Season finale could be Jaguars farewell for several players
Dec. 31, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley will be back in 2016. A number of his players won't, especially since the Jaguars (5-10) have more than $40 million in available salary cap space to partially spend in free agency.
So the team's season finale at Houston (8-7) on Sunday will be the last, at least with the Jaguars, for several players on the roster.
Here's a look at some who could be playing their final game for Jacksonville:
— Bryan Anger: Selected five spots ahead of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Anger is a pending free agent. HIs net average is at a career-low 39 yards this season, which is tied for 25th in the NFL. And although he's renowned for being a better-than-average holder and could kick field goals in a pinch, the Jaguars likely will go younger at the position.
"The challenging thing for him is we've asked him to be more directional and not just punt it right down the middle of the field but just try to be more of a directional punter," Bradley said. "I think there's a transition for that."
— Andre Branch: A second-round pick out of Clemson in 2012, Branch has 14 sacks in four seasons. The Jaguars hoped he would fill in for injured first-round draft pick Dante Fowler Jr. in his contract year, but Branch spent the first quarter of the season recovering from a sprained knee ligament and never even reached the most modest of expectations.
"We've seen spurts," Bradley said. "I think he's had some good rushes, some good games. ... The challenge is that consistency."
— Chris Clemons: The 34-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on a four-year, $17.5 million deal. But Clemons has just three sacks in 15 games, and his $4 million cap number in 2016 along with the expected return of Fowler make him expendable.
"I don't (care) what people think of me," said Clemons, a 12-year veteran who has 69 career sacks. "That's just a perception. It's like saying a CEO being 34 or 35 years old, that he's no good for a company. It's not like that. ... I've never cared what people thought about me. People said I wasn't going to make it in this league; look at me now.
"I worry about getting myself ready to play every Sunday. I don't worry about what people think."
— Toby Gerhart: Finishing the second year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract, Gerhart has been a disappointment in Jacksonville. He has 370 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 21 games. He sustained a foot injury in the 2014 season opener and never fully recovered. He battled a sports hernia injury this season and ended up on injured reserve. He ran 20 times for 44 yards, serving mostly as a short-yardage back. If he's back, it will be with a pay cut.
— Chad Henne: Blake Bortles' backup is a pending free agent and wants to stick around, but the team has yet to approach his agent about a new deal. Henne and Bortles get along well, so it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back even at a price tag around $4 million annually for a backup quarterback.
— Marcedes Lewis: The 31-year-old tight end took a $4 million pay cut in the offseason, hoping the arrival of Julius Thomas would boost his pass-catching numbers. Lewis has 15 receptions for 181 yards, his worst season since his rookie year in 2006. But he remains one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and the Jaguars would like to see him finish his career in Jacksonville.
— Stefan Wisniewski: The center signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with Jacksonville, but a recent run of poor snaps might make the Jaguars go in another direction.
"We've got to get rid of that," Bradley said. "That's unacceptable, so he's got to clean that part of it up."