Compared to the big splashes made the past two weeks by the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been the equivalent of a pebble dropped from a foot away.
And that suits them just fine.
The signings of running back Justin Forsett, linebacker Geno Hayes, defensive tackle Roy Miller and cornerback Alan Ball to two-year contracts aren’t going to cause a run on season tickets. There’s not a Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe or Dashon Goldson in the bunch.
But the Jaguars traveled down that high-priced, high-profile road a year ago and wound up with nothing to show for it other than a franchise-worst 2-14 record. No wonder owner Shad Khan, new coach Gus Bradley and new general manager David Caldwell appear to be taking a patient approach centered on replenishing the roster during the NFL Draft beginning April 25.
“They are pretty much doing everything the right way,” Khan said of Bradley and Caldwell at the league’s spring meetings earlier this month in Phoenix. “One thing I’ve learned in life is when you get to a fork in the road – the easy way or the hard way – most of the time the hard way is the right way.”
That’s not to say the Jaguars haven’t closed the book on bringing in veterans. Reports Tuesday suggested they could be the likely destination for Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who was coveted on the free-agent market after the 2011 season but saw virtually no action behind rookie sensation Russell Wilson. Bradley was most recently the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, so he is familiar with Flynn.
Even as an insurance policy behind Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, Flynn’s arrival would create more of a stir among fans than any of the four signees or the three free agents whom the Jaguars chose to retain – center Brad Meester, wide receiver/kick returner Jordan Shipley and cornerback Antwaun Molden.
Forsett represents what they hope is an upgrade from the unsigned Rashad Jennings as a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew. Forsett left the Houston Texans to come to the Jaguars before Greg Jones, the fullback responsible for much of Jones-Drew’s success, went the opposite way to join a divisional rival which has made the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
Hayes and Miller were former teammates with the Bucs, although Hayes spent last season with the Chicago Bears. Miller comes as a highly regarded run-stopper, an area the Jaguars needed to address after finishing 30th in the league against the run. Hayes should take over at an outside spot for Daryl Smith, who missed all but two games last season because of a groin injury and has yet to sign with anyone.
The addition of Ball was less significant than the subtractions made in the secondary. Already having parted ways with cornerback Rasheen Mathis, the Jaguars also released cornerback Aaron Ross and safety Dawan Landry while letting cornerback and unrestricted free agent Derek Cox jump to the San Diego Chargers.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who lost his starting job to C.J. Mosley, signed with the Denver, where he’ll be reunited with former Jaguars head coach and current Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Shipley’s re-signing coincided with the Jaguars’ decision to sever ties with concussion-plagued wide receiver Laurent Robinson. The return of Meester for a 15th season was somewhat unexpected but is a good move from more than a public-relations standpoint, given the instability along much of the offensive line in 2012.