JACKSONVILLE – Holes were filled, and needs were addressed.
The Jaguars along the way made a splash here and there – and here's Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell's primary takeaway from a whirlwind 2018 Free Agency week that peaked with a hectic Thursday morning at EverBank Field:
Times continue to change around the Jaguars.
And that continues to be a good thing.
"It's funny how it has changed in a four- or five-year period," Caldwell, the Jaguars' general manager since 2013, said early Thursday afternoon after the team officially signed seven players as part of its 2018 Free Agency class.
"At one point in time it was difficult to get guys to come visit here. We are a point in time where people are excited to come here. They're not only excited to come here from a team aspect, but for the city of Jacksonville and the organization."
Take a look as the newest Jaguars arrived at EverBank Field and signed their new contracts.
Guard Andrew Norwell, considered one of the top players available in this year's NFL free-agent market, officially signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Jaguars Thursday – with wide receiver Marqise Lee also re-signing with team along with five other veterans.
Norwell's signing marked the third consecutive season one of the NFL's top free agents has signed with the Jaguars. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson signed as a UFA in 2016 with defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye signing as UFAs last offseason.
All three of those players were Pro Bowl selections this past season for the Jaguars; Norwell was a 2017 Associated Press All-Pro with the Carolina Panthers.
Caldwell credited Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone for the transformation. The Jaguars won their first AFC South title last season and played in the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 18 seasons.
"I think players know if they come here the culture we're going to have," Caldwell said. "Football's going to be a priority and we're going to be a tough, hardnosed team. We're going to compete every week."
Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief also signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent Thursday, as did former Detroit Lions cornerback D.J. Hayden and three players expected to contribute heavily on special teams: former Lions safety Don Carey III, former Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul and former Los Angeles Rams safety Cody Davis.
More on Thursday's happenings around the Jaguars:
*Backup quarterback.With longtime backup quarterback Chad Henne having become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday, the Jaguars currently have one quarterback on the roster: starter Blake Bortles, who signed a three-year contract in February. Caldwell said the Jaguars have a "plan in place" for backup quarterback, but declined to offer specifics about whether the position would be filled during free agency or the draft. "We realize we have to address that," Caldwell said. …
*Special teams focus.Caldwell acknowledged the free-agent focus on special teams Thursday, noting that Carey, Paul and Davis all are considered front-line special teams players. Paul has been the Redskins' special teams captain the past two seasons and Caldwell called Davis "a top special teams" player in the league. "He's going to be our bell cow there, or one of them," Caldwell said of Davis, adding: "We felt like we had a good core of guys last year … [tight end] James O'Shaughnessy, [linebacker] Blair Brown, [linebacker] Donald Payne. Those guys did a nice job for us, but to add to those three guys and bring in guys like Cody Davis, Niles Paul and Don Carey … We felt like not only special teams players, but that those guys could be good, solid backups for us." …
*Details, details I.Caldwell offered a couple of glimpses into how the week played out for the Jaguars, saying during his press conference that the team had more detailed discussions with nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin than wide receiver Aaron Robinson before the players signed elsewhere. "We were a lot closer with Colvin," he said, adding that he talked with Colvin throughout the process and that he believed signing with the Houston Texans was a difficult decision for Colvin. "There was much more dialogue there with his representation." …
*Details, details II.Caldwell called losing Robinson "difficult.' Robinson, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection for the Jaguars, signed with the Chicago Bears. "Obviously we have a connection with A-Rob," Caldwell said. "We drafted him here; we saw him grow into the player he was." Caldwell said once the price for Robinson and other top free-agent receivers this week passed the Jaguars' pre-set price range, the team went to "Plan B" – i.e., signing Moncrief to a one-year deal. Caldwell said the team planned to re-sign Lee – a 2014 second-round selection by the Jaguars – whether or not Robinson re-signed. …
*Details, details III.Caldwell said the Jaguars overall came "pretty close" to executing their pre-free agency plan, adding of Norwell: "We weren't sure we'd be able to get that done. We knew he'd have a lot of suitors. When I saw the direction it was going with A-Rob and some other high-priced free agents we may have been going after that were out of our price range, we just felt like we could sneak in and get Andrew – and that would be a bonus for us." …