But the club didn't have the same free agency success at that spot that it did with wide receivers. Several top defensive ends that the Jaguars were thought to be keeping an eye on at the start of free agency re-signed with their current club. Those that did make a move did so quickly. Jevon Kearse, who played his college ball at Florida 75 miles away and is a Jacksonville fan favorite, returned to Tennessee, where he inked a deal with the Titans.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said the club will instead turn its attention to finding both an end and a tackle in the upcoming college draft next month.
"We let Bobby (McCray) go in the free agency and he got signed up, Reggie Hayward is still trying to battle his way back from the Achilles injury, Paul Spicer is getting a little older, so we would like to add defensive linemen, particularly defensive ends that can get after the quarterback," Del Rio said. "We're probably going to have to the draft to do it. There's just not guys out there and available. You can have a wish list but you go out there and look and either they're terribly overpriced or they're just not out there that can come in and help you."
Spicer was the surprise on defense last year while Hayward was the disappointment. Early in training camp, there was some speculation that Spicer might not survive the team's final cut. At 32 he had definitely lost a step in his pursuit of the quarterback. The coaches liked how he worked, however, and it proved to be a wise choice to keep him on the roster.
Hayward had expressed optimism during the offseason and in the first part of training camp that he felt close to 100 percent from the nasty injury he suffered in the opening week of the 2006 season. The Jaguars had paid big dollars to him as a free agent following the '04 season and were hopeful of another big year from the former Broncos end that he turned in for the Jaguars in 2005.
But it never materialized because of the early injury. Now, over a year after his rehabilitation, there is thought that Hayward will never return to the form he showed for the Broncos and for the Jaguars in 2005. Coupled with Spicer's age factor, McCray's departure and the less than stellar showing from second-year veteran Brent Hawkins (3.5 sacks in 14 games), there was concern when the Jaguars couldn't land a defensive end in free agency.
"We'll turn our attention to the draft and spend this time now grading the college players coming out, making sure we have them stacked up right," Del Rio said. "It may be a situation where we draft several of them (defensive ends) on draft day if we don't end up taking anybody else in free agency which it doesn't look like there's a lot of people available. If trades don't work out, then likely we'll find our pass rushers going forward out of the draft."
Jaguars: Coming to an End
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