JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars made a move with meaning Friday.
The Jaguars early Friday evening selected University of Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson with the second selection of the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, a move that significantly strengthened and deepened the offensive line.
The move also sent a message:
There will be competition at left tackle, with Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell saying immediately after the selection that Robinson will compete with recently-acquired veteran left tackle Branden Albert at the position.
"They'll compete for a spot," Caldwell said, adding "We'll start the best player."
Robinson (6-feet-6, 320 pounds) said he had no problem competing for a starting job early and said he is confident he can be effective at left tackle quickly.
"I'm extremely comfortable with competition," he said. "I'm a competitor."
The Jaguars in March traded a seventh-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft to the Miami Dolphins for Albert, who is generally projected as the team's starting left tackle. Albert has two years remaining on his contract, and is not participating in the team's voluntary offseason program.
He reportedly is seeking a new contract. Caldwell on Friday said the team has no plans to alter Albert's contract.
Caldwell was asked if selecting Robinson was a reaction to Albert's actions.
"I wouldn't say it's a reaction, but we have to make sure have our bases covered," Caldwell said. "Anytime you have competition, it's a good thing. The best players will play, and the ones who are committed will play."
Caldwell specified that the team did not plan to release Albert, and also emphasized that the portion of the program Albert currently is not attending is voluntary.
"We have his rights, and we expect him to show up when he has to," Caldwell said. "It's his decision to not be here, and he has that right to do it. As long as he comes in in shape when it's mandatory, and comes in and does the things he's supposed to do, we'll welcome him with open arms."
The Jaguars drafted Alabama offensive lineman in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars traded up one position to select Robinson, trading their 2017 sixth-round selection – the No. 187 selection overall – to the Seattle Seahawks to move up from No. 35. The Jaguars selected Robinson with the No. 34 overall selection acquired in the trade.
"The value was there to go get him," Caldwell said. "If we feel like a guy can be an eventual starting left tackle, he's worth a sixth-round pick – especially considering the grade we had on him."
Caldwell was asked later on Jaguars.com if Robinson would have been the selection if the Albert situation wasn't an issue.
"I believe so," he said. "Maybe we wouldn't have given up the sixth-round pick for it. Maybe we would have taken our chances. But we have to make sure we can line up on opening day."
Robinson and Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp both were available when the Jaguars selected at No. 34. Both had been projected as first-round selections, and Lamp was considered one of the better interior offensive line prospects in the draft in recent memory.
Caldwell said the tackle position took priority.
"Lamp's a good player, too," Caldwell said. "But when you look at it, this guy's got 35-inch arms, he's 320 pounds and 6-6-plus. That's what you're looking for out of your left tackle."
Robinson started 43 of 43 possible games at left tackle at Alabama, starting for the Crimson Tide from the beginning of his true freshman season. He forewent his senior season to declare for the draft – and at 21, he is still young by NFL standards.
Robinson was widely projected as one of the top three or four left-tackle prospects in the draft, and according to analysts he also projects positively as an NFL right tackle because of his strength, size and power. Analysts also projected him as able to play guard at the NFL level.
Caldwell left little doubt about his position with the Jaguars.
"He'll play left tackle," Caldwell said. "When you see how big he is, how quick he is and how much room he has to grow, too – he's a big man."