Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Early NFL FA Reviews: Jags

The jags traded 3-time all-pro Marcus Stroud to the Bills for a 3rd and a 5th. Stroud was put on injured reserve in week 15, with what the Jaguars characterized as a "career-threatening injury," after playing only 9 games. The year before he only played in 11 games.

They also chose not to re-sign former starting DE Bobby McCray (who was picked up by the Saints). McCray was in a three man DE rotation with Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward. He was expendable because Spicer's number compared favorably with his (and in fact Spicer was getting more playing time by the end of the season), and because the Jags still have a lot of money invested in Hayward whom they signed as a FA 2 years ago (5 yrs, $25 mil, 10 mil guaranteed).

As for Stroud, the Jags have long acknoweldged that they wouldnt be able to keep both of their superb DTs (Stroud and John Henderson) locked up longterm, so it's no surprise that they traded Stroud when faced with the possibility of an irrevocable decline of his abilities. To fill the spot they signed Jimmy Kennedy, a former 1st round pick out of Penn State who hasn't lived up to his billing. Kennedy is nowhere near the player that an injury-free Stroud is, but should be a serviceable backup to the rotation of Henderson, Rob Meier, and Grady Jackson.

As for their offense, they traded a sixth round pick for Troy Williamson and signed Jerry Porter. The Williamson trade was widely reported as a reunion for him and formed Head Coach Mike Tice. The suggestion alone, that the ticket-scalping Tice, whose reign in Minnesota also saw the infamous sex-boat party, somehow had a hand in this decision makes me nervous. As for Porter, he of the 44 receptions, and the largely-missed 2006 season because of disagreements with Art Shell over whether or not champagne should be allowed in the locker room, his 5 year, $30 million dollar contract is an eyebrow-raiser as well.

Are those two an upgrade over Ernest Wilford, whom the Jaguars chose not to re-sign? Porter and Wilford were statistically comparable, Porter having a slight edge in yards and TDs, while Williamson doesn't bring much other than a reputation for dropping balls. (See here and here). The only distinction to make is that both Porter and Williamson are deep threats, and Wilford was not. In fact, this past season, none of the Jags receivers were.

The bottom line is that the Jags have struggled to replace Jimmy Smith's and Keenan McCardell's production (particularly Smith's) for 2+ years. It can't get much worse than it's been, as the Jags WR problems have certainly been the bane of Del Rio's tenure. Perhaps the best solution might have been his promotion of Garrard to starter, as he seemed to finally bring out that first-round promise out of Reggie Williams (10 TDs last year). Perhaps with Garrard's continued development, Porter and/or Williamson might actually turn out to be significant additions.

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