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Jaguars have money to spend in free agency

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars have a wish list for free agency. It's just not nearly as long as the one they put together last year.

Although new owner Shahid Khan said he would spend to the $120.6 million salary cap in 2012, general manager Gene Smith made it clear the team plans to build through the draft.

So the Jaguars expect to add just a few select players in free agency, which begins Tuesday. And with more than $45 million in cap space, no one is out of Jacksonville's price range. Defensive end Mario Williams surely tops the list, along with receivers Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston and Pierre Garcon.

"You really don't want to be big in pro free agency," Smith said recently. "That's not where you want to be. You want to be big in the draft. Pro free agency, that's just to supplement your roster."

The Jaguars were big in free agency last year. They signed linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry, nickel cornerback Drew Coleman and defensive end Matt Roth. They also traded for safety Dwight Lowery at the end of training camp. Those six players provided an instant upgrade, helping Jacksonville improve from No. 28 to sixth in total defense.

"A year ago, we needed help on defense," Smith said. "We didn't have many guys coming into the prime of their career on our football team, at least not down the middle of the defense. When you talk about adding Posluszny, Session, Lowery and Landry, from our end, that's not really where you want to be.

"You go into pro free agency to try to address a need, hopefully not needs. You want to get a couple of players out of it that can come in here and help you right away. You're looking for a quality starter or maybe trying to fill a situational role on your team. But filling huge holes, that's not where you want to be. Last year, what we were able to do in August, the amount of defensive players that we added, that's kind of atypical."

This year will be more in line with Smith's long-term plan for the franchise.

The Jaguars don't need as much, either.

Receiver, defensive end and cornerback are the team's three areas of need. In that order, too.

The Jaguars selected Cecil Shorts in the fourth round of the NFL draft, adding to a receiving corps that included Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Kassim Osgood. None of them, however, has developed into a legitimate No. 1 receiver, maybe not even a No. 2. And the Jaguars believe better receivers will help young quarterback Blaine Gabbert's development.

So Jacksonville plans to add at least two receivers between free agency and the draft.

Jackson, Colston and Garcon are considered the top free agents. Reggie Wayne and Mario Manningham also will garner consideration.

None of them will get the kind of lucrative offers that Williams will command. Considered the best pass rusher on the open market, the former Houston Texans top pick will be one of the most coveted free agents in recent years.

The Jaguars have several holes at end, too.

Roth and Jeremy Mincey are free agents, and 32-year-old Aaron Kampman is coming off his third consecutive injury-shortened season.

Jacksonville began preliminary contract negotiations with Mincey last month, but the sides failed to reach an agreement. The Jaguars want Mincey to stick around, but they don't want to overpay for a 28-year-old defender who has started just 24 games in six seasons. Mincey had a career-high eight sacks last season, but five of them came against an Indianapolis team that played with inexperienced quarterbacks and a shaky offensive line.

The Jaguars also would like to keep Lowery, but it looks like he will entertain other offers.

Jacksonville used the franchise tag on place-kicker Josh Scobee, essentially locking him up for at least another season, and re-signed cornerback Rashean Mathis to a one-year deal. Bringing back Mathis reduces the need to get a starting cornerback in free agency and likely leaves the team to draft one next month and hope to develop a replacement for their long-time starter.

"To go into pro free agency and try to get starters, that's not really where you want to be," Smith said. "You want to draft, develop and reward your own. You don't make a living of going into pro free agency and making a big splash. You try to do it mostly through the draft."

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