Decisions on Jones-Drew, Henne loom over Jaguars
More changes are in store for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In terms of sheer numbers, next week’s start to the signing period for free agents won’t be as radical of a roster makeover as what happened throughout last season. But with both Maurice Jones-Drew and Chad Henne being players whose futures have yet to be finalized, what lies ahead for the offense remains something of a mystery.
Jones-Drew owns the franchise records for career touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, although the past two seasons have seen his production drop off significantly from when he reached the Pro Bowl three times.
Henne was certainly more effective at quarterback than former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, but that in turn could make the six-year veteran more attractive to other teams in a slim market for players at that position.
There aren’t as many crucial decisions to be made on defense.
The Jaguars didn’t even wait until the end of a season where they finished with a 4-12 record to sign tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, one of their top additions a year ago, to a contract extension.
Here is a look at the free agents on their roster:
RB MAURICE JONES-DREW
Coming back from a season in which he played only six games because of a left foot injury, Jones-Drew started in 15 of 16 games and ran for 803 yards. But his average yards per carry (3.4) was the lowest of his eight-year career.
Reason to keep: Running backs aren’t washed up at age 29, which is what he’ll turn later this month. Besides, there don’t appear to be any free agents elsewhere or draft prospects who would represent a major upgrade over him.
Reason to let walk: Better to have someone else overpay for a back who has averaged around 225 carries a season than be stuck with a burdensome contract.
Prediction: Unless he’s willing to accept either a reduced role or a reduced salary, the Jaguars seem prepared to move on without him. Nothing personal, just business.
QB CHAD HENNE
Henne became the full-time starter in Week 6 and ended up throwing for 3,241 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 10 of those scores coming in the final eight games. General manager Dave Caldwell said recently that he wants to sign him to an extension before March 11.
Reason to keep: If the Jaguars aren’t intending to use the No. 3 pick in the draft on a quarterback, they’ll truly be in a bind should Henne go elsewhere. And even if they do pick a signal-caller then, he’d be a capable backup.
Reason to let walk: Quarterbacks without great mobility or arm strength are a vanishing breed in the NFL.
Prediction: It’s hard to say how many other teams might make a run at signing Henne. All things being equal, he’d prefer to remain in Jacksonville.
TE CLAY HARBOR
Claimed off waivers from Philadelphia before the start of the regular season, he caught 24 passes for 292 yards and also played on special teams.
Reason to keep: The Jaguars went to using two tight ends at the same time more as the season progressed, and he’s a suitable compliment to Marcedes Lewis.
Reason to let walk: He’s not as good of a blocker as he is a receiver.
Prediction: Chances are very good he remains a Jaguar.
DT BRANDON DEADERICK
Claimed off waivers from New England last May, Deaderick started one game in place of Roy Miller late in the season before being sidelined with an elbow injury.
Reason to keep: He can play both tackle and end, and it’s not as if the Jaguars will need to spend a lot to keep him.
Reason to let walk: Not clear if he figures into their long-range plans.
Prediction: Unlikely to stay.
WR TAYLOR PRICE
Price spent the entire season on injured reserve with a foot injury. He has not played at all the past two years.
Reason to keep: The Jaguars face uncertainty at wideout given Justin Blackmon’s off-the-field issues.
Reason to let walk: They like Mike Brown, Stephen Burton and Kerry Taylor better.
Prediction: He won’t be back.
CB WILL BLACKMON
Signed as a free agent in late August, Blackmon moved into the starting lineup in Week 2 after rookie Dwayne Gratz went down with a high ankle sprain. He also played on special teams.
Reason to keep: Veterans are still needed in what was one of the NFL’s youngest secondaries.
Reason to let walk: At 29, he may not fit in with their youth movement.
Prediction: Could be retained, but that’s no guarantee of him staying with them next season.
RB DELONE CARTER
Signed to active roster late in the season but had no rushing attempts.
Reason to keep: He has NFL experience from two seasons with Indianapolis.
Reason to let walk: Not a featured back.
Prediction: He’ll probably get a closer look between now and the start of training camp.