Jaguars sign Holt – how does it affect their draft?

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed wide receiver Torry Holt to a three-year, $20 million contract.

Holt’s better days are definitely behind him but he can still contribute, especially on a team that was ready to get buy with Dennis Northcutt and Mike Walker at receiver. Over six million a year is a little steep for a 33-year old, but the Jags had to outbid the Titans, a team that seemed to have the early edge in negotiations.

What will be interesting to keep an eye on is how this signing will affect Jacksonville’s draft. They’re slated to select No. 8 and a lot of draft pundits figured they would go with one of the top wideouts at that spot. But with Holt on board, one would have to believe that they’ll either wait to select a receiver in the later rounds or bypass one altogether and go with what’s currently on the roster.

In my latest mock, I have the Jags drafting Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. If he gets past Cleveland at No. 5, Raji would be a great complement to John Henderson on Jacksonville’s defensive line. The Jags traded Marcus Stroud to Buffalo before the 2008 season and Rob Meier clearly wasn’t up to the task of being a full time starter. If Raji is selected, Meier could go back to being No. 3 in the defensive tackle rotation, which was a role he excelled at before being tossed into a starter last season.

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Offseason Blueprint: Jacksonville Jaguars

Notable Free Agents: Mike Peterson, LB; Brad Meester, C; Khalif Barnes, OT; Reggie Williams, WR; Chris Naeole, G; Joe Zelenka, TE.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $15,500,000

Draft Order: 8

Top Needs: OL, CB, LB, WR, RB.

Offseason Outlook: Let the cleansing process begin. The Jaguars have already released long-time veteran running back Fred Taylor, 2008 free agent bust Jerry Porter and disappointing cornerback Drayton Florence. There’s also little to no chance the team makes a play to re-sign middle linebacker Mike Patterson, who was at odds with head coach Jack Del Rio for the better part of the ‘08 season.

The team also made Gene Smith in charge of personnel decisions and Del Rio is expected to take over the defensive playcalls next year, which should turn out to be two sound moves.

In terms of personnel, the team needs to address the offensive line first and foremost and then go from there. The O-line was ransacked with injuries last season, not to mention heartbreak when Richard Collier suffered 14 gunshot wounds in early September, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The Jags don’t have to reinvent the wheel because they’re already got the makings of a competitive team. But they need to regroup and rebuild through the draft and a good start would be to get their hands on one of the top offensive tackle prospects that will be available in the top 10.

Even though his talent is unquestioned, Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith is proving with each passing day that he may be too much of a risk to be taken with the No. 8 overall pick. But Virginia’s Eugene Monrore, Baylor’s Jason Smith or Ole Miss’s Michael Oher could be available and could replace Khalif Barnes at left tackle, who is expected to depart via free agency.

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