In a move that was expected by many, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced that they are releasing six-year veteran guard Zane Beadles.
The move saves the team roughly $5.5 million against the salary cap, but make no mistake, this was not solely a cost-cutting maneuver.
Although Beadles started all 32 games over the past two seasons after signing a five-year, $30 million contract, his play left plenty to be desired. Beadles was often overmatched on the inside and the combination of he and former second-overall pick left tackle Luke Joeckel was a weak spot on the left side of the line over the past two years.
It's unclear whether the Jaguars will look to address the interior of the line during free agency or wait until the draft. With starting center Stefen Wisniewski not expected to be back, Jacksonville will have to fill at least 40 percent of the starters from last season.
Right now the best bet to step in would be 2015 third-round draft pick A.J. Cann, who received a lot of work at right guard last season after Brandon Linder went down with torn labrum. Linder would likely either flip to the left side or stay at right guard with Cann and Luke Bowanko competing for the starting center job. He is a possible candidate at center as well and head coach Gus Bradley addressed that at last week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis.“Well, he’s one of our most talented offensive linemen," Bradley said of Linder. "I think there was a preseason game where he did play the center spot. I think at this time of year you look through different scenarios, different options how you can strengthen your team, and we do that at every position. That’s a trait that I think that he has. He has the skill set that could play that position. What’s best for our team? We’ll see how it goes.”
With Cleveland center Alex Mack opting out of his remaining three years with the Browns, the Jaguars would likely be in the market for his services. The team signed him to an offer sheet two years ago before the Browns matched the offer. Mack's presence would give quarterback Blake Bortles his best center in his young career, and allow for more depth across the offensive line."Dave Caldwell and I, when we sat down and put this together, we had a plan how we were going about doing it," Bradley explained. "I give him a lot of credit. He’s really stuck to it. We’re very transparent. We challenge one another, but the decisions we’ve made have been to try to build this thing through the draft as much as possible. In a month or so we’ve got some decisions that we have to make again that will help this team. Every team understands in the NFL you try to build it through the draft. You supplement with free agency. But this is a piece of the puzzle that we’re going to see here today and the rest of the week.”
Some players the Jaguars could look at in the draft to supplement the inside of their offensive line include Notre Dame's Nick Martin, Michigan State's Jack Allen, Stanford's Joshua Garnett and Baylor's Spencer Drango, who can play both inside and outside.