With two of their biggest needs addressed by shelling out $10 million in signing bonus money, that means the Jaguars can either focus on taking the best available player with the No. 8 overall pick or hope that WR Andre Johnson is still available at that spot.
James Harris, the Vice President of Player Personnel, has repeatedly emphasized that his philosophy on drafting is to go with the best available player unless a player at a need position is of equal value or "in the same grade range."
The first draft involving Harris and head coach Jack Del Rio could put that philosophy to the test, especially if Johnson and cornerback Terence Newman of Kansas State are both off the board when it's the Jaguars' turn to pick. Do they then take whoever has the best value based on their evaluations? Or do they go for prospects in the Top 15-20 range like WR Taylor Jacobs or CB Marcus Trufant because those happen to be need positions?
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: WR -- Jimmy Smith, now 34, struggled last year for the first time in his Jaguars' career as it became harder to make the big plays without Keenan McCardell on the other side. Mark Brunell clearly needs another target for Bill Musgrave's West Coast offense and it's hard to imagine the Jaguars not taking a receiver somewhere in the first three rounds. Unless Michigan State's Charles Rogers or Johnson are surprisingly available at No. 8, the Jaguars might be better off waiting until the second round in this receiver-rich draft.
CB -- This has suddenly become a big concern because Fernando Bryant's contract is up after the 2003 season and he has been a no-show so far for the start of the offseason training program. On the other side, Jason Craft wasn't as good as the Jaguars hoped he'd be in his first season as a starter. A shutdown corner is a major void on this defense and the dropoff at this position appears significant once you get past Newman and Trufant.
OL -- The Jaguars lost two starters and a backup to free agency, so they need immediate help in a couple areas. A starting center or guard will be needed to replace John Wade, but there's some flexibility here because guard Brad Meester could be moved to center. The loss of Zach Wiegert won't be damaging as long as Mike Pearson is the answer at left tackle, but the Jaguars still need depth at tackle with Todd Fordham gone.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Kent Graham (journeyman that team will let go elsewhere); TE Pete Mitchell (team talking to free agent Ernie Conwell could mean Mitchell is history); DT Larry Smith (underachiever for most of his four years, but improved last season).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Ainsley Battles (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; decent backup who can play either safety spot); LB Danny Clark (tendered at $605,000 with 7th-round pick as compensation; a tad slow for starter and may be a future backup); OG Leander Jordan (tendered at $605,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation; team sorely needs offensive line depth); LB T.J. Slaughter (tendered at $605,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation; four-game suspension last year slowed his progress); DE Paul Spicer (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; occasional starter and probably the most dependable backup on the team); CB Kiwaukee Thomas (tendered at $605,000 with 5th-round pick as compensation; solid in nickel coverage, but not starting material).
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: P Chris Hanson (tendered at $375,000; team's only Pro Bowl selection); RB Elvis Joseph (tendered at $375,000).
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Dan Alexander (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); PK Danny Boyd (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); LB Bobby Brooks (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); DE Chris Combs (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); S Donovin Darius (Franchise FA; $3.043M/1 yr); OT Drew Inzer (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OT Dave Kadela (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); WR Kevin Lockett (UFA; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); DE Javor Mills (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); WR Jimmy Redmond (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); WR Micah Ross (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); CB Steve Smith (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OG Daryl Terrell (cut; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); LB Joe Tuipala (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); FB Patrick Washington (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); LS Joe Zelenka (UFA; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000).
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DE Hugh Douglas (UFA Eagles; $27.11M/5 yrs, $6M SB; 2003 cap: $1.855M); FB Marc Edwards (UFA Patriots; $3M/3 yrs, $875,000 SB); WR Donald Hayes (FA Patriots; 1 yr, terms unknown); WR/KR Jermaine Lewis (FA Texans; $2.9M/3 yrs, $1M SB); DT Reggie McGrew (FA; $530,000/1 yr, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); LB Keith Mitchell (UFA Texans; $1M/1 yr, $250,000 SB); LB Mike Peterson (UFA Colts; $20.4M/6 yrs, $2M SB/$2M roster bonus; 2003 cap: $2.863M).
PLAYERS LOST: CB Robert Bean (cut); OT Derrick Chambers (cut); OT Todd Fordham (UFA Steelers; $2.4M/3 yrs, SB unknown); WR Patrick Johnson (UFA Redskins; $680,000/1 yr, $150,000 SB); OG Aaron Koch (cut); RB Stacey Mack (UFA Texans; $705,000/1 yr, $175,000 SB); LB Wali Rainer (UFA Lions; $1.875M/2 yrs, $475,000 SB); WR Bobby Shaw (UFA Bills; $2.68M/3 yrs, SB unknown); C John Wade (UFA Buccaneers; $5.5M/4 yrs, $1M SB); OT Zach Wiegert (UFA Texans; $17M/5 yrs, $3.5M SB).
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