With NFL franchise tags getting handed out, we now have a better idea of who is going to be hitting the free agent market.
Justin Houston is staying put in Kansas City, but Ndamukong Suh and Darrelle Revis could potentially be taking their defensive talents to new locations in 2015. Dallas is retaining Dez Bryant, but DeMarco Murray looks to be available to the highest bidder. Add in Minnesota’s indecisiveness over Adrian Peterson, and arguably the two best running backs in the NFL are up for grabs.
While the usual NFL powerhouses like Green Bay and Denver will cash in their chips, the highest roller at the table is now the Jacksonville Jaguars. While not typically thought of as a big free agent destination, Gus Bradley and company have more money than they know what to do with. They might as well use it to put together a competent team on the field.
The NFL announced that the 2015 salary cap will be $143.28 million. With cap space rolled over from last year, Jacksonville will gain an extra $22 million in salary cap space. This leaves Jacksonville with around $168 million in money to burn.
The Jaguars showed a willingness to spend in free agency last year when they brought in Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Zane Beedles, but ultimately couldn’t offer the same winning situation that Denver and New England could as they attracted most of the headline free agents.
Now, Jacksonville isn’t a perennial contender by any means; they finished with only three wins in 2014. Still, management seems to believe they have a franchise quarterback on the roster with Blake Bortles and recent history has shown that it is possible to build a championship team through free agency.
So, who are the Jaguars’ most likely targets?
Julius Thomas would fill a huge hole at tight end. Murray will probably get a pass, as there are much cheaper options in this running back heavy draft.
The defense was cringe-worthy at times last season, but an intimidator like Suh can go a long way. If Revis stays in New England, Byron Maxwell could be a great value pickup.
There are no sure things in the NFL, but when you have money to burn you can afford to spend a little riskily. Jacksonville might not have been in the playoffs since 2007, but money has ways of persuading people. In addition to all this, the Jaguars still hold the third overall pick in the draft. Sometimes it pays to be bad.