NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: Zane Beadles

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.
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

 NFL Nation's Michael DiRocco examines the three biggest issues facing the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into training camp.

Offensive line: Only one of the five spots is settled heading into camp: Zane Beadles, whom the team signed in March, is the starting left guard. Almost every other spot is up for grabs. I use "almost" because Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, will start at left tackle, and the team drafted him to be the line's cornerstone. He spent the first four games last season at right tackle and played a quarter at left tackle before a season-ending injury. While the Jags believe he's going to be an elite player, he still has to prove it. Mike Brewster is the leader at center, but he has never snapped in his three-year career. Right guard will be a battle between Jacques McClendon and rookie Brandon Linder. Austin Pasztor started 12 games at right tackle last season but will be pushed by Cameron Bradfield, who started the final 11 games at left tackle after Joeckel's injury. Regardless of who wins the position battles, the line has to be better than it was last season. The Jaguars averaged a franchise-worst 78.8 yards per game rushing last season, and a big reason was the play of the interior of the offensive line.

Wide receivers: The Jaguars know what they have in fourth-year player Cecil Shorts (123 career catches). They believe they know what they've got in second-year player Ace Sanders, provided he continues to develop following his 51-catch rookie season. But who are Nos. 3-6? It would seem second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson would naturally be the next two, but both missed most organized team activities and all of minicamp with injuries. They're supposed to be fully cleared for camp, but they missed valuable time working with receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, a technician of the finer points of routes, footwork and hand position. Rookie receivers are a crap shoot in the NFL, and there's no guarantee if both are healthy that they'll be able to contribute as much as Sanders did. Kerry Taylor and Mike Brown combined to catch 54 passes last season. Taylor is a bit bigger (6-foot, 200 pounds) than Brown (5-10, 200 pounds), but both can play in the slot or outside. Taylor might have a slight advantage because he was healthy throughout the offseason, while Brown was one of seven receivers who missed significant time because of an injury. A group of undrafted players, led by former Miami standout Allen Hurns, also will compete for the final two spots on the roster. It's important that this group stays healthy, too, because the injuries really affected the offense during minicamp. It was hard for any of the quarterbacks to move the ball consistently.

Pass rush: The Jaguars have had one of the worst pass rushes over the past five season and finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2013 and 2012. Buffalo led the NFL with 57 sacks last season. The Jaguars have 51 in the past two seasons combined, including 20 in 2012. The team took steps to remedy that by signing defensive end Chris Clemons (58 career sacks) and linebacker Dekoda Watson, a young player whom the Jaguars plan on using in their new otto position and rushing the passer on third downs. However, he sat out OTAs and minicamp with a groin injury and former undrafted rookie LaRoy Reynolds got the reps there. Third-year defensive end Andre Branch came on late last season (five of his six sacks in the last seven games) and had a great offseason, and the coaching staff is counting on him rotating with Clemons. The Jaguars felt good enough about Branch and young players Ryan Davis and Gerald Rivers that they released Jason Babin (62.5 career sacks) on the last day of the minicamp. However, Davis and Rivers have played in a combined eight games and have a combined eight tackles and one sack, so that's making a leap of faith that they'll be able to produce in a reserve role.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With quarterback Blake Bortles signing his contract Wednesday morning, the Jacksonville Jaguars need only to sign second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to get all the pieces in place.

For the 2015 season.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
John Raoux/AP PhotoCoach Gus Bradley and Jaguars management have been working on a plan to fortify the team's depth for not only 2014, but also 2015 and beyond.
The Jaguars are clearly targeting 2015 as the season the team makes significant strides and competes for a playoff spot. It will be coach Gus Bradley's third season, the culture will be well established, and the talent level should be miles better than it was when Bradley and general manager David Caldwell took over in January 2013.

The offensive and defensive systems will be entrenched and Bradley, a former defensive coordinator, will have had three years to find players who fit his scheme.

This doesn’t mean the Jaguars view 2014 as a wasted season. That wouldn’t be accurate. The moves Caldwell made in free agency -- particularly signing guard Zane Beadles, defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, linebacker Dekoda Watson and running back Toby Gerhart -- immediately make the Jaguars a much better team in 2014.

The defense should be better and will keep the Jaguars in more games and quarterback Chad Henne should be more comfortable in the offense, which should yield more than four victories.

But everything points toward 2015.

Caldwell and Bradley have named Henne the starter for '14 and have said they don’t want Bortles to be on the field. They want him to learn and develop without having the pressure to win games so he'll be ready to take over as the starter, most likely in 2015.

Lee and Robinson will get extended playing time in 2014, but it’s rare for receivers to make any significant impact as rookies. Ace Sanders did in 2013, catching 51 passes, and Justin Blackmon did in 2012, but they are the exception rather than the rule. After a year of seasoning, Lee and Robinson should become major parts of the offense, along with Bortles, in 2015.

Caldwell’s selection of cornerback Aaron Colvin in the fourth round is clearly a move that was made with 2015 in mind. Colvin suffered a torn ACL during Senior Bowl week and will begin this season on the physically unable to perform list. It's unlikely he’ll get on the field in anything but a special-teams capacity and that won’t come until the final third of the season. Colvin was a high-round talent who fell because of his injury, and he could turn out to be one of the steals of the 2014 draft, especially if he becomes the starter opposite Dwayne Gratz -- but that shrewd move won’t pay off for another year.

Linebacker Telvin Smith, one of the Jaguars' fifth-round picks, is an intriguing player because of his length and speed. However, he weighs only 218 pounds and while that was OK as a player in the ACC, he has to add weight in order to hold up to the rigors of the NFL. He'll get playing time in 2014 but he’ll benefit from a year in the Jaguars’ weight program and should be ready for a much bigger role in 2015, possibly as a replacement for weakside linebacker Geno Hayes.

The Jaguars aren't giving up on 2014, but they’re preparing to make big strides a year later.

Jaguars offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

.With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Jacksonville Jaguars' offseason moves:

Best move: It has been forgotten after the moves in free agency and excitement over the draft, but general manager David Caldwell trading Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick was a shrewd move. Caldwell managed to get something for a player who obviously wasn't in the team's plans and was going to be cut before camp anyway. He used that pick to draft Virginia center Luke Bowanko, a player who will compete with Mike Brewster for the starting job. Caldwell essentially got a potential starter -- and at least a player who can contribute at guard as well -- for nothing.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerFormer Vikings RB Toby Gerhart is largely unproven as a feature back at the NFL level.
Riskiest move: The natural assumption would be taking quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, but the Jaguars at least have some insurance in the form of Chad Henne if the Bortles move doesn't work out. There is no such luxury at running back if the free-agent signing of Toby Gerhart doesn't work out. While he did produce in the limited work he got behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Gerhart hasn't been a feature back since his days at Stanford. The Jaguars' only somewhat proven option behind him is Jordan Todman, a third-year back with 79 career carries.

Most surprising move: The Jaguars didn't land him, but it was a bit of a surprise to see how aggressively they pursued Cleveland center Alex Mack despite the fact that the Browns put the transition tag on him. The Jaguars put together an offer they felt Cleveland wouldn't match -- $42 million over five years ($26 million guaranteed) with a player option in the third year and a no-tag clause -- but the Browns quickly did. Still, the attempt served as a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren't going to be an afterthought any longer.

Overlooked move: Drafting guard Brandon Linder in the third round didn't move the excitement needle, but he may end up being one of the Jaguars' biggest rookie contributors. The interior of the offensive line was a weakness in 2013, and the Jaguars started to fix that in free agency by signing Zane Beadles to start at left guard. Linder was picked to be the starter at right guard. The proof of how much they are counting on him was the release of guard Will Rackley, the team's third-round pick in 2011, three days after Linder was drafted. Linder played both guard spots and center at Miami, and that versatility is an added bonus.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Taking an offensive tackle in the first round for the second year in a row is a real possibility for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

According to a league source, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews visited the Jaguars last week and he is one of the players who general manager David Caldwell may target with the No. 3 overall pick on May 8.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Matthews -- the son of NFL Hall of Fame offensive tackle Bruce Matthews -- spent last Thursday at the Jaguars’ facility. It was an under-the-radar visit by one of the draft’s top prospects, who at one point was regarded as the best offensive lineman in the draft.

Most draft analysts have Matthews rated behind Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who was among the 16 players who visited the Jaguars during the week of April 6-11, but he still is projected to be a top-10 selection.

"With Jake Matthews’ pedigree and his ability, he could be the best value in the draft that nobody’s talking about," the league source said.

If the Jaguars were to take Matthews, it would reunite him with his former college teammate Luke Joeckel, whom the Jaguars took with the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft. It also would give the Jaguars the chance to solidify the edges of the offensive line for years. Though Matthews played left tackle as a senior, he spent his first three seasons playing at right tackle while Joeckel started at left tackle.

The Jaguars certainly aren’t one player away from making a run at the playoffs, and while their needs at pass-rusher, quarterback and receiver are more pressing than right tackle, this is a draft deep on offensive talent. The Jaguars spent most of their 2013 draft picks on defense, and Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have said this year’s draft would be more focused on offense. There are no other elite offensive tackles outside of Robinson and Matthews but the Jaguars can find quality receivers and quarterbacks in the second and third round.

There is a precedent for building an offensive line with a pair of high draft picks at offensive tackle. The San Francisco 49ers took Joe Staley with the second of their two first-round picks in 2007 (28th overall) and he has started 98 games at left tackle. Three years later San Francisco took Anthony Davis with the 11th pick and he has started every game since at right tackle.

Adding Matthews also would allow the Jaguars to move Austin Pasztor, who started 12 games at right tackle in 2013, to right guard and shore up a spot that was a weakness last season. The team signed Zane Beadles in free agency and installed him as the starter at left guard, so the only position that would be questionable is center.

Bradley said last week that third-year player Mike Brewster is the No. 1 center but he’ll be pushed by several players -- including Patrick Lewis, another former Texas A&M player whom the Jaguars claimed off Cleveland’s practice squad last December.

The Jaguars have been transparent and open regarding their visits, so the secrecy surrounding Matthews’ visit is intriguing. If they are indeed interested in taking Matthews, keeping his visit quiet may have been an attempt to keep teams that also may be considering offensive tackles -- Buffalo, Atlanta and Oakland -- from making a move to trade up. If Houston were to take Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick -- unlikely, but not out of the question -- and those other teams knew the Jaguars were going to take Matthews at No. 3, they may try to work out a trade with St. Louis, which has the No. 2 pick.

Analyzing Kiper's Mock 4.0: Broncos 

April, 17, 2014
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When it comes to where the Denver Broncos are pointing in next month's draft, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has consistently said the team will keep working to upgrade its defense.

To that end Kiper has pointed the team to that side of the ball much of the time in his mock drafts thus far, and stays with that theme in his latest as well.



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s nothing wrong with swinging for the fences every once in a while. Sometimes it works and you do hit one into the stands.

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell took a shot with Alex Mack. He didn’t connect because the Cleveland Browns quickly decided to match the Jaguars’ five-year, $42 million ($26 million guaranteed) offer sheet Mack signed earlier on Friday. But it was a heckuva swing.

Caldwell deserves a lot of credit for attempting to steal one of the game’s best offensive linemen away from a Browns team that made a mistake by not using the franchise tag. The contract was structured in a way that was supposed to make it difficult for the Browns to accept by including a clause that allowed Mack to void the deal after two years, but Browns management accepted that risk.

Even though Caldwell was unable to pull it off, it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren’t going to be the last guy picked for the dodgeball game any longer. Owner Shad Khan has made a significant financial contribution to the team’s facilities -- spending $11 million to renovate the weight room and locker room and $20 million to help finance the stadium and scoreboard improvements -- and now he is showing he’s willing to do the same when it comes to improving the roster.

Adding seven free agents, including guard Zane Beadles ($30 million over five years) and defensive linemen Red Bryant ($19.5 million over four years) and Chris Clemons ($17.5 million over four years), was a good indication of that commitment, but his willingness to give Caldwell the green light to pay that much money to land Mack offers even more proof.

Caldwell has steadily improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Taking a shot at Mack was a shrewd gamble that would have accelerated the rebuilding process. It didn’t work, but the Jaguars are no worse than they were before Mack signed the offer sheet.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell is close to putting together what could become a pretty good offensive line.

Provided the Cleveland Browns don't match whatever offer the Jaguars are expected to make to center Alex Mack on Friday, of course.

Mack
If the Jaguars are able to land the Pro Bowler, Caldwell will have put together a group of players that has a chance to become the team's best offensive line in more than a decade. The 6-foot-4, 311-pound Mack is a significant upgrade from Brad Meester, who retired after the 2013 season, physically and has shown he's adept at handling the myriad of disguised fronts and looks defenses are using.

The Jaguars added Pro Bowler Zane Beadles (6-4, 305) in free agency and installed him as the starter at left guard, lining up alongside second-year tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. Joeckel (6-6, 306) played in only five games, four at right tackle and less than a half at left tackle. He did show a lot of promise in the short time he was on the left side, keeping St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks last season, at bay.

When Joeckel moved from right tackle to left tackle following Eugene Monroe's trade to Baltimore, first-year player Austin Pasztor stepped into the starting job at right tackle and held onto the job for the rest of the season. The coaching staff likes the 6-7, 308-pounder and is excited about his potential as a long-term starter.

The only question mark is what the team will do at right guard. The Jaguars released Uche Nwaneri last month and could move left guard Will Rackley, who started 12 games last season, into that spot. The Jaguars also could try Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon or Cameron Bradfield there as well, or draft a guard in the middle rounds.

Another possibility -- which seems unlikely at this point -- would be for the Jaguars to draft Greg Robinson or Luke Matthews at No. 3 and slide Pasztor to right guard.

Even taking the uncertainty at right guard into consideration, the Jaguars' new-look line has the potential to be pretty formidable over the next several seasons, as long as Joeckel continues to develop and Mack and Beadles continue to play at a Pro Bowl level.

The Jaguars haven't had a truly dominant offensive line since the 1999 season. That group was anchored by left tackle Tony Boselli, generally recognized as the best left tackle in the game at the time, and right tackle Leon Searcy. Ben Coleman, Zach Wiegert and Rich Tylski were the guards and John Wade started every game at center.

The '99 team didn't set any rushing records but long-time Jaguars observers consider that the best offensive line in team history. The Jaguars did go 14-2 that season and lost to Tennessee in the AFC Championship game.

The potential lineup in 2014 and beyond has a chance to be better than any group the Jaguars have had in the last decade. At the very least it's pretty much a guarantee that newly-acquired running back Toby Gerhart is going to be spending a large amount of time running behind the left side.
When the Denver Broncos played offense last season, they were often driving toward history.

Their 606 points were a new NFL single-season record, as were quarterback Peyton Manning's 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards. They worked fast, stayed aggressive and piled up the points, wins, and some did-you-see-that highlights week after week.

And why not? The league has constructed an environment to get the points it wants, and it’s easier to throw now, given the wording and enforcement of the rules, than it has ever been. Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who is a co-chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, which reviews any potential rules changes before they go before the owners for a vote each year, said Wednesday that the 47.682 total points per game and 697 combined yards per game last season were league records.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesMontee Ball and Denver's running backs might handle a bigger workload in 2014.
Also, 18 times a team overcame at least a 14-point deficit last season to win. That tied a league record, set in 2011. So, this is unquestionably the era of throw to score. Yet, the Broncos’ ability to be one win better in February in the coming season might rest on how well they do on offense when Manning isn’t throwing the ball.

“No question, we have to be better in the run game," said Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway. “... To keep our personality, our approach on offense, but to do better when we do run the ball."

By necessity, design, and just the simple fact it was working so historically well, the Broncos became a one-trick pony for the most part on offense. Oh, it was an awesome trick all right, the best ever, a never-before seen combination of speed, precision and grand design.

However, the trophy didn’t come with it. There will be the same number of Lombardi trophies in the Broncos’ newly renovated complex this September as there was last year in the now demolished lobby.

And after 606 points, 55 passing touchdowns, and six 40-point games, it’s simply bad football business to really expect the passing game to do any more of the heavy lifting to finish the unfinished business. So, with the ball in their hands, that leaves special teams -- and the Broncos need to be exponentially better on both their coverage and return units there -- and the running game.

Start with running back Montee Ball. In a support role last season, his 4.7 yards per carry led the three backs -- Knowshon Moreno, Ball, and Ronnie Hillman -- who had at least 50 carries last season, and his 45-yard run was the team’s longest rushing play of the season.

He’s the starter and also the reason the Broncos haven’t made much of a move to bring Moreno back. But with guard Zane Beadles' departure in free agency, the Broncos do have some decisions up front. Protecting Manning in the middle of the formation is always Job 1.

The Broncos are looking to be bigger, more powerful on the offensive front. And looking at the video from last season’s work, looking at some of the video from the available free agents in the offensive line, and in discussions with several personnel people around the league, their best move right now is still to bump Orlando Franklin down inside to left guard and play Chris Clark at right tackle.

There are plenty of scouts who have always believed Franklin came into the league with the potential to be a better guard than tackle after he had started games at both positions at the University of Miami.

And the feeling among those personnel folks is Manny Ramirez played better at center last season than he did at guard the season before, so a move back to guard wouldn’t seem to make the Broncos better overall. But there are some plug-and-play centers in this draft, including USC’s Marcus Martin and Colorado State’s Weston Richburg (a four-year starter who once had to snap with his left hand in a game because he had broken his right one), that will be worth a long look in the second round.

The Broncos were able to get by with the throw first, second and sometimes third, approach in the regular season if 13 wins and a big slice of scoring history could ever be called just getting by. However, in the playoffs their inability to move the line of scrimmage in the run game was a factor, particularly to the weak side when you’re largely running behind offensive linemen and no tight end.

The Broncos averaged just 1.6 yards per carry in runs over the left tackle in the three postseason games, just 2.43 yards per carry inside over the left guard. The figures were far better to the right -- 5.2 yards per carry over the right tackle in the postseason, and 4.4 over the right guard.

For a team that opens up the formation in three-wide receiver sets as much as the Broncos do (more than 70 percent of the time, and more than 90 percent down the stretch) with the tight end also in the slot or out wide, they have to be far more efficient on weak-side runs. Because they all look like weak-side runs with just the center, guard and tackle moving defenders and everybody else in the pattern.

No, they don’t have to box up a historical fast-break no-huddle attack, but in those times they need to do something besides throw, they have to be far better at it, far more committed to it. This includes Manning, because if you can't win a Super Bowl after the first-ever 606-point season, it might a good idea to consider another way.

Free-agency review: Jaguars

March, 18, 2014
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Clemons
Most significant signing: The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks the past two seasons, so adding defensive end Chris Clemons, who has 58 career sacks, was a good move. The 32-year-old Clemons had just 4.5 sacks last season after compiling 33.5 from 2010 to 2012, but he was returning from a torn ACL he suffered during the 2012 playoffs. He's a speed rusher, which is something the Jaguars haven't had since Tony Brackens (1996-2003).

Most significant loss: There is still a chance the team can re-sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but it would be surprising at this point because the Jaguars signed Toby Gerhart last week. Jones-Drew is finding that the market for running backs isn't as lucrative as he hoped. The Jaguars aren't likely to re-sign tight end Allen Reisner or defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, but they didn't figure into the team's plans beyond 2013, anyway. Seattle signed receiver Taylor Price, who has missed the past two seasons with a foot injury.

Gerhart
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars needed to pursue a running back because of the uncertainty with Jones-Drew, but signing Gerhart was unexpected. It's a good fit, though, because Gerhart is exactly what the Jaguars wanted. He's young (he turns 27 later this month) and has low mileage (276 carries in five seasons). At 6-foot and 231 pounds, Gerhart is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can give the Jaguars positive yardage on first down. The Jaguars averaged just 3.4 yards per rush on first down last season, the third-lowest total in the league.

What's next: The Jaguars aren't done in free agency. General manager David Caldwell said he'll let the market settle and then go bargain hunting, an approach that worked last year with defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Caldwell would like to add another guard or center, an outside linebacker and a big, physical receiver. Those spots will also likely be addressed in the draft because the Jaguars have 11 picks. Beefing up the defensive line and adding guard Zane Beadles gives the Jaguars flexibility in the draft. They aren't stuck drafting for need.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s going to be a lot more bling inside the Jaguars' locker room this season.

In the past three days, the Jaguars have signed three players who appeared in the Super Bowl in February: former Denver guard Zane Beadles and former Seattle defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. While that wasn’t by design, it’s a circumstance that general manager David Caldwell hopes to exploit as he continues to reshape and build the Jaguars in his second season.

Nothing ensures credibility like success and that’s something most of the players on the Jaguars’ roster have experienced little of.

"It’s not just the fact they played in the Super Bowl but all three came from winning organizations, which is important," Caldwell said. "They have been through playoff games and they know what it takes to get to where we want to be.

"They know what it takes to get better."

It wouldn’t be strange to see one player from one of the league’s top teams sign a free-agent contract with one of the league’s worst teams. Two might not garner much attention, either. But three is a bit unusual. Granted, two of the players -- Clemons and Bryant -- played for Jaguars coach Gus Bradley when he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator from 2009-12, so that played a part in pulling them to Jacksonville.

But all three players had offers from other teams, including some that made the playoffs in 2013, and somehow ended up together with a Jaguars organization that has won just seven games in the past three seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.

The two former Seahawks are here now because they had made the decision to try and end up with the same team should they be released as part of Seattle’s salary-cap management. Bryant was released on Feb. 28 and the Jaguars signed him March 8. The Seahawks released Clemons four days later and less than 24 hours after that he was signing a four-year deal with the Jaguars on Thursday.

"Once a lot of teams win the Super Bowl, some teams keep them together and some teams dismantle the whole team," Clemons said. "We are a group of guys that understand each other and know each other pretty well. That’s our plan. Me and Red had talked about it already when our names first started coming up about the salary cap: ‘Wherever you go, let me know so I can try and fit myself in because we know each other so well.’

"Once you have that camaraderie with somebody it’s hard to actually go and find it somewhere else."

Beadles had wanted to stay in Denver -- which has geared itself up for a run at another Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final seasons by signing Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware -- but he and the Broncos were not close in negotiations. He was the Jaguars’ top offensive line target and quickly agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal just hours after the free-agency period began.

Beadles goes from one of the league’s top offenses to one of its worst.

"I think a lot of people would look at that and say, ‘What’s going on there?’" Beadles said. "But to me it’s a good challenge. Like I said, I went from a team that was 4-12 my rookie year to being in the Super Bowl my fourth year."

That’s a progression the Jaguars would like to make as well, and Caldwell is banking on the three Super Bowl participants playing a key role.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Jaguars

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s prediction in his third mock draft Insider that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft is not surprising. He made the same forecast in his first two mock drafts. It's the pick that makes the most sense.

The Jaguars do need a quarterback and in Kiper's scenario Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are available, but general manager David Caldwell has dropped several hints that he doesn't believe any of them are a franchise quarterback.

Caldwell has said rookie quarterbacks generally aren't ready to play right away. There are exceptions, such as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, but those players didn't leave school early and played in pro-style offenses in college. He also has said Chad Henne, who signed a two-year extension last week, can keep the team afloat with better offensive line play and more weapons.

The Jaguars worked on both of those issues early in free agency by signing guard Zane Beadles and running back Toby Gerhart. They are expected to add at least one more offensive lineman and possibly a receiver before the draft, as well.

So Clowney, whom many regard as the best player in the draft, is the natural pick. He fills an immediate need and upgrades a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. He's ridiculously athletic and exceptionally quick (4.53 40-yard dash, including a 10-yard split of 1.56 seconds) for a 6-foot-5, 266-pound end.

Some have concerns about his work ethic and motivation, but those issues are being overblown. Clowney is a freak who can dominate a game.

And consider this: Since the Jaguars will play six games against the AFC South it's important the team is built to handle those opponents. The Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the division because of Luck so the Jaguars need to be able to deal with them twice a year.

Clowney is the first piece.
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 Jacksonville Jaguars took the first step toward rebuilding the interior of their offensive line pretty quickly in free agency by reaching an agreement with former Denver Broncos guard Zane Beadles.

Beadles
The deal, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan, is worth $30 million over five years with $13 million guaranteed.

The offensive line was the Jaguars' top priority in free agency because of the retirement of center Brad Meester and the release of right guard Uche Nwaneri last week. The team obviously wanted an upgrade over Will Rackley, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Drew Nowak.

It's a good move by Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beadles is a tough, durable player who has started 62 of a possible 64 games in the regular season since the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. The Broncos led the NFL in total offense and were 15th in rushing (117.1 yards per game) last season.

UPDATE: Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said Beadles was the team's primary offensive line target.

"He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive and he’s very smart," Caldwell said. "We did a lot of work on him in Atlanta when he was coming out. He’s had a heck of a career to-date. I think he’s played in every game possible in his four years in Denver. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s a guy with a proven track record. He’s still only 27 years old. He’s very passionate about football. I think he checks the box for everything we look for in a player and I think you guys know what that is in this culture.”

Beadles, who will play left guard, is a good fit for the Jaguars because like the Broncos they also use a zone-blocking scheme.

Interior offensive line is the Jaguars' biggest need after quarterback and pass-rusher. The group struggled early in the 2013 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 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 per-carry average was the worst of his career. Meester was in his 14th season and not playing at the same level as he had in 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 and Rackley battled a knee injury throughout the 2013 season.

Top free-agent roundup: AFC West

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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The AFC West produced three playoff teams and the eventual AFC title winner in the Denver Broncos, so it should come as no surprise that many top free agents come from the division. Oakland Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams break down the top 15:

1. Branden Albert, Chiefs offensive tackle: Kansas City won’t franchise him this year. Albert will get a nice contract elsewhere.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos cornerback: He’s not yet 30 and still a top-tier athlete.

3. Eric Decker, Broncos wide receiver: Productive in scoring zone, will be one of the biggest wide receivers on open market, but rarely faced opponents’ top cornerback in Broncos offense.

4. Lamarr Houston, Raiders defensive end: Better suited to the left side because he’s not the prototypical speed-rusher.

Moreno
5. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos running back: Has had multiple knee surgeries, including one on a torn ACL in 2011, but he runs with passion, is solid in pass protection and a productive receiver.

6. Jared Veldheer, Raiders offensive tackle: Didn’t have a very good season in 2013 but would attract some attention as a free agent.

7. Geoff Schwartz, Chiefs guard: Was a free-agent find for Kansas City last season. Can play right tackle if needed.

8. Jon Asamoah, Chiefs guard: A better pass-protector than run-blocker. He will be only 26 in July.

9. Shaun Phillips, Broncos linebacker: He’ll be 33 in May but showed last season that he can still be an effective situational pass-rusher.

10. Zane Beadles, Broncos guard: For a movement-based front, he’s a smart, durable option who played in every game while with Denver.

McCluster
McCluster
11. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner: Hasn’t had a huge impact on the offense in Kansas City, but he will be only 26 in August.

12. Robert Ayers, Broncos defensive end: Had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s a late bloomer.

13. Tyson Jackson, Chiefs defensive end: Like Ayers, he had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s figuring it out as well.

14. Tracy Porter, Raiders cornerback: He’s versatile enough to cover the slot receiver, and he had one of his better seasons in 2013.

15. Kendrick Lewis, Chiefs safety: He’s only 25 but was a better player earlier in his career. He hasn’t been the same since a shoulder injury in 2012.

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