“There’s a level of responsibility and expectation of every player who is a part of this team,” Gene Smith said of the release of the team’s former first-round pick.
There’s no shame in missing with early draft picks, as most teams have missed. There is a penalty to pay with missing on those picks, and that is usually losing. The Jaguars have experienced that. The sin in the process is not being able to admit those mistakes and move on, and the Jaguars are proving with the recent parting of ways with former first-round picks Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, as well as free agent busts Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence that they are finally moving on.
Parting ways with Reggie Williams, who the Jaguars decided not to offer a contract to when his deal expired last month, was easy. Williams, after having a breakout 2007 season, has mostly been a bust. Although he is a fantastic blocker, blocking wide receivers aren’t taken in the top ten picks of the draft. Williams had averaged less than 38 catches per season for the Jags and has shown little more than flashes during his time with the team. After a five-year stint with the team and a pair of run-ins with the law, Williams was obviously expendable.
Porter and Florence didn’t give the Jaguars much, although the team made the pair approximately $20 million richer in the one season they wore teal. Still, it would’ve been understandable if the team had given at least Porter one more chance to be productive, considering the state of the Jaguars wide receiver position.
“We don’t play a game until September,” Smith said when asked about the lack of depth at receiver. “I feel confident we can add to our receiver group. I feel that acquiring a veteran and through the college draft we’ll find players who can play at a winning level.”
Cutting Matt Jones was likely a tougher decision. Although Jones has had his problems in Jacksonville, he is coming off his best season as a pro. Jones was the team’s best receiver a year ago as he caught 65 passes for 761 yards in just 12 games. Jones was arrested a couple weeks ago for violating the terms of his probation for his drug conviction, as he admitted to drinking alcohol when playing golf.
If the penalty for drinking while playing golf were to cost the average person their job, the unemployment rate in this country would be far greater than what it currently is. Nonetheless, Jones was likely made aware by the team that any further indiscretions would lead to his immediate dismissal and the fact that it happened to the offense’s second-best player from a year ago sends a clear message to the rest of the team. It shows that the Jaguars are committed to changing their reputation as “Cincinnati South.”
Winning isn’t guaranteed if you have character guys in the locker room, but it is much more difficult to achieve if you don’t.
“Evaluating your roster is a continuing process,” Smith said. “We want players who play well on and off the field.”
Although it is now undeniable that the Jaguars wasted their first-round draft picks in 2003, 2004, and 2005, this should be looked upon as a very good day in team history. For the first time in a long time, the team has shown a public realization of past mistakes and finally an ability to admit to those errors and move forward.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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