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A new era: "Jacksonville just was a clear choice…"


JACKSONVILLE – Shaquill Griffin needed little convincing.

"Jacksonville just was a clear choice."

So said the Jaguars' new starting cornerback on his first day at TIAA Bank Field Thursday afternoon – and the team's highest-profile 2021 free-agent acquisition wasn't alone in those feelings.

A new head coach. A new era. A new beginning.

Those factors clearly mattered to the Jaguars' 2021 free agency class – and there was a definite forward-looking theme Thursday as three members of the class toured TIAA Bank Field and spoke to local media for the first time.

"I see the vision that [Head] Coach [Urban] Meyer's trying to build here," said safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers. "Everything's there; the track record is there. Why not Jacksonville? It's the perfect landing spot for me and my family and we're looking forward to making it happen."

Jenkins and Griffin, who played on the same youth football team in Pinellas County, Florida, both spoke of playing in their home state as a reason for joining the Jaguars – with Jenkins saying he followed all Florida teams, including the Jaguars, growing up.

"I'm just trying to bring Florida football back to Florida, how it's supposed to be played in Florida," he said. "That's what kind of drew me back."

A bigger theme for Griffin, Jenkins and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris Thursday was the Jaguars' new direction under Meyer.

"We had gotten a few calls from different teams – Minnesota, Denver, New York," said Robertson-Harris, who played his first five NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears. "Jacksonville made a run at us pretty good. We're really excited to be a part of this program."

Griffin, who spent his first four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, said Meyer absolutely played a huge role in his decision.

"Everything is new here," said Griffin, who played collegiately at the University of Central Florida. "Coming back to Florida and having the opportunity to be a part of something new, and something great and something that's special … that's the part I'm looking forward to. Now, I'm starting my own journey."

Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke were hired in January shortly after the Jaguars' 1-15 2020 season – and Griffin, Robertson-Harris and Jenkins were among 11 unrestricted free agents who agreed to terms with the Jaguars this week. The team also traded with the New Orleans Saints for defensive tackle Malcom Brown, also allowing 15 players from the 2020 team to leave via free agency and releasing eight more players previously under contract.

That's a big step in a new direction in a small time, and Robertson-Harris said many factors made him want to be a part of that transition.

"There was nothing to be really sold on," Robertson-Harris said. "There's great weather and being able to play for Coach Urban is going to be a great opportunity – and playing for Coach Cullen (defensive coordinator Joe Cullen), I think, is going to be awesome. It's a great coaching staff.

"It's going to be a great opportunity. It's a great group of coaches. We're going to do very well on the defensive side of the ball and we're going to do everything we can to help this team win some games."

Griffin, too, said he received no selling from Jaguars coaches or officials regarding a new direction for the franchise during negotiations – because no such conversation was necessary.

"I don't think it's something that they'd pitch; it's just something that you can see," Griffin said. "The changes they made show you how important it is for them to get back to where they want to be. They didn't have to tell me. I saw it myself and I believed in it. At the end of the day, you have to believe in something. I saw that and it's something I want to be a part of.

"There was no sales pitch. I see everything unfolding and I just want to be a part of it."

How much did Griffin want to be where he was Thursday? How much did he like the energy at the 'Bank? Enough that once he started talking about the future, he didn't want to stop – which caused his schedule Thursday to get somewhat off-schedule.

"Everything has a time frame and I think I was overdoing it, getting too excited," he said with a smile. "Ten-to-twenty-minute talks were turning into an hour, so I think that's my fault. I'll take the blame for that one. I was having too much fun.

"I had too much fun today. I actually did."

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