JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- By now you've heard of the letter that hockey player Jordan Leopold's 11-year-old daughter wrote to Minnesota coaches urging them to work a trade with Columbus to bring her father back to his hometown so he could play for the Wild. Though the letter was never sent to the team -- Leopold's wife posted it on social media and it quickly went viral -- the Wild did indeed make the trade and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher later admitted that he saw the letter on social media while working on the trade and said "there was a pressure to close the deal."

Since that appeared to work so well, ESPN decided to give it a try in regards to free-agent-t0-be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Three former NFL players now working as ESPN analysts were asked to write letters urging Suh to sign with their former teams. One of them was former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell.

His selling points were the Jaguars having the most cap space of any team, the lack of state income tax in Florida, and a young quarterback and defensive-minded coach. Here's his letter:
Dear Mr. Suh,

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Mark Brunell and I was the QB for the Jaguars years ago. I am writing you to ask if you would be willing to join our football team. Our fans love and support our team and would love nothing more than for you to wear the Teal and Black. We have a good young quarterback and we have a defensive minded coach in Gus Bradley that you would enjoy playing for. Jacksonville is a franchise that is once again on the rise and your leadership and intensity is exactly what we need. By the way, we have a LOT of money to spend. And we are going to spend it! Not to mention Florida has no state income tax. Just sayin! I REALLY hope you will consider being a Jaguar.

Go Jaguars!

Former Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday and former Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis also wrote to Suh. Here is a video of each of them reading their letters.

We'll find out if the letter-writing campaign worked on Tuesday.

Blake Bortles' development key this offseason

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
ESPN Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco talks about quarterback Blake Bortles organizing workouts with teammates in California.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

Joel Correy, a former sports agent, writes for CBSSports.com that state income tax ramifications will be a consideration for Ndamukong Suh when it comes to contract offers in free agency. Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Washington are the states that do not have a state tax rate, which puts the Jaguars among the teams that could have an edge if they decide to pursue Suh.

Hays Carlyon and Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union list five players who would invigorate the Jaguars' offense if they were signed in free agency: receiver Randall Cobb, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back DeMarco Murray, and tight end Julius Thomas.

Jaguars.com's John Oehser writes that receiver Allen Robinson has the offseason look of a player ready to make a jump from Year One to Year Two.

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein has the Jaguars taking defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. in his mock 2.0.
Here is the seventh of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free agency needs, position by position:

Defensive tackle

Who is on the roster: Ziggy Hood, Abry Jones, Sen'Derrick Marks, and Roy Miller.

Players scheduled to become free agents on March 10: None.

Analysis: Defensive tackle is one of the strongest position groups on the team, and Marks was the Jaguars’ best player in 2014. He led the team with 8.5 sacks (second among all interior linemen) and also had a team-high 16 quarterback hurries. Marks’ 15 tackles for loss was third among defensive tackles (Ndamukong Suh had 23 and Aaron Donald had 16). However, Marks suffered a torn right ACL in the season finale and that has his availability for the beginning of the 2015 season in question. Miller (31 tackles, four tackles for loss) played solidly beside Marks until a late-season knee injury that also required offseason surgery. He is expected to be ready for training camp. Hood, a free-agent signee last March, and Jones were good enough to allow the Jaguars to decrease the amount of workload for Marks and Miller, which was a problem in 2013. The Jaguars are intrigued by Jones’ potential. He had 39 tackles, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble. He’s young (23) and showed significant improvement from 2013 to 2014. If that continues, he will ease the Jaguars’ mind about Marks’ status early in the season.

NFL free agents of interest: Suh is the best defensive player available, and is the kind of player who can turn a franchise around. However, it’s going to take a lot of money (think $100 million) for any team to sign him. The Jaguars will at least investigate the possibility of bringing him to Jacksonville. Otherwise, this won’t be a priority position in free agency, even if the team believes Marks won’t be ready for the start of the season.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for NFL Nation TV's Spreecast as we return for episode No. 46 with our sights fully set on free agency.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) Will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the show.

Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions reporter) will take us behind the Lions' decision to avoid franchise-tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and also give us an idea of where the prized lineman might end up.

Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will join to make sense of New England's decision to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, instead of potentially doing so with free-agent defensive backs Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty.

Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will give us an update on the Cowboys' apparent decision to let DeMarco Murray, 2014's rushing leader, test the open market.

Sticking with offense, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) checks in to outline why the Packers may be content doing the same with receiver Randall Cobb, who reportedly was looking to stay in Green Bay for $12 million a year.

As always, viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Shad Khan's NFL team may be at the bottom of the league's rankings, but he's personally pretty close to the top.

Khan was ranked 110th on the recently released Forbes 400, which is an annual list published by the magazine of the wealthiest 400 Americans. Only three other owners of NFL teams were ranked ahead of Khan: Paul Allen (Seattle), Stephen Ross (Miami) and Stan Kroenke (St. Louis).

Khan has a net worth of $4.5 billion. He purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 for $770 million after making his fortune via his auto parts manufacturer, Flex-N-Gate.

Allen ($17.5 billion) was No. 27 on the Forbes 400. Ross ($6.5 billion) was 83rd and Kroenke ($6.3 billion) was 89th. Khan finished slightly ahead of two other NFL owners: Dallas' Jerry Jones (117th) and New England's Robert Kraft (122nd).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

SI.com's Doug Farrar writes that if the Jaguars are to make any progress, then fixing the ground game in free agency is a good place to start.

NFL.com's Conor Orr believes the Jaguars won't be big spenders in free agency.

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport lists the Jaguars among the potential suitors for running back DeMarco Murray.

Defensive tackles Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller are pushing each other in their rehab, writes John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

ESPN Insider Field Yates breaks down the Jaguars as one of the five teams primed to spend big in free agency Insider.

General manager David Caldwell said he hired former New York Jets GM John Idzik as a salary-cap consultant because he wanted an extra pair of eyes in that department in advance of what should be a busy period of free agency for the Jaguars, writes The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran.

If the Philadelphia Eagles do attempt to trade up with the Jaguars, Caldwell should ask for a first, second and fourth-round pick in 2015 and a first and third-round pick in 2016, writes the T-U's Hays Carlyon.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There was one surprise in the last dash to use the franchise or transition tags before 4 p.m. ET Monday, and it’s one that’s potentially very good for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The New England Patriots tagged kicker Stephen Gostkowski, which means free safety Devin McCourty will become a free agent unless the sides work out a new contract between now and 4 p.m. ET March 10. If that doesn’t happen and McCourty does hit the open market, he should be the Jaguars’ No. 1 priority.

There are other big-name players that will be available -- defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, tight end Julius Thomas, receiver Randall Cobb, and right tackle Bryan Bulaga could top the list -- and the Jaguars likely will pursue some of them. However, the Jaguars can find other, admittedly somewhat lower-caliber options at those positions, either through free agency or the draft.

That’s not the case at free safety. It’s not a particularly good crop in free agency, and the draft pool isn’t considered very good, either. So if the Jaguars are going to fix the biggest issue on defense in 2015 they must go after McCourty.

For Gus Bradley’s defense to perform at its best it must have a physical strong safety who can play near the line of scrimmage and a free safety with the range and athleticism to cover the width of the entire field. Bradley likes to play single high safety a lot, and right now he doesn’t have one that can do that.

Josh Evans, a sixth-round pick in 2013, has started 24 games at the spot but has no interceptions, no forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and just two pass breakups. The 6-foot, 205-pounder also has had issues with tackling, though he improved significantly in that area as the 2014 season progressed and was the Jaguars' third-leading tackler (90) in his second season.

McCourty is a perfect fit. He’s big enough (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), fast enough (he’s a converted cornerback), and smart enough to complete what is turning out to be, at worst, a very solid secondary. It would be a young secondary, too. McCourty is 27, which would make him tied for the oldest among players in the secondary that are under contract for 2015.

McCourty also has the trait that has been missing from the Jaguars’ secondary for a long time: he makes plays. He has 17 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and 58 pass breakups in his first five seasons, which averages out to 3.4 interceptions, 1.6 forced fumbles, and 11.6 pass breakups per season. The Jaguars’ entire group of defensive backs had three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and 26 pass breakups in 2014.

McCourty is unquestionably the top free safety on the market. He’s certainly not going to command Suh money, but the Jaguars might have to spend the kind of money that San Diego did on Eric Weddle (five years, $40 million) and Seattle did on Earl Thomas (four years, $40 million).

They should do it without hesitation.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars not only have the most salary cap space available, they also have the highest adjusted salary cap figure for 2015.

According to the NFLPA, the Jaguars are carrying over a league-high $21,768,205 in unused cap space from 2014. That means the team's adjusted cap for 2015 will be $168,486,107. The closest team is the Cleveland Browns, which will have an adjusted cap figure of $161,767,400. That's a difference of $6,718,707.

The Browns also have the second-biggest carryover: $18,908,285.

Free agency begins March 10.
Here is the sixth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free agency needs, position by position:

Defensive end

Who is on the roster: Andre Branch, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Ryan Davis, Ikponwosa Igbinosun, and Chris Smith.

Players scheduled to become free agents on March 10: Tyson Alualu.

Analysis: The addition of Clemons and Bryant in free agency really boosted the production of the position in 2014. Clemons finished second on the team with 8.0 sacks and Bryant, playing the end opposite the Leo, set the edge for the run defense. The group accounted for 23.5 sacks, more than half the team’s total of 45. Branch played in only eight games because of a groin injury, but several other young players stepped up in his absence. Ryan Davis had 6.5 sacks in only 289 snaps, and rookie Chris Smith had three sacks in limited action in eight games. General manager David Caldwell said he wants to re-sign Alualu, and Alualu said he wants to be back. The sides have another eight days to get a deal done before Alualu becomes a free agent. Though the production of the position was good, there is still one issue: The Jaguars lack an elite pass-rusher. Clemons had his highest sack total since the 2012 season and provided the leadership that coach Gus Bradley wanted, but he’s not the same player he was when he had 33.5 sacks from 2010-12. Having a player who alters opposing game plans is a huge advantage, and the Jaguars are searching for that piece to the defensive puzzle. It most likely will come in the draft. Sitting at No. 3, the Jaguars will have their choice of pass-rushers (with the likely exception of Leonard Williams) if that’s the route they choose.

NFL free agents of interest: The Jaguars will more likely bolster this position through the draft than free agency, but if they choose to sign an end, Jason Pierre-Paul is atop the list of potentially available players. The New York Giants have until 4 p.m. ET today to use the transition or franchise tag on him. Other names to watch include Jerry Hughes and Greg Hardy.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

CBSSports.com's Will Brinson writes that the Jaguars hold the key to the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. They can stay at No. 3 and take a pass-rusher, possibly Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., or trade the pick. He offers three trade scenarios.

ESPN's John Clayton writes about the Jaguars and Oakland Raiders being big spenders in free agency.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press lists the Jaguars among the five teams most likely to land defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The Florida Times-Union's Hays Carlyon caught up with cornerback Will Blackmon, whom the team released on Thursday. He had positive things to say about general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

Carlyon also released his mock 2.0 and has the Jaguars taking USC defensive end Leonard Williams after Tampa Bay and Tennessee take quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota with the first two picks.

Here is NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Dane Brugler's latest mock draft. He has the Jaguars taking Fowler at No. 3.

The Jaguars had 45 sacks in 2014, which is nearly as many as they had the two previous seasons combined (51). However, the T-U's Ryan O'Halloran writes that though the sacks total was up the Jaguars still didn't get as many hits on the quarterback and pressures as they would have liked.

One of the important parts of the 2011 NFL collective bargaining agreement was a provision called the "minimum spend."

The minimum spend mandates that each team must spend 89 percent of the salary cap from 2013 to 2016 in cash. League-wide, the NFL's 32 teams must spend a combined 95 percent of the salary cap over those four years.

While the league as a whole is spending at the 95 percent level at the midway point of the minimum spend period, 10 teams are under the 89 percent threshold: Oakland, Jacksonville, Carolina, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Orleans, New England and both New York teams.

The question heading into the 2015 free-agency period is how the minimum spend provision, in its third year, will affect spending. For the Raiders and Jaguars, the impact could be huge.

The system pretty much mandates the Jaguars and Raiders to be the biggest players in free agency. After two years of the minimum spend period, the Raiders are at 80.19 percent of the 2011 and 2012 caps. The Jaguars are at 82.19 percent. Currently, the Jaguars are $66.8 million under the cap for 2015. The Raiders will be at $56.5 million under once the termination of safety Tyvon Branch's contract becomes official.

(Read full post)

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

@ESPNdirocco: Not really. It doesn't make sense to me to add an aging back at this point. I'd rather take a young guy with fresher legs in the draft and work from that direction. The only one I would consider is Adrian Peterson. I'd stay away from DeMarco Murray because of the injury history and high mileage. @ESPNdirocco: Dante Fowler Jr. is the hot defensive end right now and from what I've seen he's going to be a good player. He can play end or the otto linebacker spot, and that versatility is valuable. If the Jaguars took him at No. 3 I'd have no problem with it. @ESPNdirocco: There's always a chance but like I said earlier, Peterson is the only one I'd go after, and even then it'd have to be a very team-friendly deal. I'd stay away from Reggie Bush because he's turning 30 in March and that's usually the tipping point with backs. Plus, he wasn't effective last season. Denard Robinson can do what they'd ask Bush to do and is younger and faster. @ESPNdirocco: From what I've heard, Sen'Derrick Marks is on schedule and has had no setbacks in his ACL recovery. Marks' status in no way would impact the Jaguars' interest level in Ndamukong Suh. He's the best defensive tackle in the game and a difference-maker on defense. However, I don't believe the Jaguars have any interest in Suh. He'd be outrageously expensive, and just because the Jaguars have plenty of money available doesn't mean they should spend it on him. @ESPNdirocco: I don't see it having any kind of major impact. The Jaguars already are invested in analytics so this doesn't change that. @ESPNdirocco: The Jaguars are going to go after a veteran receiver but it will be someone who will have much more impact than Harry Douglas. If the Jaguars were to sign him it would be later in free agency, but I don't see what he would bring that a guy such as Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree or Hakeem Nicks wouldn't. @ESPNdirocco: I guess you're asking if Marcedes Lewis or Paul Posluszny are going to be bounced. I don't believe Posluszny is going to get cut -- if he does, it's only because he has agreed to re-sign immediately at a more cap-friendly level (he's currently counting $9.5 million against the cap). Lewis is another matter because he's scheduled to count $8.2 million against the cap, but the Jaguars don't have to cut him. They've got so much room that they could keep both players and be fine. @ESPNdirocco: That's logical because the Jaguars and Raiders aren't going to take a quarterback. I don't think the Redskins would, either. The New York Jets pick sixth and they might take a quarterback, so if the Eagles wanted to move up to get Marcus Mariota then they'd better come in at No. 5 at worst. Of course, the Jets could be thinking the same thing and try to move up as well. It'll be interesting how it plays out. @ESPNdirocco: I'd be surprised if the Jaguars took a receiver at No. 3, especially if they add a veteran in free agency. The best way for David Caldwell to help Blake Bortles is to fix the offensive line and find a pass-catching tight end in free agency. @ESPNdirocco: Depends on what you consider a king's ransom. The Eagles would have to give me LeSean McCoy and a second-round pick this year as well. They'd be coming up from No. 20 and that's going to require a steep price. @ESPNdirocco: That's a question that I can't really answer for several reasons: I'm not inside Caldwell's head, we don't know which players will be tagged, and the market changes depending on who gets tagged. Plus, if the Jaguars hit on a "big name" free agent at right tackle, for example, that will change their approach and likely won't go after a lesser-known guy at that spot. Or they might decide to address that position in the draft. @ESPNdirocco: Caldwell hinted that the Jaguars would like to sign two or three "big-name" free agents, but as for whom I can't tell you (see above). I do know the Jaguars want to add a veteran receiver (Cobb is atop the list), a right tackle (Bryan Bulaga?) and a pass-catching tight end (Julius Thomas?). The big-name guys will likely come from those positions. @ESPNdirocco: In my perfect world, I'm 6-foot-4 with a full head of hair and own a magic unicorn ... but that's not what you meant. I think the scenario you're talking about would be signing Cobb, Bulaga, and Thomas and then taking the best pass rusher available at No. 3. @ESPNdirocco: You forgot Tandon Doss, who missed last season with an ankle injury. He was third in the NFL in punt return yardage in 2013. Ace Sanders hasn't given the Jaguars much as a returner, which is what he was drafted to do. If he doesn't show anything in camp I think he's gone.

Free-agency needs: Offensive line

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
Here is the fifth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Offensive line

Who is on the roster: C Luke Bowanko, G Zane Beadles, G Brandon Linder, G Tyler Shatley, T Cody Booth, T Luke Joeckel, T Josh Wells, T Brennan Williams, and T Sam Young.

Players scheduled to become free agents on March 10: G/C Jacques McClendon and T Austin Pasztor.

 Analysis: The unit was better in 2014 than it was in 2013 in the run game (78.8 yards per game in ’13; 102.1 yards per game in ’14) but struggled in pass protection. The Jaguars gave up a franchise-record and league-high 71 sacks last season, and while they weren’t all the fault of the offensive line, the majority were. Joeckel looked nothing like the No. 2 overall pick that he was in 2013, but the Jaguars say that’s because he spent the offseason between his first and second seasons rehabbing an ankle injury and wasn’t able to get stronger and fix footwork issues. Beadles was signed to a five-year, $30-million contract and struggled in the new offense before finally becoming more consistent over the final six weeks. Bowanko wasn’t supposed to be on the field until later in the season but was forced into action because McClendon really struggled in the first two games. Bowanko was up and down, but the Jaguars are pleased with his development. Linder was the team’s best and most consistent lineman. The right tackle spot was a mess, which three players having started games at that spot because of injuries. Pasztor was supposed to be the full-time starter there but missed eight games because of hand and hamstring injuries. Shatley, Booth and Wells were undrafted rookies. The Jaguars are committed to zone blocking but will at times use gap schemes.

NFL free agents of interest: GM David Caldwell said he wants to upgrade at right tackle. If Green Bay doesn’t franchise Bryan Bulaga, he should be atop the Jaguars’ list. Derek Newton and Marshall Newhouse are other names to watch. Caldwell also wants to add some veteran competition at other spots, too, so guard Mike Iupati, guard James Carpenter, guard Orlando Franklin and center Rodney Hudson are other names to watch.