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'15 free agency: Thomas, Odrick, Parnell, Skuta, House, Brown finalize deals


JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars moved fast, and they moved decisively.

And thus, the 2015 free-agency period officially began.

Flush with salary-cap space and focusing on what he termed "blue-chip" prospects, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell moved swiftly and boldly early in free agency as the Jaguars Wednesday morning announced they had signed six unrestricted free agents:

*Former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas.

*Former Dallas Cowboys right tackle Jermey Parnell.

*Former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jared Odrick.

*Former San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Dan Skuta.

*Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House.

*Former Indianapolis Colts safety Sergio Brown.

The announcement came the morning after the Tuesday afternoon start of the NFL's 2015 league year, the time teams were allowed to officially finalize deals with players whose contracts expired after the 2014 season. Teams had been able to set parameters with potential free agents since Saturday.

Three of the players signed by the Jaguars – Thomas, House and Odrick – were former draft selections hitting free agency for the first time, with Odrick having been a first-round selection by Miami in 2010 and Thomas being named to the last two Pro Bowls. All six are in what most people in NFL circles consider the ideal age range for a free agent – between 25 and 28.

House is 25, Thomas and Brown are 26, Odrick is 27 and Parnell and Skuta are 28.

The day represented by far the team's most aggressive foray into free agency since Caldwell's hiring in January 2013.

While Caldwell has emphasized a draft-and-develop approach to building the Jaguars' roster in two seasons with the team, the Jaguars entered this free-agency period with more than $60 million of salary cap space. Teams must spend to at least 89 percent of the cap over a four-year period.

The Jaguars in Caldwell's first two seasons largely opted for so-called "second-tier," lower-profile free agents, choosing to give players selected in the 2013 and 2014 drafts time to develop before adding higher-profile free agents.

Wednesday's signings had a definite higher-profile feel.

The moves addressed needs at right tackle, tight end and safety, as well as strengthening an already strong defensive line, adding experience at the corner position and addressing the team's Otto linebacker position.

Thomas (6-feet-5, 250 pounds), a fourth-round selection by the Broncos in the 2011 NFL Draft from Portland State, emerged as a starter in 2013 after playing in nine games in his first two NFL seasons. He has played in 36 career games, playing 25 with 24 starts over the past two seasons.

After catching one pass in his first two seasons, he caught 108 passes over the past two seasons for 1,277 yards. He caught 12 touchdowns each of the past two seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl each season.  His 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons are the fourth most in the NFL over that span.

He has three career 100-yard receiving games, and has six multiple touchdown games.

Odrick (6-5, 304), a first-round selection by the Dolphins in the 2010 NFL Draft from Penn State University, played in 65 games in his first five seasons and started 41. He registered 16.5 sacks, forcing three fumbles.

Odrick, who has played in 64 consecutive games, has 129 tackles (103 solo) with 11 passes defensed, a fumble recovery and an interception. He is expected to play the end position for the Jaguars after playing tackle with the Dolphins.

Parnell (6-6, 316 pounds), after originally signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi in 2009, played six games with the Cowboys in 2011, then played 16 games each of the past three seasons.

He started one game in 2012 and one in 2013, starting five games this past regular season and two more games in the playoffs. He is expected to start at right tackle for the Jaguars.

Skuta (6-2, 250), who originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 with the Cincinnati Bengals, played 56 games in four seasons before signing with the 49ers as a free agent. He played 30 games with 18 starts in two seasons with San Francisco, registering five sacks last season.

Skuta played strong-side linebacker for the 49ers and could fit at the Jaguars' Otto linebacker spot, a position that emphasizes run defense on the strong side of the defense with the ability to also provide pass rush. He has registered 80 career tackles (50 solo) with 5.5 sacks, four passes defensed, nine quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

House (6-0, 195), a fourth-round selection by Green Bay in the 2011 NFL Draft from New Mexico State, played in 40 games for the Packers in four seasons, starting 14 games and defending 25 passes with two interceptions. He likely will play the outside corner opposite third-year veteran Demetrius McCray with second-year veteran Aaron Colvin starting at nickel corner.

House has 74 career tackles (60 solo), with two interceptions, a forced fumble and 37 passes defensed.

Brown (6-2, 218), who originally signed as an undrafted free agent with New England following the 2010 NFL Draft, played collegiately at Notre Dame, and has played 71 games in five NFL seasons with 11 starts. He played 26 games for New England in 2010-2011 before joining Indianapolis off waivers from the Patriots in 2012.

He has played in 45 games the past three seasons for the Colts, starting eight games this past season. He has 70 career tackles (52 solo), with a sack, an interception, eight passes defensed, a quarterback hit, two tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries in five NFL seasons.

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