Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Blackmon

Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.

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.


These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are off until they have to report for training camp July 24. For some, the break will be relaxing. For others, there's probably a little bit of anxiety. Maybe they didn't perform well in OTAs or minicamp, or because of the development of other players they know they're going to be on the bubble in August. They may not necessarily be front-line players, but they've played key roles in the past. Each day this week I'll take a quick look at one of those players who's going to have a lot to prove in camp.

CB Mike Harris

Why he'll make the team: After Alan Ball (86 games) and Will Blackmon (58 games), no Jaguars cornerback has played in more games than Harris (31). That experience makes him a valuable contributor to the secondary, which for the most part is stocked with younger talent. He also is a valuable special teams player, having blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown as a rookie in 2012 and making three tackles on special teams last season. Blackmon has experience both outside and inside, where he has lined up against slot receivers. That's valuable versatility.

Why he should be worried: Harris, who was a sixth-round pick by Gene Smith in 2012, doesn't exactly fit the prototype of what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks: long and physical. Harris is 5-feet-10, which isn't small, but he is the shortest cornerback on the roster. He doesn't have particularly long arms, either (32 1/4 inches). While not getting bogged down too much in measurable, consider this: There are guys who play bigger than their size, but Harris isn't one of them. Plus, the Jaguars have been impressed with Demetrius McCray (6-0, 185), the team's seventh-round pick in 2013. He has been working with the second unit.

The bottom line: It'll be interesting to see how much playing time Harris gets during training camp, but it appears the Jaguars want to get Blackmon into the nickelback role. McCray appears to be headed up the depth chart, too. Harris' ability to play inside can't be overlooked, but he's going to have to hold off several players to keep his job.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are some observations from Day 2 of the Jacksonville Jaguars' mandatory three-day minicamp:

Wide receiver Allen Hurns, an undrafted free agent from Miami, has really benefited from the extended playing time he has gotten because of the injuries at receiver. At one point seven receivers were out, and though Mike Brown and Ace Sanders have returned Hurns continues to get reps with the first-team offense. "Allen Hurns has really caught our eye [as] a guy that can play multiple positions [at receiver]," coach Gus Bradley said Wednesday. "We'll see how he handles it when we put the pads on." Hurns made a couple of nice catches during 11-on-11 drills. He's intriguing because of his size (6-foot-3, 196 pounds), which would make him the team's second-biggest receiver behind Allen Robinson (6-3, 210) if he were to make the 53-man roster.

Cornerback Will Blackmon had an interception and deflected another pass during 11-on-11 drills. The Jaguars are trying him out inside on the slot receiver, which is a bit of an adjustment for Blackmon. He mainly played outside last season. "He is doing a good job in there," Bradley said. "There is a lot of communication that takes place there, and that is one of Will's strengths. He is a really good communicator and has a really good idea of what is asked of him in each of our coverages." Blackmon was one of the Jaguars' better signings last season. He was signed as a free agent on Aug. 28 and ended up starting eight games, making 40 tackles, intercepting one pass, and breaking up 10 others.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been solid during the first two days of minicamp. Though he has been getting reps with the third unit he has out-performed rookie Blake Bortles. He had a long touchdown run on Tuesday and looks comfortable in his second season in the offense. It'll be interesting to see what the Jaguars do with Stanzi. General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, but Stanzi isn't eligible to be on the practice squad so he'd have to be on the active roster, meaning the Jaguars would have to carry one less at another position. If the Jaguars choose not to keep Stanzi, that would mean Bortles would be Chad Henne's top backup. But if he's not ready the Jaguars would be taking a risk because he'd have to play if Henne were hurt.

First-year tight end Brandon Barden made nice catches on back-to-back plays, snagging a low throw by Bortles and catching a pass that was behind him near the sideline. Barden, whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers from Tennessee last November, is fighting to be the Jaguars' third tight end behind Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor. Barden, who finished second among tight ends in Vanderbilt history with 107 catches, is a flex tight end and doesn't give the Jaguars much as a blocker.
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.


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.


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.


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.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't land a center or a proven receiver in free agency, but they still had a better haul than most of the teams in the NFL.

In addition to re-signing quarterback Chad Henne, cornerback Will Blackmon and defensive end Jason Babin, the Jaguars signed seven new players -- highlighted by defensive end Chris Clemons, guard Zane Beadles, and running back Toby Gerhart. NFL Insiders Mike Sando, Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson and Field Yates were impressed with what general manager David Caldwell did and gave the Jaguars a B-plus.

Their evaluation was based on the Jaguars adding quality starters at reasonable cost and making sure the players they signed are ideal fits for their schemes.

"The Jaguars got solid role players at good prices, and they needed guys who were at least professional," Polian said. "They did not have many. They added seven professional guys at great prices. That is good. And they got rid of [Blaine] Gabbert."

Check out what else they wrote about the Jaguars Insider as well as how they graded the rest of the teams.
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.
Gus Bradley Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJaguars coach Gus Bradley's enthusiastic approach to his job is attractive to prospective players.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- NFL free agency isn’t quite like college recruiting. Sure, in many places facilities are pretty similar, the possibility of playing time plays a role, and it can be a lifelong dream for a player to join a certain team.

But in the NFL, money is often the No. 1 factor -- and in some cases the only factor -- when a player makes his decision on where to sign.

However, it appears there is the beginning of a twist involved in the Jaguars’ pitch to free agents. Something in addition to the $11 million in upgrades to the weight room and locker room and the plethora of holes in the roster.

Coach Gus Bradley is quickly becoming a crucial part of the draw players are feeling toward the franchise.

Money and fit in a team’s scheme are still the most significant factors for free agents, but Bradley is beginning to gain a reputation around the league as a coach who is good to play for. More importantly, he is becoming known as a coach who is fun to play for.

When multiple offers are relatively equal, something has to serve as the tiebreaker. If what happened during the first days of free agency last week is an indication, it’s Bradley in Jacksonville.

"As soon as you meet him, he is already a likable person," said cornerback Will Blackmon, who joined the Jaguars in August on a one-year deal and re-signed last week. "That’s what’s really cool about all the competitive players that are coming here. They don’t have to come here. Usually teams are like, ‘Oh, Jacksonville didn't do well.’ But once they come here and they see the environment and they see what they’re about, they’re real attracted to it."

Owner Shad Khan and general manager David Caldwell created the environment, but Bradley is the public face. He’s the one who is showing visiting free agents a PowerPoint presentation. He’s the one spewing energy like mud off a tractor tire. He’s the one who had at least one visitor ready to put on his pads and hit the field after only a few minutes.

That was running back Toby Gerhart, who chose the Jaguars over Cleveland and San Francisco, which is led by Gerhart’s college coach Jim Harbaugh.

"I’ve never seen in anything like that," Gerhart said. "Meeting Gus, it was unlike anything I’ve … I walked away, and I was like, ‘Yes, I belong here.’ I actually was going away coming out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?' He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better and the positive, prosperity and adversity. All this stuff he talked about in a quick 10 minutes. I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write some of this stuff down.’

"I was enlightened and fired up and extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. I can see why everybody spoke so highly, and you can tell things are going to get going and you’re going to want to jump on this train."

Gerhart was blown away even though he knew what to expect before his visit. He’s a former roommate of tight end Allen Reisner, who spent the 2013 season with the Jaguars, so he called him. Gerhart also talked to Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who also is represented by Athletes First.

"[Henne] said, ‘Trust me, there’s something about this program,’" Gerhart said. "Coach Bradley, there’s something special that’s going to happen."

Gerhart could have been the No. 1 back in Cleveland or gone to a San Francisco team that has played in three NFC Championship Games in a row, but he chose Jacksonville in large part because of his experience with Bradley. Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and his representatives had contact with Washington, Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City, but he chose the Jaguars. Being able to move back to his natural position at defensive tackle from defensive end, which he played in Pittsburgh, was the main reason, but Bradley also was a major factor.

"The first time I met Coach Bradley, his energy was high," Hood said. "It was different. This guy has energy. He was bouncing from wall to wall. He was from room to room, side to side."

If most NFL coaches are like poetry readings, Bradley is a monster truck rally.

But perhaps most importantly from a player’s perspective is that he’s a monster truck rally every day.

Players function best when things are consistent. They liked Bradley’s message, the way he treated them on the field and in the locker room, and his positive attitude during organized team activities, minicamp and training camp, but they wondered how it would be during the season. They especially wondered how it would be when they were 0-4.

Nothing changed. Not even when the Jaguars were 0-8.

That’s what Reisner, Henne and other Jaguars players told colleagues around the league. Not only will Bradley let you be who you are and allow you to have fun, but he’s also going to be the same person every single day.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Jaguars will land every free agent they target. Walter Thurmond and Emmanuel Sanders visited last week and signed elsewhere. Not everybody fits the system, and not everybody is willing to come to a small-market team that has won just 11 games in the past three seasons.

But playing for Bradley was a pull for several players this year, and that number may grow as his reputation quickly spreads throughout the league.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

March, 15, 2014
Mar 15
Got questions about the Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

Toby Gerhart was naturally excited when he got the phone call that he was drafted. He was a bit surprised, though, when it was the Minnesota Vikings and not the Houston Texans, the team his agent had assured him had the most interest.

That surprise, though, is one of the reasons he's now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gerhart spent the first four seasons of his career as Adrian Peterson's backup, which meant he didn't get much playing time: only 276 carries. That low mileage is one the things that made him attractive to the Jaguars as a free-agent replacement for Maurice Jones-Drew, writes the Florida Times-Union's Vito Stellino.

"I'm super excited," Gerhart said. "It's a chance to show what I can do."

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

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks examines why Blaine Gabbert failed in Jacksonville and whether he can resurrect his career in San Francisco.

CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco gives the Jaguars' acquisition of linebacker Dekoda Watson a B-. He also puts out his latest mock draft, which has the Jaguars taking defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

The T-U's Hays Carlyon writes that newly acquired guard Zane Beadles is ready to take on a leadership role along the offensive line. Carlyon also writes that cornerback Will Blackmon is happy to return to a franchise that respects him.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were pretty active on the first day of free agency and first impressions of the moves general manager David Caldwell made are positive.

The Jaguars got the offensive lineman they wanted the most, added depth at running back with a low-mileage player and managed to secure a draft pick in exchange for one of the worst draft picks in franchise history. Not a bad first day at all.

Here are my initial thoughts on the moves the team made Tuesday:

Zane Beadles was the Jaguars' top target at guard and they were able to quickly reach an agreement on a five-year, $30 million contract. Beadles is a good fit because he played in Denver's zone-blocking scheme during his four-year career. The Jaguars' offensive line struggled in the transition to zone blocking last season and eventually mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed. But the plan is to return to more zone blocking in 2014. Beadles will line up at left guard next to Luke Joeckel.

An elite running back isn't mandatory to win in the NFL any longer and most teams are using a committee approach. With the likely loss of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars needed to beef up an inexperienced group and the addition of former Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart will certainly help. He was a workhorse back at Stanford, rushing for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns in four seasons -- including 1,871 yards and 28 TDs as a senior. Minnesota drafted him in the second round in 2010 and he had just 276 carries in his four seasons as Adrian Peterson's backup. It's not a sexy signing but it gives the Jaguars a young back (he'll be 27) whose body hasn't taken a load of punishment. Gerhart isn't a breakaway threat but he is a move-the-chains type of back. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch consistently lamented the team's lack of success running the ball on first down last season because it didn't allow them to get into any kind of rhythm and forced them into too many third-and-long situations. Gerhart should certainly help there.

Blaine Gabbert was a bust in Jacksonville. There's no other way to view it. The Jaguars traded up to select him No. 10 overall in the 2011 draft and they got 22 touchdown passes, 24 interceptions, and a 5-22 record in games in which he started. He clearly wasn't in the Jaguars' plans for the future and was heading for the waiver wire, yet Caldwell was able to work a trade with San Francisco and got the 49ers to give up a sixth-round pick this year and potentially another draft pick in 2015. A sixth-round pick isn't much but it gives the Jaguars a chance to draft a player who could potentially help them on the field this season. Gabbert wasn't going to be able to do that.

In an under-the-radar move, the Jaguars also re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year contract. Blackmon had the best year of his career in 2013 but his real value is in the meeting room and locker room. The Jaguars have a young secondary and Blackmon quickly became the group's leader. Gus Bradley praised Blackmon's work with the young defensive backs and was an important part of keeping those players focused on Bradley's message of focusing on the process instead of victories.
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.

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.

Free-agency primer: Jaguars

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

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.
Will Blackmon

Position: Cornerback

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: He was signed before the final preseason game and played in 15 games with eight starts. He had 40 tackles, 10 pass breakups, one interception, and two forced fumbles. He had just two career starts in his first six seasons (he didn’t play in the NFL in 2012).

Why keep him: He quickly established himself as the veteran leader in the secondary and was a good mentor to some of the young defensive backs. He also has the size head coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks (6-feet, 210 pounds) and his versatility is an asset.

Why let him go: He has had just one productive season and turns 30 in October. His best football might be behind him.

Best guess: The Jaguars value his leadership and bring him back for another season.
Here is the ninth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:


Who’s on the roster: Alan Ball, Will Blackmon, Jamell Fleming, Dwayne Gratz, Mike Harris and Demetrius McCray.

Analysis: The Jaguars are pretty solid at this spot, especially if the team re-signs Blackmon, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next week. Ball was signed as a free agent last year, and were it not for the play of defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks would have been tabbed as GM David Caldwell’s best signing. Ball started 15 games, led the team with 14 pass breakups, and intercepted two passes. Gratz, the team’s third-round pick, missed six games with ankle injuries, but started eight games and showed development despite the injuries. Blackmon was signed just before the final preseason game and worked as a punt returner and started eight games. Harris worked as a fifth defensive back and provided solid depth. The group’s biggest issue was it didn’t make many big plays and had several instances, notably against Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, where it gave up game-changing plays.

NFL free agents of interest: Sam Shields, Walter Thurmond and Javier Arenas.

Need meter: 3. The Jaguars don’t have to address cornerback in free agency or in the draft because they have more pressing needs elsewhere on defense, notably pass-rusher and outside linebacker. If Gratz remains healthy and Blackmon is re-signed, the duo can combine with Ball to give the Jaguars three solid options. If one of the better corners remains unsigned later in free agency the Jaguars might get involved, especially if the price is reasonable.