Jacksonville is up next in our series looking at what each team needs to do after the lockout.
1. Find a starting safety or two.
“I think sometimes our corners were stressed more than what they should be,” Jaguars G.M. Gene Smith told Jaguars.com recently.
Translation: Our safeties are awful.
You could argue no safety group in the league is worse. Fourth-round pick Chris Prosinski will get a chance to start, and the team seems to like Courtney Greene. The rest of last year’s cast of characters are disposable. The Jaguars should be in the mix for top free agent safeties like Michael Huff and Dashon Goldson. It would be a surprise if they didn’t sign a starter and a backup.
2. Solidify linebacker spots.
Justin Durant is expected to leave. Kirk Morrison’s situation is uncertain. They have Daryl Smith to hold down the fort, but the Jaguars are dangerously thin otherwise. (Russell Allen and Alvin Bowen are next in line.)
We’d bring back Morrison on a short-term deal and find another guy that contribute right away. This position is almost as weak as safety and probably needs two starters.
3. Keep Marcedes Lewis happy.
It’s possible that Lewis could hold out of training camp until he gets a new contract. With so much else to do in free agency, taking care of their Pro Bowl tight end quickly could be tricky. Ideally, they can get Lewis in camp under the franchise tag and work on a deal later.
4. Sniff around for wideout value.
We get the sense Jacksonville will spend all their free agent money on defense, but they should wonder if their have enough firepower out wide.
Mike Thomas is a quality starter. Rookie Cecil Shorts and Jarrett Dillard can compete for the job in the slot. But do the Jaguars really believe in Jason Hill enough to make him practically the only deep threat on the team?
Mike Sims-Walker may have been a knucklehead at times, but he gave Jacksonville’s meat and potatoes offense a different dimension. This group needs more playmakers. Counting so heavily on Hill based on a few good games could cost them.
5. Pray Aaron Kampman stays healthy.
If the needs at safety and linebacker weren’t so desperate, we’d say that signing a defensive end was paramount.
The Jaguars are hoping for a lot at the position. They hope Aaron Kampman stays healthy and returns to his 2010 form after returning from a torn ACL. They hope that a young trio of Jeremy Mincey, Austen Lane, and Derrick Harvey can make significant strides.
Jacksonville was one of the worst pass rushing teams in the league last year. What’s changed?
6. Balance the present and future at quarterback.
It’s hard to imagine Blaine Gabbert having a real chance to start in Week One after such a short offseason. Still, Jack Del Rio has to get Gabbert as many meaningful snaps as possible to prepare Gabbert to possibly play later in 2011. They also need to evaluate the kid.
It will be a tricky balancing act with David Garrard still in place. He needs to play consistently or risk losing his job, not to mention Del Rio’s.