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2017 free agency: Offseason just begun


JACKSONVILLE – The 2017 offseason has just begun.

And while the Jaguars' first days of that offseason qualified as big and productive – and very expensive – General Manager David Caldwell said Friday it's far from over.

Yes, there's the 2017 NFL Draft in April. But before then there's a lot of time left in free agency – even after the frenzied, high-profile last few days.

"We're going to see where we can upgrade at every position," Caldwell said early Friday afternoon.

Caldwell spoke during a press conference at EverBank Field to introduce three unrestricted free-agent signings – safety Barry Church, cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive end Lerentee McCray – and left tackle Branden Albert, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.

The Jaguars also are expected to sign Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, though the signing was not official at the time of Friday's press conference.

Like Bouye and Church, Campbell was considered one of the top unrestricted free agents available at his position this offseason.

While Caldwell has been the Jaguars' general manager since 2013, this was his first free-agency period since former Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin joined the organization as executive vice president of football operations in January.

Caldwell said Coughlin's presence played a big role in the week's signings.

"Tom's invaluable in this process," Caldwell said of Coughlin, the Jaguars' head coach from 1994-2002 and the head coach of the New York Giants from 2004-2015. "He has a lot of relationships with agents. As we started to get the ball rolling, to get Tom on the phone with some of these agents, it was critical to us closing those deals."

Also on Friday:

*Caldwell said Friday's signings should give the Jaguars flexibility in the April 27-29 NFL Draft. Signing Church, Bouye and Campbell filled three key needs defensively. "We want to go in with a clean slate in the draft and be able to take the best player available at number four," Caldwell said. "In the top five, you should be able to do that."

*Caldwell said the team is open to trading the No. 4 selection in the first round. The team has held a Top 5 selection in each of Caldwell's first four drafts and it has used the selection each time. "We'll look at every situation," Caldwell said. "We were open to trading down last year and [cornerback] Jalen Ramsey fell to us. You can always have those options but you have to make the right move for your team."

*Caldwell said signing Bouye to start alongside Ramsey should help the pass rush as well. Caldwell also talked about the options the Jaguars now have at corner, with the ability to have either Ramsey or Bouye cover a receiver all over the field – or to have the cornerback duo each play a specific side. "We'll have a lot of flexibility on the back end," Caldwell said. "I think both of those guys will have a lot of action. Usually, when you have a very talented player like Jalen, the other corner will sometimes get picked on. Now, you have a very talented corner in A.J. They're going to have an equal opportunity to make plays." …

*Caldwell as he did last week at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine talked Friday about liking the current state of the offensive line. He noted the addition of Albert, said the team likes Brandon Linder at center and considers guard A.J. Cann an ascending player at the position. He also reiterated that right tackle Jermey Parnell played well late last season after dealing with injuries early in the season. The Jaguars started five players at the left guard position last season, and have not yet addressed the area in free agency. "We're always looking to upgrade, but we can line up tomorrow," Caldwell said of the offensive line.

*Caldwell discussed the Jaguars' 2013 draft class, which after Friday features no players still with the organization. First-round left tackle Luke Joeckel signed as an unrestricted free agent with Seattle and second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien signed as an unrestricted free agent with Tennessee. "It is what it is," Caldwell said. "Those two guys who just signed are good football players. Luke Joeckel had a big market in free agency and we were trying like heck to keep him." Caldwell said Joeckel's season-ending knee injury last season played a part in being unable to retain him. "If it wasn't for the unfortunate situation with that, we probably would have kept him," Caldwell said. "Those two guys played well. It didn't work out long-term here, but we got four good years out of those guys." …

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