(Sports Network) - The Jaguars are near the top of sub-.500 teams that could vault into playoff contention next season. Rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich overcame turnover problems and benefited from nearly a full season under center, and the team won three of its final five games.
Leftwich looks like he is on his way to fulfilling his star potential, but the gunslinger needs more help on offense. Running back Fred Taylor continues to be one of the NFL's best, but wide receiver Jimmy Smith no longer plays at a Pro Bowl level. The Jaguars must get another weapon at receiver for Leftwich.
The draft class is exceedingly deep at wide receiver, so the Jags could wait until April to address that need, but a player like Darrell Jackson would be very attractive to Jacksonville if the money could work on both ends. The team also could make a play for restricted free agent Steve Smith. They would have to pay a steep price in draft picks, but the speedy Smith would give Leftwich a young star at receiver.
The Jaguars designated safety Donovin Darius as their franchise player for the second year in a row. Darius has not played to his potential, but is a fierce hitter and plays the run well. The Jaguars took on the identity of coach Jack Del Rio and put together a stifling run defense and were one of the most physical teams in the NFL on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback Fernando Bryant is an unrestricted free agent and probably won't be back in 2004. The Jags will try to sign linebacker Danny Clark, a strong run defender, and would like to keep veteran TE Kyle Brady, an exceptional blocker.
Last year the Jags signed linebacker Mike Peterson and moved him to the middle. The move panned out, but the signing of defensive end Hugh Douglas was a bust. The team will try and retain third DE Paul Spicer.
KEY UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE-Kyle Brady, S-Donovin Darius (Franchise Tag), CB-Fernando Bryant, DE-Paul Spicer, LB-Danny Clark, OL-Leander Jordan, OT- Sammy Williams, OG-Jamar Nesbit, CB-James Trapp, P-Mark Royals.
KEY RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P-Chris Hanson, LB-Joe Tuipala.