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Free-agency primer

Posted Mar 12, 2012

With pro free agency approaching, jaguars.com takes a look at the 2012 free agency class

The time is definitely approaching. That much we know.

The NFL’s 2012 pro free agency period begins late Tuesday afternoon, and as general managers continue negotiating with their own free agents and making last-minute adjustments to free-agency boards, we offer this final jaguars.com 2012 free-agency primer.

Who will the Jaguars sign? How active will they be?

Outside owner Shad Khan and General Manager Gene Smith, no one knows for sure – and that’s pretty much par for the NFL course.

Smith said at the NFL Scouting Combine late last month the Jaguars’ heavy foray into free agency last season was atypical and said the team’s focus will continue to be what it has been since he took over as general manager in 2009 – i.e., building through the draft. Khan late last week told the Florida Times-Union’s editorial board, “It (free agency) is not only about money. It’s about availability and value. ... We have resources that we can deploy on fielding a competitive team. We want to look at the complete picture – not only use the resources but using [them] wisely.”

If it’s hard to get an idea about specifics from what Smith and Khan have said publicly, that’s no surprise. Teams don’t say much about their free agency plans. No reason they should.

The truth is, we’ll know the Jaguars’ approach soon enough. The free agency period begins at 4 p.m. EDT Tuesday, and unlike past years when the starting time sometime came after midnight, that means we should start seeing Twitter timelines blowing up well before Happy Hour.

What should Jaguars fans expect?

The best answer is wait and see, but because we’re not in a wait-and-see world, the guess here is they’ll be active, and that they’ll move quickly to try to improve needs at wide receiver and perhaps cornerback or defensive end. Another target could be backup quarterback.

As for specifics, the time is approaching, so as we await Tuesday at 4, here’s a position-by-position look at 2012 free agency:

 

Quarterbacks

The prize here is obviously Peyton Manning. When he came free last week, all other free agency storylines got kicked to after the first commercial. Look for Matt Flynn of Green Bay to get a lot of activity early, and reports indicate the 49ers are trying to re-sign Alex Smith. A player to watch is Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. A lot of teams like him and he could sign quickly.

Top available: 1.Peyton Manning, Indianapolis; 2.Matt Flynn, Green Bay; 3, Alex Smith, San Francisco; 4, Chad Henne, Miami; 5, Kyle Orton, Kansas City; 6, Jason Campbell, Oakland; 7, Vince Young, Philadelphia; 8, Brian Hoyer, New England (restricted).

Franchised: Drew Brees, New Orleans (franchise tag).

Jaguars free agents: Luke McCown.

On the Jaguars: The Jaguars may try to sign a veteran backup with some significant experience. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the team move quickly in this area.

 

Running backs

There’s help available here for teams that need it, and as often is the case lately in free agency, you don’t necessarily have to spend huge to get solid production.

Top available: 1, Mike Tolbert, San Diego; 2, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England; 3, Michael Bush, Oakland; 4, Cedric Benson, Cincinnati; 5, Peyton Hillis, Cleveland; 6, Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants; 7, Ryan Grant, Green Bay; 8, Joseph Addai, Indianapolis; 9, LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (exclusive rights free agent); 10, LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets.

Franchised: Matt Forté, Chicago; Ray Rice, Baltimore.

On the Jaguars: Don’t expect high-profile activity here.

 

Fullbacks

Jaguars free agents: Brock Bolen (exclusive rights).

 

Wide receivers

This class is deep, and as is often the case at wide receiver, there are a lot of boom-or-bust candidates. Many huge names were franchised or re-signed last week, and the wisest choices from this class may not be the household names.

Top available: 1, Vincent Jackson, San Diego; 2, Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh (restricted); 3, Marques Colston, New Orleans; 4, Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis; 5, Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis; 6, Robert Meachem, New Orleans; 7, Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis; 8, Mario Manningham, New York Giants; 9, Josh Morgan, San Francisco; 10, Laurent Robinson, Dallas; 11, Harry Douglas, Atlanta; 12, Eddie Royal, Denver; 13, Ted Ginn Jr., San Francisco; 14, Early Doucet, Arizona; 15, Plaxico Burress, New York Jets;  16, Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh; 17, Lee Evans, Baltimore; 18, Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis.

Franchised: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia; Wes Welker, New England.

On the Jaguars: There may be no more glaring area of need, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars move quickly in this area – signing one or two players from the above list. Names that make sense include Garcon, Morgan, Douglas and Robinson, with Colston and Wayne also seemingly decent fits.

 

Tight ends

Top available: 1, John Carlson, Seattle; 2, Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota; 3, Jeremy Shockey, Carolina; 4, Dallas Clark, Indianapolis; 5, Martellus Bennett, Dallas; 6, Joel Dreessen, Houston.

Jaguars free agents: Martin Rucker (exclusive rights), Zach Potter (exclusive rights).

Franchised: Fred Davis, Washington.

On the Jaguars: A comparatively low area of need. Don’t look for high-profile activity.

 

Offensive tackles

Franchise-level players hitting the open market at this position are rare. That’s true again this season, although there could be additions to this list this week as teams cut players for cap space.

Top available: 1, Jared Gaither, San Diego; 2, Demetrius Bell, Buffalo.

Jaguars free agents: None.

On the Jaguars: The Jaguars addressed depth in this area by re-signing six-year veteran Guy Whimper. Significant activity this week would be a surprise.

 

Offensive guards

Top available: 1, Carl Nicks, New Orleans; 2, Ben Grubbs, Baltimore; 3, Evan Mathis, Philadelphia; 4, Adam Snyder, San Francisco; 5, Chris Kemoeatu, Pittsburgh; 6, Mike Brisiel, Houston.

Jaguars free agents: None.

On the Jaguars: High-profile activity this week would be a surprise.

 

Centers

Top available: 1, Chris Myers, Houston; 2, Scott Wells, Green Bay; 3, Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis; 4, Nick Hardwick, San Diego.

Jaguars free agents: None.

On the Jaguars: High-profile activity this week would be a surprise.

 

 

Defensive ends

After Manning, Houston defensive end Mario Williams is the jewel of the 2012 free agent class. Few teams wouldn’t want him, and the question is which team is going to pay the price to get him?

Top available: 1, Mario Williams, Houston; 2, Red Bryant, Seattle; 3, Jason Jones (DT), Tennessee; 4, Jeremy Mincey, Jaguars; 5, John Abraham, Atlanta; 6, Juqua Parker, Philadelphia; 7, Dave Tollefson, New York Giants; 8, Kendall Langford, Miami; 9, Mark Anderson, New England; 10, Aaron Maybin, New York Jets (restricted); 11, Israel Idonije, Chicago; 12, Andre Carter, New England; 13, Michael Bennett, Tampa Bay (restricted); 14, Adam Carriker, Washington.

Jaguars free agents: Jeremy Mincey, Matt Roth.

Franchised: Cliff Avril, Detroit; Calais Campbell, Arizona; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis.

On the Jaguars: Mincey represents one of the Jaguars’ most high-profile issues entering the week. They would like to re-sign him, but he appears likely to test free agency. As with any free agent, it will be tougher to re-sign Mincey once free agency begins.

 

Defensive tackles

This isn’t a deep pool, but teams rarely let elite defensive tackles hit free agency.

Top available: 1, Antonio Garay, San Diego; 2, Brodrick Bunkley, Denver; 3, Paul Soliai, Miami; 4, Pat Sims, Cincinnati; 5, Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans.

Jaguars free agents: Nate Collins (exclusive rights), Leger Douzable (restricted), C.J. Mosley.

On the Jaguars: The tackle position is strong and it won’t likely be a big free-agency priority.

 

Outside linebackers

Top available: 1, Jarret Johnson, Baltimore; 2, Manny Lawson, Cincinnati.

Jaguars free agents: Russell Allen (restricted),

Franchised: Anthony Spencer, Dallas.

On the Jaguars: The Jaguars are strong at outside linebacker, but a deal with Allen could be reached.

 

Inside linebackers

Top available: 1, Stephen Tulloch, Detroit; 2, Curtis Lofton, Atlanta; 3, London Fletcher, Washington; 4, E.J. Henderson, Minnesota; 5, David Hawthorne, Seattle; 6, Jameel McClain, Baltimore.

Jaguars free agents: None.

On the Jaguars: The position is strong and high-profile activity would be a surprise.

 

Cornerbacks

This is a relatively deep position in free agency, with high-profile productive players available. The market was helped when Tennessee opted to not re-sign Cortland Finnegan, and Brandon Carr of Kansas City also is considered an elite player.

Top available: 1, Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee; 2, Brandon Carr, Kansas City; 3, Carlos Rogers, San Francisco; 4, Tracy Porter, New Orleans; 5, Terrell Thomas, New York Giants; 6, Aaron Ross, New York Giants; 7, Lardarius Webb, Baltimore (restricted); 8, Eric Wright, Detroit; 9, Richard Marshall, Arizona; 10, Dimitri Patterson, Cleveland; 11, Jarrett Bush, Green Bay.

Jaguars free agents: William Middleton (restricted).

Franchised: Brent Grimes, Atlanta

On the Jaguars: Activity here wouldn’t be surprising. The team re-signed veteran Rashean Mathis to a one-year deal, but he is coming off a season-ending ACL tear. Finnegan would be a surprise, but a player such as Carr could be a possibility.

 

Safeties

Top available: 1, LaRon Landry, Washington; 2, Dwight Lowery, Jacksonville; 3, Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati; 4, Abram Elam, Dallas.

Jaguars free agents: Dwight Lowery, Courtney Greene (restricted), C.C. Brown.

Franchised: Tyvon Branch, Oakland; Dashon Goldson, San Francisco; Michael Griffin, Tennessee.

On the Jaguars: Lowery, like Mincey, seems like a possibility to hit the market – and, like Mincey, he’ll be tougher to re-sign once he’s there. Lowery had a solid season and if the Jaguars aren’t able to re-sign him they’ll likely address the area in free agency or the draft.

 

Punters

Jaguars free agents: Nick Harris

Franchised: Steve Weatherford, New York Giants

 

Placekickers

Franchised: Connor Barth, Tampa Bay; Phil Dawson, Cleveland; Mike Nugent, Cincinnati; Matt Prater, Denver; Josh Scobee, Jacksonville.

On the Jaguars: The Jaguars franchised Scobee last week, and it remains the team’s intention to sign the veteran to a long-term deal.

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