Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Difficult' Overhaul under Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Difficult' Overhaul under Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

Now the real season begins.

Fresh off the Jaguars' second consecutive losing season and their worst loss in 28 games, coach Tom Coughlin yesterday signaled the start of an offseason roster makeover that he acknowledged will be "very difficult."

"I can't duck the reality," said Coughlin, whose injury-riddled team finished 6-10 Sunday with a 33-13 road loss to the Chicago Bears. "The reality is there. We're not in a great situation right now. We're at a relatively low ebb, and we're going to have to do something about our roster. We're just going to have to put the mouthpiece in and do it. I don't see any other way around it."

And that process, which Coughlin repeatedly refused to describe as a rebuilding project, begins immediately. After finishing last in the AFC Central for the first time since their 1995 expansion year, the Jaguars are an NFL-high $23 million over next season's salary cap and must get under the cap by the time free agency starts March 1.

Coughlin termed the Jaguars' current cap situation "a quagmire" yesterday and admitted that many of the team's offseason moves will be drastic.

"There will have to be some very difficult decisions made in this offseason, without a doubt," Coughlin said during his annual season-ending news conference. "It'll be a difficult offseason for a lot of reasons."

Difficult because many of the Jaguars' best-known players will either have to be released or allowed to depart in free agency so the club can get its cap situation under control.

Some of the most likely players to be released are wide receiver Keenan McCardell, middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, tight end Kyle Brady, cornerback Aaron Beasley and either defensive tackle Gary Walker or fellow tackle Seth Payne.

Several veteran free agents also will be invited to look elsewhere when their contracts expire next month, including linebacker Kevin Hardy, defensive end Renaldo Wynn and kicker Mike Hollis. Hardy and Wynn are both former first-round picks by the Jaguars.

Conceivably, the only "name" veterans to remain with Jacksonville next season could be quarterback Mark Brunell, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, receiver Jimmy Smith and defensive end Tony Brackens.

The roster would then be filled out with rookies and second-year players making low salaries, although Coughlin is hopeful the Jaguars can create cap room for several second-tier veteran free agents.

"I don't make those decisions," Brunell said Sunday when asked about the Jaguars' offseason plans. "I don't know what happens, who stays or who goes. I'll just sit back and watch. Whoever's there in July, those are the guys we go with. We're not necessarily going to be without talent next year. …

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