looking for a longer contract for more money than the Jaguars are willing to offer. Blackmon was a surprise in 2013, and the Jaguars want the veteran back.

What to expect: Interior offensive line is the biggest need in free agency after the release of Uche Nwaneri earlier this week. The center pool isn’t as deep as hoped, but expect the Jaguars to target players such as Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Ryan Wendell. Cleveland put the transition tag on Alex Mack, so the Jaguars also could make a run at him but run the risk of the Browns matching the offer. There are more options at guard, and the Jaguars will target several players here, possibly Geoff Schwartz, Zane Beadles and Shelley Smith. The Jaguars also will try to find help at outside linebacker, running back and receiver.
The Jaguars’ release of right guard Uche Nwaneri on Tuesday gives a clear indication of their plan of attack in free agency.

Nwaneri
Center and guard will sit atop general manager David Caldwell’s list when the signing period begins on March 11. Nwaneri’s release and Brad Meester’s retirement mean the Jaguars have to find a new starter at each spot, and Caldwell would like to add at least another guard to make a significant upgrade to the interior of the line.

The Jaguars weren’t exactly hurting for salary-cap space, but releasing Nwaneri saves the team about $3.7 million in cap space for 2014. That gives them approximately $60 million to spend, and a good chunk of it will be devoted to the interior of the offensive line. That is the team's biggest need after quarterback and pass-rusher. The group struggled early last season with the transition to a zone-blocking scheme, and the Jaguars eventually mixed back in some man-blocking schemes.

The strength of a team’s running game comes from the center and two guards, and those spots for Jacksonville weren’t very productive in 2013. The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in rushing (78.8 yards per game), and running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s 3.4 yards per carry average was the worst of his career. Meester was in his 14th season and didn't play at the same level he had the past several seasons. Nwaneri played through torn cartilage in his knee in 2012 and dealt with the lingering effects from the injury in 2013. Starting right guard Will Rackley battled a knee injury throughout the 2013 season.

The Jaguars were thought to be going to make a run at Cleveland center Alex Mack, but the Browns placed the transition tag on him earlier this week. The Jaguars could still offer him a contract, but the Browns have five days to match the offer.

Other possibilities at center include New England’s Ryan Wendell and New Orleans’ Brian De La Puente. Possible targets at guard include Kansas City’s Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz and San Diego’s Rich Ohrnberger.

The Jaguars drafted Nwaneri in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, and he played in 104 games with 92 starts. He started and played every snap in 2013.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of work to do this offseason as outlined in ESPN Insiders' Offseason Blueprint Insider, which examines each team's priorities, lineups, draft and free agency targets, cap situation and more.

Caldwell said he wants to address the interior of the offensive line and the defensive line in free agency, and the Blueprint breaks down several players worth pursing.

Center Ryan Wendell would be a good addition because he anchored a New England offensive line that ranked third in the NFL in 2013 in rushing yards between the tackles and won't have a high price tag. Guard Zane Beadles allowed just 1.5 sacks in 2013 and also can play center and tackle.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was an overlooked aspect of Seattle's physical defense and would be a good addition to a tackle rotation that has little depth.

Free-agency series: Offensive line

February, 28, 2014
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Here is the fifth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Offensive line

Who is on the roster: OT Cameron Bradfield, G/C Mike Brewster, OT Luke Joeckel, C Patrick Lewis, OT DeMarcus Love, G Jacques McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, G Drew Nowak, G Uche Nwaneri, OT Austin Pasztor, G Will Rackley, and OT Sam Young.

Joeckel
Analysis: Injuries hurt the unit early in the season and really impacted it late. The group struggled in the transition to a zone-blocking scheme early in the season as well, which is why the Jaguars finished the first eight games last in the NFL in rushing. Joeckel, whom the Jaguars took with the No. 2 overall pick, spent the first four weeks of the season at right tackle before moving to his natural spot at left tackle following the trade of Eugene Monroe. He played less than a quarter against St. Louis before suffering a fractured ankle, but he was handling Robert Quinn (who finished with 19.0 sacks) pretty well before he got hurt. His injury forced Bradfield and Pasztor into the lineup, and Pasztor played surprisingly well. The team is encouraged by his potential. The biggest issue is the interior of the line. Brad Meester retired, so the Jaguars need a center. Nwaneri was solid at right guard, but left guard was an issue because Rackley played hurt all season and the Jaguars could never generate much push in the middle of the line.

NFL free agents of interest: C Alex Mack, C Ryan Wendell, C Brian De La Puenta, G Jon Asamoah, G Geoff Schwartz, and G Rich Ohrnberger.

Need meter: 9. After quarterback and leo, the interior of the offensive line is the Jaguars’ biggest need. GM David Caldwell has said the team would like to address that in free agency, and it would be a surprise if the Jaguars didn’t sign at least two starters, including a center, within the first few weeks of free agency. It’s unlikely the Jaguars would target the big names that are available, mainly because of cost, but if those players linger on the market and the price drops, the Jaguars would get involved. Even though Joeckel is talented and seemed to thrive in the very limited time he spent at left tackle, there are still questions about him, so the Jaguars might opt to add some experienced depth at tackle. Competition for roster spots on the line will be among the more interesting training camp battles.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
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Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Thursday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are committed to upgrading the interior of the offensive line, whether that's through free agency or the draft -- or possibly even both.

The biggest need is center since Brad Meester has retired after 14 seasons. The Jaguars could opt to enter the bidding war for free agent Alex Mack, sign a cheaper option (like Ryan Wendell, for example), or try out current players Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon. Uche Nwaneri should return at right guard, but the team needs to improve at left guard.

If the Jaguars do address those spots in the draft, three potential targets are players that Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl said caught his eye during film study over the past several weeks: USC center Marcus Martin, North Carolina center/guard Russell Bodine, and LSU guard Trai Turner. Weidel breaks each player down in the latest Who We're Watching post on ESPN's NFL Draft blog.

One thing that stood out from reading Weidl's breakdowns: All three players have a bit of a nasty attitude on the field, which is an often overlooked trait.

You can read Weidl's complete blog hereInsider.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Thursday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Just because the Jaguars aren't playing in the conference championship games on Sunday doesn't mean general manager David Caldwell won't be watching either game.

There may be a few future Jaguars on the field.

The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran lists eight players scheduled to become free agents that the Jaguars could target, including New England running back LeGarrette Blount and center Ryan Wendell and Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett.

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

ESPN.com Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky breaks down the Titans' hiring of Ken Whisenhunt as their new head coach. Kuharsky writes that it may be a very good hire if Whisenhunt solves the issues he had during his short stint as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach.

Some items from this blog: The replacement for center Brad Meester may already be on the roster and reviewing the play of the defensive ends.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are going to spend the next 7 1/2 months trying to do something they haven't had to do in 14 years: Find a center.

Brad Meester was an ironman throughout his 14-year career with the Jaguars, starting and playing in a franchise-record 209 games. He was a sure a thing as you can have in football, which is why the Jaguars never invested much effort throughout his career to find another center.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Brad Meester
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThe Jaguars may find a replacement for newly retired center Brad Meester on their current roster.
Since Meester was drafted in 2000, the Jaguars drafted only one other player with the intention of giving him a look at center: Will Rackley, who played guard and tackle at Lehigh. They signed nine other free agents, including undrafted free agent Mike Brewster, who was a center at Ohio State but has been a guard with the Jaguars.

There are 19 centers who are scheduled to be free agents this offseason, with the top of the class being Cleveland's Alex Mack. New England's Ryan Wendell and Denver's Dan Koppen are also big names that could be available. It'd be a bit surprising if the Jaguars went the pricey route and signed Mack, who made $3.832 million this season and will likely be asking for $4-plus million a year.

A cheaper alternative -- and one that seems the most likely right now -- would be to look on the roster to see if there's a replacement. The Jaguars have options. They could move Brewster, Rackley or guard Jacques McClendon to center. They also recently signed Matt Stankiewitch, a former Penn State standout who signed as an undrafted free agent with New England last summer, was waived in the final cuts of training camp, and spent the 2013 season out of football.

McClendon played in three games and started two others at guard this season, but he also played one snap at center when Meester moved outside and caught a pass in his final home game.

"Gus and I kind of talked about a little bit of a quick wish list," GM David Caldwell said. "I said obviously we can't fill all of our needs through free agency and through the draft but we can we fill our needs with with people that are here right now and who will anticipate filling that center role, right guard, role, or left guard role, or whatever it might be.

"I think we need to really sit down with our coaches and say, ‘Who can we fill this need with this year?' Let's use our resources, whether it's a draft pick or free agency, to go fill another need that's more of a pressing issue."

The more pressing issues are quarterback, pass-rusher, outside linebacker, and receiver. The Jaguars are unlikely to address the quarterback situation in free agency other than to re-sign Chad Henne.

Finding a center may be something the Jaguars haven't done in a while, but the solution may already be on the roster.

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