Jaguars letting key vets test free-agent market
"Those guys have been so critical and an unbelievable part of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the last how many years," Bradley said. "Those are tough decisions. They've given so much, so it's important how we handle those decisions."
The Jaguars can be less delicate with Cox and Knighton.
Cox, a third-round draft pick in 2009, has been a starting cornerback since he walked through the door. But the former William & Mary standout has missed 17 games the last three seasons, showing little ability to play through pain.
Sitting out with groin, hamstring, back and rib injuries, Cox has the kind of history that could make teams — including Jacksonville — leery of giving him much guaranteed money on the open market.
Even though the Jaguars are looking to solidify the cornerback position, they declined to use the franchise tag on Cox, not wanting to pay him $10.8 million in 2013.
Knighton is in a similar situation. Also a third-round pick in 2009, Knighton lost his starting job last season after battling back from a career-threatening eye injury. Combined with an ongoing battle to keep his weight down, Knighton could be seen as a risky free-agent signing.
The Jaguars have made plenty of those in recent years, enough that they contributed to Smith's firing at the end of last season.
Between receiver Jerry Porter (2008), cornerback Drayton Florence (2008), safety Sean Considine (2009), offensive tackle Tra Thomas (2009), defensive end Aaron Kampman (2010), linebacker Clint Session (2011), cornerback Drew Coleman (2011), punter Matt Turk (2011), receiver Laurent Robinson (2012) and Ross (2012), the Jaguars have enough free-agent flops to make even diehard fans forget about the Hugh Douglas debacle in 2003.
With owner Shad Khan giving Caldwell and Bradley plenty of time to "jockey" the roster, there's no pressure to try to turn things around overnight and overpay in free agency — even if it means letting some key veterans walk.
"I wouldn't expect to be major players in free agency, no big signings, just because a lot of our emphasis is on the draft," Bradley said. "But we still want to provide some competition for our team."