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Jaguars owner Shad Khan aims to build through draft: 'We cannot have this addiction to free agents'

The Jaguars locked up Trevor Lawrence and Josh Allen with major extensions this offseason, solidifying franchise cornerstones while continuing a spending spree over the past two years.

Jacksonville's heavy investments began in 2022 with free-agent signings that included wide receiver Christian Kirk, tight end Evan Engram, guard Brandon Scherff and linebacker Foye Oluokun, among others. This offseason, the Jaguars opened the checkbook once again with key additions such as WR Gabe Davis, guard Ezra Cleveland and defensive lineman Arik Armstead before extending Lawrence and Allen.

Shad Khan's commitment to a competitive roster is apparent, but the Jaguars owner made it clear he's looking to develop and pay in-house players going forward.

"I think there's a sea change for us -- and this is for our coaching, that they have to develop young players," Khan said last week, "Our solution isn't going to be we're going to be signing free agents every year. We don't have the ability. Bottom line is that young talent has to be developed. The coaching, the coaching staff, their priorities have to change. Their mindset has to change. That's where we're going to get our future players.

"We cannot have this addiction to free agents."

It's difficult for any front office to show fiscal restraint while trying to make the best roster possible, but as Khan alluded to, success in drafting the right players is essential to harmonize such a tough balancing act.

Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in 2021, and Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in 2019, are exemplary components of such a successful process. Jacksonville rewarded its two most important players on both sides of the ball without competing offers as a result, signing Lawrence to a five-year, $275 million extension and Allen to a five-year, $150 million deal.

Khan said it was "comforting" to know Lawrence will be in Jacksonville through the 2030 season, but noted entrusting the front office and coaching staff with these decisions.

"I was comfortable to committing a long time ago, and I told [personnel and coaching], 'It's not my decision,''' he said. "These aren't things I want to impose. I want the coaches to believe that. I want the general manager to believe that. I want the personnel people to believe that and really be vested in it.

"I didn't tip my hand to these people until they told me why they were sold on Trevor."

Drafting the right players is tougher than it sounds, and perhaps the Jaguars would be in an even better place if it weren't for a few first-round misses in recent years. The same can be said about the Jags signing the right free agents, a risky proposition that can carry financial constraints, as the club learned this offseason when Calvin Ridley signed a major deal with the rival Titans following a solid season in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars still have plenty of young talent that can benefit from Khan's new directive, including running back Travis Etienne, pass rusher Travon Walker, offensive tackle Anton Harrison, linebacker Devin Lloyd and the club's most recent first-round pick, WR Brian Thomas Jr.

Khan, who recently called last year's late-season collapse an "organizational failure," will be expecting better results in 2024, and with that added pressure perhaps comes financial incentive based on the ownership's recent injunction.

Having locked in a budding talent who plays the game's most important position, however, Khan is confident the Jaguars are headed in the right direction.

"I think a lot of other teams are kind of envious of it," Khan said of Lawrence's extension. "I have a lot of confidence in (head coach) Doug (Pederson). I think we have the right person there who has won at a high level and can do it."

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