The Jaguars believe Juran Bolden can become one of the plums of the 2004 free agency period. Bolden is the team's newest acquisition and joins a crowd of cornerbacks who will compete for the job opening created by Fernando Bryant's departure.
"We see a big corner who has outstanding speed; very good athlete," Jaguars Pro Personnel Director Charlie Bailey said of Bolden, with whom the Jaguars agreed to a contract today.
Bolden, 6-2, 207, is a journeyman who began his professional career in Atlanta, moved on to the Packers, Panthers and Chiefs and played one year in Canada before returning to Atlanta two years ago. Last year, Bolden won a starting job in Atlanta, forcing veteran Ray Buchanan to be moved to safety.
"He had a good year last season. He's very good on coverage teams," Bailey added
Prior to emerging as a starter last season, Bolden had made his mark as a special teams gunner, earning the nickname "Big Stick" for his forceful tackles. The Jaguars were interested in Bolden for his special teams skills, but there's hope Bolden is on the verge of taking his cornerback game to a higher level.
"He came into the league and had not reached his full potential until the last couple of years. He's learned the pro game. He's putting it all together now," Bailey said of Bolden. "He'll come in with the opportunity to compete."
The Jaguars had been interested in Bolden from the start of free agency, but were delayed in their pursuit by a legal problem Bolden is in the process of settling. Bolden was arrested in Georgia last October for driving a stolen car. Less than an ounce of marijuana was found in the car. Bolden claims he didn't know the car was stolen when he bought it, and that the marijuana was not his. The Jaguars are confident the matter is nearing a resolution.
Bolden is the third cornerback the Jaguars have signed in free agency. They had previously signed Lewis Sanders from Cleveland and Dewayne Washington from Pittsburgh.
The Jaguars lost their former starting left cornerback, Bryant, in free agency to Detroit. Rashean Mathis won the starting right cornerback job as a rookie last season. Kiwaukee Thomas and former starter Jason Craft might also join the competition at corner, and the possibility exists the Jaguars will use one of their draft picks on a cornerback.
Bolden will be in his seventh NFL season. He's a native of Tampa and played collegiately at Mississippi Delta, and led the Canadian Football League in interceptions in 2001. That earned Bolden another look from the Falcons. Last season, he made a comeback from reconstructive knee surgery, after having been injured in the Falcons' 2002 playoff loss in Philadelphia.
The addition of Bolden leaves the Jaguars with 67 players under contract.