JACKSONVILLE – Trent Baalke is busy these days – and excited.
Baalke, named the Jaguars' general manager on January 21, has spent the last six weeks preparing for a 2021 offseason that will include critical personnel decisions – as well as the most important draft selection in franchise history.
Baalke during the past six weeks also has started his working relationship with Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer, a relationship he called "great."
"There's no other word I can say," he said. "There's a lot of harmony, a lot of collaboration. The thing we entered into is a partnership and that partnership is taking shape."
Baalke added of Meyer, "Urban is a very easy guy to work with – difficult in the sense of demanding, but that's the expectation of this league. It's a demanding league."
Baalke was asked what made Meyer "easy" to work with.
"Communication skills are excellent," he said. "He knows exactly what he wants. He's team-centric. When you're team-centric and everybody's involved in the decisions, it's an environment that's easier to work within."
Baalke discussed numerous topics with Jaguars Media this week – including the importance of the No. 1 overall selection in next month's 2021 NFL Draft, the traits he and Meyer want in a Jaguars player and the process of reaching an "organizational decision" on prospective draft selections.
He called the process of determining what types of players will fit best into the Jaguars' offense and defense, "Constant dialogue."
"We've had a lot of meetings internally with coaches, with personnel people – independently and together," Baalke said. "We're constantly working together to build out the foundation of the process – what type of players we're looking for each position, where we're going to place the financial resources, the draft capital, to help build this team as quickly as we can and make sound decisions."
The free-agency/player-acquisition period that will begin March 17 likely will be among the most-unique offseasons in league history. With the salary cap expected to go down for the first time because of COVID-19's effects on the 2020 season, more quality players could be released by teams – and therefore more quality free agents could be available – than usual. The Jaguars' status as the team with the most cap space could allow them to be among the NFL's most active teams when free agency begins.
The Jaguars also enter the offseason not only holding the No. 1 selection for the first time in franchise history but holding 11 selections overall – two in Round 1, two in Round 2 and one in Round 3.
"There's nothing easy in this business, but it certainly provides us with avenues to improve the football team," Baalke said. "It's better to be under the cap than over. It's better to have 11 draft picks than seven. It's better to have the first pick in every round versus the 32nd pick in every round.
Baalke added, "Now, the advantage of having the 32nd pick in every round is it means you won a championship. That's the goal. Our goal isn't to pick No. 1; our goal is to pick No. 32. We just happen to be picking No. 1 this year. I hope this is the last time we pick No. 1 – or it will be someone else picking."
What follows is a look at Baalke's conversation with Jaguars Media. The conversation has been edited and condensed:
Question: In terms of the draft, what's the process of reaching a consensus within the organization with so many moving parts?
Answers: Everyone's got an opinion on these players right now. You have opinions coming in from different perspectives – coaching scouting, assessment people, training staff, strength and conditioning. You're gathering a lot of information and getting a lot of opinions. At some point, you have to turn those opinions into an organizational stance. The great thing about opinions is they're exactly that. They're opinions. The most important thing is that at the end of the day you take all the information, you process it and you come up with an organizational stance. Once you make the organizational stance, that's exactly what it means. You're all onboard, you're all in and whatever the value of that player is.
Q: Are there certain characteristics you seek across positions?
A: Every position you're looking for height, weight, speed – physical traits, skill critical factors. Every position, you have those built into the scouting process. We're trying to identify guys who fit our system – the system we want to play offensively, defensively, special teams. We're very dialed into the type of player we're looking for at every position.
Q: Is there a defining characteristic regardless of position?
A: Tough. We're looking for guys who can play the game physically at a high level – mentally, physically tough players who have a track record of availability. The best ability in this game is sometimes availability. You have to be able to stay healthy and stay on the field. Those are the type of guys we're looking for. There are a lot of characteristics, but the mindset, the desire to go out and play hard on every snap … we're looking for players that want to compete and that can stay healthy, that can go through the rigors of an NFL season and do what it takes mentally and physically to play at a high level. Those are the type of players we're looking for.
Q: How important is it to be as thorough as possible?
A: You can never be thorough enough. It's paralysis by analysis sometimes because you're gathering so much information. It is a lot to process, whether it's scouting information, the durability, the training information, the background research you're doing, the analytical numbers that go into this these decisions. There's a lot of information to process. There's a process we go through that's time-tested, that's been around for a long time. We're continually trying to evolve that process, but we have a system we use and we feel very comfortable with."
Q: The No. 1 selection is a rare opportunity …
A: I think everybody knows the gravity of that decision. It's an organizational changer, to be able to be in a position to take the No. 1 pick in any draft – and certainly in this draft as well. … I think Coach (Meyer) would say this as well: We approach every decision we make as the most important decision we're going to make. But if it's not the most important one that we've made in our career, it's certainly up there."
Q: And when you're asked what it's like working with Urban Meyer …
A: There's a lot of transparency. There's a lot of collaboration. We discuss things on a daily basis, an open-door policy. There are a lot of moving parts right now, putting a staff together, getting ready for free agency – a historic free agency with all the players that are on the market, and that may be coming on the market. The draft position we're in – not only the draft position, but the number of draft picks we have – we're sitting in a very good situation to make some decisions that could change the fortunes of this organization for a long time.
Q: How important is communication and consensus on that front?
A: You have to be on the same page. If you're not on the same page, it doesn't matter how much draft capital you have, how much cash you have to spend, how much cap space you have to work with, because if you make bad decisions, they're bad decisions regardless of how many decisions you get to make.
Q: You spent last season with the organization as director of pro personnel. How much of a head start does that give you in evaluating the roster?
A: Having a background with the players and the organization as a whole … ownership, knowing what they want, it certainly gives you a leg up in the process, but it doesn't guarantee anything. Every decision we make has to be in the best interest of the organization. That's why it's so critical to be on the same page.
Q: What are your thoughts on the overall process? How quickly can things get going in the right direction?
A: We have some good young players within the organization already. We've got some building blocks on both sides of the ball offensively and defensively. I think if you ask ownership they'd say they want to turn around sooner rather than later. It's a process. All we can guarantee is we're going to go to work every day, make the best decisions we can make, put the players in the best positions and put the organization in the best position possible to go out and win football games. Winning in the National Football League's not easy, but that's what we're here to do. We feel very strongly that we can put a team together that's going to be very competitive on any given Sunday. Most of these games come down to one-possession games. We have to find a way to win those games and when we do, we're going to be a good football team.