The Jaguars parted ways with another key veteran Monday when they released starting right guard Chris Naeole, who has spent the last six seasons with the team.
Naeole, 33, suffered a torn quadriceps tendon last November in a game against New Orleans and finished the season on injured reserve.
Naeole's age and the significance of the injury were both factors in his release.
"We know we were likely to move on and it wouldn't be right to bring him in, have him go through camp and not have the opportunity to catch on somewhere else," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We want to give him every opportunity to continue his career."
"We just feel that right now, in fairness to him, we like the group we have."
Naeole, an 11-year veteran, couldn't be reached for comment.
Del Rio had expressed concern regarding Naeole's recovery last month at the NFL Combine. Of all the Jaguars players with significant injuries from last season, Del Rio was least optimistic about Naeole's.
Naeole has started in 150 of his 154 games over his career. A former first-round draft pick, he spent his first five seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
"Chris has been one of the toughest guys I've ever been around in the five years I've been here," Del Rio said. "He's been consistently the best performer on our line. He's been excellent; [he] really established a standard for our offensive line as far as being tough and dependable."
Replacing Naeole won't be easy. The club plugged in veteran Maurice Williams into Naeole's spot last season and the former starter performed well in the final eight regular-season games and two playoff contests. Del Rio said the club is still in discussions with Williams - an unrestricted free agent - about a possible return.
When contacted, Williams seemed noncommittal about a return because he's currently in discussions with several teams.
But even if Williams rejoins the Jaguars, there will still be an open competition for the starting right guard spot, which would involve rising second-year player Uche Nwaneri and sixth-year veteran Dennis Norman.
"I'm not anointing anyone [as the starter at right guard] right now," Del Rio said.
Before his release, Naeole had spent extensive time at the club's training facilities rehabilitating his injury. But he still faces a long road to recovery.
The quadriceps tendon joins four muscles in the upper leg and attaches to the kneecap. An injury like the one Naeole suffered typically involves the tendon tearing off the bone of the kneecap. Surgical repair, in many cases, involves sutures being tied to the tendon and pulled through holes drilled in the kneecap to reattach the tendon.