With the least-talented NFL roster, Gus Bradley's team showed progress and moxie down the stretch of the 2013 season. General manager David Caldwell will continue to add talent to nearly every position. The biggest need comes at quarterback, where the Blaine Gabbert experiment has reached its expiration date. Owner Shad Khan has said the team will draft at least one quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft -- even though Caldwell tried to hush that talk. With needs at nearly every position, the roster will continue to be overhauled in the next several years, but Bradley had his troops headed in the right direction last season.
» QB Chad Henne: Jags brass is on the record professing its desire to bring back Henne. The veteran quarterback is a stopgap with an average arm. Henne is like a good relief pitcher in baseball -- you can get a couple solid innings out of him, but shouldn't ask him to go the distance. However, Jacksonville's desire to bring him back shows that they are likely to bring in a young quarterback through the draft. In that instance, Henne could be insurance if that player isn't ready to take over the reins from the jump.
» RB Maurice Jones-Drew: MJD will hit free agency, which doesn't usually happen with franchise players. Caldwell's repeated comments on the topic sound like he's ready to let Jones-Drew walk unless he gets a huge discount. MJD can still be a productive back. However, given the state of the position juxtaposed to the money Jones-Drew likely feels he's earned, odds are we see the diminutive, demolition-style runner in another jersey in 2014.
Other key free agents: DB Will Blackmon
What they need
The Jaguars have a ton of needs, luckily they are also projected to have approximately $50 million to spend. We touched on quarterback, their biggest need. The next step would be fortifying the offensive and defensive lines. A premier pass rusher has been mentioned often and is a clear need. However, it's even more necessary for Jacksonville to fortify it's interior offensive line. The Jags gave up 50 sacks last season, second worst in the NFL. Upgrades at both guard spots and center (due to the retirement of veteran Brad Meester) are necessary. Jacksonville brass has said they expect Justin Blackmon back at some point next season, but, regardless, a third wide receiver is also an offseason target for Caldwell.
On the way out
» RB Maurice Jones-Drew: See above. Jordan Todman (an exclusive rights free agent) filled in well alongside MJD last season and will come at a much cheaper price -- the three-year veteran minimum. Coupled with change-of-pace backs Ace Sanders, Denard Robinson and a possible late-round draft choice and the Jaguars would have a younger stable of cheap runners.
» QB Blaine Gabbert: Bradley, Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch can spout as many smoke-and-mirrors comments they want about Gabbert. The simple truth is that the Jags must move on. Maybe that time he sat behind Henne and learned was good for him last year. So what? He can't stay healthy and has been a disaster when he is on the field. Perhaps Fisch is right and Gabbert does have a future in the NFL, but it shouldn't be as a clipboard holder in Jacksonville.
» DE Jason Babin: The defensive end wants to stay in Jacksonville, but he's scheduled to make a base salary of $6 million -- currently projected as the eighth highest heading into 2014 -- which is overpaying for his 7.5 sacks. The team could restructure his contract to keep him in Jacksonville, but as it currently sits, he's a candidate to be clipped.
Offseason crystal ball
Caldwell will be more aggressive this season than last year. He knows the holes he needs to fill and has the cash to fill them. Plugging gaps on the offensive and defensive lines should be the priority in free agency. Getting young skill players will be a focal point in the draft.
This team still lacks the depth of talent it takes to win over a 16-game schedule. However, Caldwell knows he has the right coach for the job. As Bradley is given more talent -- and a quarterback -- to deploy, the Jaguars will rise in the poor AFC South. It just won't be a meteoric rise next year.
In the latest "Around The League Podcast," the guys ponder the future in both Seattle and Denver and break down the teams who intrigue them most this offseason.