JACKSONVILLE – If the Jaguars aren't done in free agency, they're close.
David Caldwell, the Jaguars' General Manager, said this week he's fine with that because the team took some significant steps during the first 10 days of the NFL's 2014 free-agency period.
"We're happy," Caldwell said shortly after the University of Central Florida Pro Day in Orlando Wednesday afternoon. "We felt like we got better, and that's what we always strive to do."
Caldwell said whereas focus since March 11 primarily has been signing seven new free agents, primary attention now returns to preparing for the May 8-10 2014 NFL Draft.
"I'd say it will be about 95 percent draft," Caldwell said.
The Jaguars not only re-signed quarterback Chad Henne, cornerback Will Blackmon and defensive end Jason Babin in recent days, they also signed former Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson, former Denver Broncos offensive guard Zane Beadles, former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and former Seattle Seahawks defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.
That's 10 significant transactions, with Caldwell saying on Wednesday there had been particular emphasis on the offensive and defensive line.
"One of the things we wanted to do was get bigger and more physical on the O line and D line," Caldwell said, adding that the return of second-year left tackle Luke Joeckel also should help in that area.
Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, sustained a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 5 loss to the St. Louis Rams. That was his first game at his natural left tackle position after starting the first five games at right tackle. Joeckel said recently he expects to participate in the offseason program and to be fully ready by training camp.
"That's not necessarily a part of free agency, but it should help us get better on the left side of the line," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said while the additions of Bryant, Clemons and Hood were about adding size, they were as much about depth along the defensive line. The Jaguars entered the offseason with the idea of reducing snaps for the starting defensive linemen, with starting tackles Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller having played 946 and 581 snaps, respectively, last season. Marks started all 16 games for the Jaguars last season and Miller started the first 14.
"I talked to both Sen'Derrick and Roy Miller at the end of the year, and I just felt like those guys played too much, and that they weren't as effective as they could have been if they had had a more manageable play count," Caldwell said. "We told them we'd try to bring some guys in so that they could have fresh legs for four quarters and also 16 games."
Caldwell said he also believes the free-agency period will give the Jaguars the ability to approach the draft less concerned about making decisions based on immediate need.
"We're pretty flexible," he said. "We feel based on the way this draft is set up with some of the depth at some positions where it's strong at – with some of our needs – I think we're in a good situation.
"Last year we went into the draft and we had to fill spots just to line up. We don't have that feeling right now. With 11 picks, hopefully we can make good value decisions."
Caldwell on Wednesday also discussed:
*The center position, saying third-year veteran Mike Brewster is an option there along with Patrick Lewis. "Those guys have a great opportunity to come in and compete for that job, and we'll gauge every other opportunity," Caldwell said, adding that Jacques McClendon also could compete at the spot. Fourteen-year veteran Brad Meester retired following last season. …
*The acquisition of Doss. The Jaguars signed Doss, a fourth-round selection by Baltimore in the 2011 NFL Draft, as an unrestricted free agent Tuesday. He spent the past three seasons with the Ravens and led the NFL in punt return average last season. Caldwell said Doss will have a chance to compete with second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders for the punt return role. "Not only that, he's very good on coverage team – kickoff team, punt cover team," Caldwell said. "He's not just a return guy. He's a core four (special teams) guy, too. On game day if you can have a receiver be a core four guy and be a receiver, too – and have punt return skills – that helps you a lot."