Breaking down the Jaguars start to Free Agency

Laurent Robinson runs with the ball

The Jaguars have had a slow start to free agency, but they have made some solid moves, and now the initial free agency rush is over, we can assess what the Jaguars have achieved so far in free agency.

The Jaguars started free agency by locking up two former Jaguars; defensive end Jeremy Mincey and safety Dwight Lowery.

Mincey signed a 4 year deal worth $27.2 million with $8 million guaranteed, the deal also includes a fully guaranteed first year of $1 million.

Mincey also had strong interest from the Chicago Bears, and was apparently moments away from signing with them, before Jaguars general manager Gene Smith managed to persuade him otherwise, “He [Smith] really wanted me here. You could hear the sincerity in his voice. Plus, for my home team, I’m back here in Jacksonville with the greatest fans in the NFL,” he said.“For him [Smith] to reach out and outbid Chicago in a situation they could have easily let me go and grab a few guys from the free agent market, but he didn’t. He chose to keep me here.”’

Re-signing Mincey was a very important move for the Jaguars. He has led the team in sacks for the past two years (5 1/2 in 2010 and 8 in 2011),  is the anchor of the defensive line and was integral to the Jaguars top ranked defence in 2011. The Jaguars still need to add another defensive end to play opposite Mincey but bringing him back is a big positive for the Jaguars.

The Jaguars also re-signed safety Dwight Lowery to a 4 year deal worth $13.6million, with $3 million guaranteed.

Lowery told Tania Ganguli of the Florida-Times-Union that he found support in Jacksonville last season, “As soon as I came to Jacksonville and whatnot and became a starter, I didn’t feel like I was going to fail,” Lowery said. “I felt like I had support around me, the support that I needed. Everybody needs to have support from their peers but also the organization that they’re with. Jacksonville gave me that. … In New York I never really felt like I had that support.”

Lowery was also an important re-signing for Jacksonville, he had been a target, along with Mincey since the season ended. After coming to Jacksonville via a trade from the New York Jets prior to the season, Lowery took hold of the safety job and had a solid season with 36 tackles, one sack and two interceptions. He forms an important part of the Jaguars secondary.

By re-signing Mincey and Lowery the Jaguars now have 10 of 11 defensive starters returning from 2011. Continuity is always a key component of success in the NFL, and by returning virtually the whole defensive unit it allows the Jaguars, under defensive co-ordinator Mel Tucker, to continue to build on a successful 2011.

The Jaguars were quiet in the free agency market outside the organisation, but they did fill two needs at wide receiver and back-up quarterback, signing former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne.

Laurent Robinson signed a five year deal worth $32.5 million, with $8 million guaranteed, and with incentives the deal will see him making

Henne passes the ball

$11.1 million in the first year of his contract. Robinson has bounced around the league since being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. He has played for the St.Louis Rams, and was in training camp with the San Diego Chargers last season, before the Dallas Cowboys signed him. It was in Dallas that Robinson had his breakout season, catching 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Robinson spoke of his deal and his confidence with the Jaguars coaching staff in a phone interview with the Florida-Union-Times, “It was very exciting, my head was spinning all day,” Robinson said by phone on his way to Miami. “Little nervous. Happy at the same time. Lot of anxiety. Couldn’t sleep … being close to family, being back in my home state. It’s a familiarity with my coaching staff, familiarity with the offense. I just feel like I can go out and contribute and help this team win.” Robinson also said how the NFL lockout helped him develop as a receiver because it allowed him to heal and perfect his craft. He worked out with Larry Fitzgerald in Minnesota, under the eye of current Jaguars receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

Robinson fills a need for the Jaguars at wide receiver, providing he can match his production from a year ago, and also providing that he receives the same quality of service from Blaine Gabbert that he received from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Often in this league all you need is an opportunity, the Dallas Cowboys gave Robinson that opportunity, and now he has been given an even bigger opportunity with Jacksonville.

The Jaguars also filled a need at back-up quarterback, and provided incumbent starter Blaine Gabbert with some much needed competition, as they signed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. Henne signed a two year contract worth $6.75 million with $3 million guranteed.

Henne started for three seasons in Miami before a season ending shoulder injury last season ended his tenure as the Dolphins starter. According to head coach Mike Mulaerky, Henne is being brought in to compete, “He’s coming in as a backup, competing for a starting job,’’ Mularkey said. “Everybody comes in here to compete for a starting job. We don’t want anybody here that’s very comfortable and wants to be a backup role,” Mularkey said. “Chad knows his role and Blaine and I had a conversation this morning that we are all on the same page of why he’s here.’’

This is good news for the Jaguars as it makes sure they don’t accept mediocrity from Gabbert next season, and nothing breeds success in a team like competition. Henne commented about competing for the job shortly after signing, “I’m just here to compete. I’m a fierce competitor. I will do everything I can to get that job obviously. The [decision] is up to the coaches. It’s not mine to make.’’

It’s clear that all eyes will be on the quarterback position in training camp this season. The job is Gabbert’s to lose for now, but this is a positive move by the Jaguars organisation.

The Jaguars also re-signed defensive tackle C.J Mosely to a 3 year deal worth $7.5 million, and linebacker Russell Allen to a 3 year deal worth $6million.

Overall, it has been a quiet start in free agency for the Jaguars, but it has been a productive one, and the team seem to be sticking true to the Khan’s word’s and making smart moves, not throwing money around unnecessarily (see the Washington Redskins). According to general manager Gene Smith the Jaguars are not finished in free agency just yet and Smith also hinted that the Jaguars would be open to trading the seventh overall pick in this years draft the next few weeks could be an interesting time for Jaguars fans.

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