ZMI ALPHA:Baalke on free agency: “We’re looking for value…”

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ZMI ALPHA:Baalke on free agency: “We’re looking for value…”

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars have a plan and like their plan.

And while Trent Baalke shared few specifics regarding the offseason ahead, a theme emerged when the Jaguars’ general manager spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re looking at a lot of different positions, a lot of different players,” Baalke said. “We’re looking for value. That isn’t always the most expensive player. There are all different levels of ‘like.’

“When we say, ‘We like a player,’ to what level? And what level do we place on him? That’s going to be critical as we build this team out moving forward – is making sure we get the value of the position and the player correct.”

Baalke said of the Jaguars’ offseason, which begins when free agency opens Wednesday, March 17: “We’re sitting in a good cap space right now. We’re going to continue to look at this market and see how it unfolds. Generally speaking, the big contracts get done early in the process and we’ll follow that. We’ll be involved with that. Where it ends up leading us to, player-wise, that remains to be seen.

“We feel good about the plan. Now, we just have to execute.”

Baalke spoke to the media via video conference Wednesday, balking multiple times when asked about specific positions.

“I’d love to give you names, but if I give you names, I’m giving names to the 31 other teams we’re competing against,” he said with a smile when asked about the Jaguars’ tight end group – a group Head Coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday spoke of needing to rebuild. “We have a plan that uses both free agency and the draft. We’ve got some guys internally that will be competing for those spots as well.”

Baalke said the team’s talent-acquisition approach will focus not on a single position or single avenue, but an overall approach.

“You look at the overall roster,” he said. “What you do is try to look at resources you have available both through free agency and the draft and who’s on your team. You try to put a game plan together using that model. What can we get done in free agency? What can we get done in the draft? Where does the draft seem to have some value, some depth, positionally? Where does free agency have some depth to it positionally?

“You try to put a game plan together to put a roster together as a whole, not looking at it individually position by position but overall as a team.”

The NFL’s 2021 League Year is scheduled to open March 17. In addition to opening free agency, that’s the day teams must be under the salary cap and the day trades can become official. The NFL on Wednesday announced that the 2021 salary cap will be $182.5 million.

“We figured it would be close to 180 or 185,” Baalke said. “That’s what we planned on.”

The salary cap as expected is down from $198.2 million last season because of COVID-19’s effect on revenue this past season. Baalke said he agrees with analysts who expect the lower cap to mean a higher quality free agent available than usual.

“I think there will be more available, yes,” Baalke said. “When that trickle-down effect is going to happen – Is it going to happen early? Is it going to be as players get signed? – remains to be seen. There is going to be a plethora of players available. We’ll continue to monitor the free agents who are already on the market and we’ll look at guys who come available when they become available.”

The Jaguars currently are projected to enter the 2021 League Year with $70.1 million in cap space, most in the NFL.

“We’re always going to look to push the envelope and spend to the cap on a three-year rolling cycle,” Baalke said. “We have an ownership that’s willing to do that and we want to do that. We’re going to use the dollars. Value is critical. You have to get the value of the players right.

“It’s just like building a stock portfolio. If you get a bunch of overpaid stocks, if you buy high and sell low, eventually that catches up with you. We want to treat the players right and value them correctly.”

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