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'14 Combine: Caldwell won't force QB


INDIANAPOLIS – David Caldwell didn't shake up the NFL Thursday.

That wasn't the Jaguars' General Manager's intent at the NFL Scouting Combine, but as is usually the case when he speaks, he indeed intended to be as honest as possible.

So, if you're trying to figure Caldwell's thinking, here's the gist: He honestly may not do what a whole lot of people assume he will:

That honestly means the Jaguars aren't absolutely going quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The topic expectedly came up Thursday afternoon when Caldwell was asked how big of an impulse it will be to take one with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

"For us, it's not really that big of an impulse," he said. "The biggest thing for us is to build this team and get the quality of talent up to where the expectations are higher. If one of those players is a quarterback, we'll do it, but we have to upgrade the whole team."

Caldwell wasn't the biggest combine news Thursday. That honor went to Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, whose early press conference drew more than its share of Twitter reaction, but with the Jaguars at No. 3, there was plenty of interest when Caldwell spoke.

What does Caldwell think of Johnny Manziel? Jadeveon Clowney?

And quarterback – what about quarterback?

All were topics, and Caldwell offered a few thoughts. He called the competitiveness of Manziel, Texas A&M's dynamic quarterback, "intriguing." He called Clowney, the defensive end from South Carolina many believe the draft's best player, "talented – extremely talented."

As for quarterback, Caldwell this week mainly reiterated thoughts he has iterated much of the offseason - that while it may be a position of need, you can't let that need and the accompanying very alluring desire overwhelm all else.

"You can't force the decision," Caldwell said Wednesday upon arriving at the combine. "When you pick a quarterback, you're generally going to pay a premium for it and we understand that. But we have quite a few needs that are pressing and to limit our pool to quarterback, I don't think we're at that point in time."

But that's what everybody wants to talk about and what everybody's expecting …

"That's everywhere you go," Caldwell said. "It's a quarterback-driven league, and if you have a very good one you're better off than most teams."

But in recent seasons teams such as the Seattle Seahawks with Russell Wilson and the San Francisco 49ers with Colin Kaepernick have had success with quarterbacks selected outside the first round.

"It's not just new," Caldwell said. "When Baltimore won their first Super Bowl, they did it in a very similar way. You can do it without it. It makes it harder. It may make it a little more time-consuming in terms of the amount of time it takes to get there, but you have to build a good team. Even if you do have a quarterback, you have to have a good team around him.  

"You don't want to get a quarterback, then put him in a position to fail, either. That's the biggest thing. We have to make sure that when we do get one – or if that person – is (2013 starter) Chad (Henne) – we surround him with a chance to be successful."

If there is a theme developing around Caldwell's offseason comments, this is it – that the understandable quarterback obsession of Jaguars observers and fans isn't one he necessarily shares. Or at the very least, it's an obsession a general manager must manage prudently.

Manziel. Teddy Bridgewater. Blake Bortles. Those names along with Clowney are the names you hear mock-drafters most often mocking to the Jaguars, and it's mostly quarterback. Lately, it has been mostly Manziel.

Caldwell's aware of all of this, just as he is aware of the importance of the position.

He is just as aware of something else.

"Quarterback for us isn't the end-all, be-all," Caldwell said. "It's not going to cure all of our issues."

Know this about Caldwell:

He is no smokescreen guy. He's not going to list his Top 5 for the world to see, but if he says something publicly, it's because he's thinking it. He has talked all offseason about wanting to re-sign Henne for a reason – because he wants to re-sign Henne. And he has been saying Henne could be a bridge to the future for the same reason – because there's a possibility that the Jaguars could wait to take a quarterback after the first round, and if that happens there's a good chance that quarterback may not be ready to start opening week, or even opening month.

The difference between Caldwell and most of the people pontificating and predicting the No. 3 selection is that Caldwell is intimately familiar with the Jaguars' roster, and that he is seeing the draft not just as an immediate need-filler, but as a piece of a larger process.

That's not to say Caldwell won't take a quarterback at No. 3, but he's darned sure considering the possibility, and he's sure not buying the oft-floated theory that if Bridgewater/Manziel/Bortles is there "the Jaguars have to take one … just because." And as Caldwell reiterated again Thursday, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan wants he and Gus Bradley to build a strong roster, not to draft with the idea of selling tickets by temporarily appeasing fans.

Caldwell on Wednesday said when it comes to a final decision at No. 3, it will be very hard to pass a difference-maker for a quarterback he didn't believe was a difference-maker.

"We just have to build the team, and get the team going,"Caldwell said. "If a quarterback presents itself, then you take him. I don't know if that's going to be with the 81st pick like Seattle got Russell Wilson or the second round or the fourth round.

"Until one presents itself, you just have to find talent and good talent."

And until then, that's just what he plans to do. Honestly.

This article is presented by Turner Pest Control.

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