JACKSONVILLE – Preparation will be paramount.
That's how new Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell sees the coming weeks and months, a time in which he, new Head Coach Gus Bradley and the team's coaches and scouting department will begin shaping the franchise's future.
When Caldwell discusses how that time will play out, he talks not so much about a specific game plan, something rarely possible when building an NFL roster. Rather, he talks about being prepared to make the right decisions at the necessary time.
That approach will dictate free agency next month, Caldwell said late this week, and it will also set the tone for what he said will be a year of competition as the Jaguars' roster undergoes a significant transition.
"The important thing is for us to be prepared, and when opportunity presents itself, we're ready to strike on that," Caldwell said Thursday.
"We may not be overly active chasing (players), but we're going to be active looking for the right opportunities, whether that's in the draft or free agency."
Caldwell, hired as the Jaguars' general manager January 8 after five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, spoke shortly after an appearance on ESPN's NFL32.
He said on the NFL 32 interview that after having a chance to review the Jaguars' roster in depth, he believes the team not only has compiled a good coaching staff under Bradley, but that it has a solid core of players in place.
Caldwell after the NFL32 interview told jaguars.com that while he anticipates the roster transformation to continue into next season and perhaps beyond, there were certain positions on the roster "much better" than he anticipated when he began evaluating.
"We have work to do, but if we get a good draft class in here, we feel like we can be competitive quickly," he said, adding that after three weeks of roster evaluation he believes the Jaguars have a solid plan with which to enter the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week, then to prepare for the beginning the new league year March 12.
The new league year marks the beginning of the free agency period.
"There's a pretty good plan, certainly by the time the combine's over," he said.
Caldwell said the Jaguars remain in the process of evaluating the players scheduled to become free agents March 12. That's a list that includes defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, cornerback Derek Cox, linebacker Daryl Smith, fullback Greg Jones, center Brad Meester and guard Eben Britton. He said the team has yet to make decisions on whether to re-sign those players, and said with nearly a month remaining before the start of free agency, there's no need to have acted yet.
"We have until March 12 to make those decisions," he said.
Caldwell said he didn't want to yet discuss specific areas of need, but said when it comes to the roster, "there's nothing off the table from a competitive standpoint."
He said that includes what to do with the No. 2 overall selection in the April 25-27 NFL Draft, including a potential trade.
"There's nothing off the table," he said.
Caldwell said he expects the theme of the year ahead to be that which has been emphasized by Bradley since his hiring – competition – and that he expects the Jaguars' training camp to be competitive at every position, with the roster being shaped significantly during that period.
"There are no preconceived notions," he said. "I know how competitive our coaching staff is. I have a vision just talking to Coach Bradley. It's going to be competitive."
Caldwell said that's true at every position, including quarterback – and that while the team expects Blaine Gabbert to compete for a starting position, signing a quarterback in free agency and/or drafting the position is a possibility.
"Very much so," he said.
Caldwell said on NFL32 when discussing Gabbert that there are no more excuses for the third-year veteran, and that that goes for anyone in the building. Caldwell also said Thursday he doesn't expect there to be a No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart entering training camp, something he said he expects to hold true throughout much of the roster.
"There are no slotted starters going in," he said. "Whoever's here is going to earn it."