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Cyprien, Gratz time it right


JACKSONVILLE – Johnathan Cyprien wouldn't say this was fated, exactly.

Still . . .

There was something cool, something fitting about the circumstances Tuesday – cool in addition to the very cool event that is signing an NFL rookie contract.

Cyprien, a safety from Florida International, signed his contract at EverBank Field early Tuesday afternoon, and as he did, Dwayne Gratz – a cornerback from Connecticut – signed in an office several few feet down the hall.

There was something that made sense about that, Cyprien said, something right.

"I'm happy it worked out that way," Cyprien said minutes after he and Gratz – the team's second- and third-round selections in the 2013 NFL Draft, respectively – became the third and fourth players from the draft class to sign with the team.

Call it a happy coincidence, perhaps, but Cyprien and Gratz each said it made sense in a way that they signed the same day.

"It definitely is," Gratz said. "It's just a blessing to have him play alongside me this year."

One reason it made sense is that the duo is expected be the core of the Jaguars' revamped secondary not only this year, but into the future.

Cyprien (6-feet-0, 217 pounds), the first selection of the second round, impressed this offseason, moving immediately into the starting lineup, where he is expected to remain this season.

"I've been learning a lot from the veterans and the coaches, but coming back, I'm really excited to put some pads on," Cyprien said, adding of signing his rookie contract, "It's a special moment. It's a day to remember, the day I signed my first NFL contract. It hits you that it's true, as you're signing the papers, 'Is this really happening?'''

Gratz, too, performed to expectations in the offseason and is expected to start as a rookie.

"There are still things I need to work on and get better at," Gratz said. "The mindset (Head) Coach (Gus) Bradley wants us to have is to get better each day."

And yes, Gratz said it absolutely was a dream come true to sign an NFL contract.

"It definitely is," Gratz said, "because now it's official. Signing my name made it that much more official. I'm here now, and I'm here to stay for a long time."

That Gratz would have that opportunity is something Cyprien said he began to realize in early January. The two met at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in January. That was when the bond the two shares began to form. It grew at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis the following month, and has continued to grow since they were selected by the Jaguars our apart on April 29.

"It's real cool," Cyprien said. "Me and Dwayne, we have some history. It started at the Senior Bowl. I was watching him out there and I was like, 'Dang, who's No. 27?' He caught my eye at the Senior Bowl, and it's good to see us rookies signing on the same day.

"We have the same hopes and big hopes for the secondary."

The Jaguars previously signed their two seventh-round selections, cornerback Jeremy Harris of New Mexico State and Demetrius McCray of Appalachian State.

First-round offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, fourth-round wide receiver Ace Sanders, fifth-round offensive weapon Denard Robinson and sixth-round safety Josh Evans remain unsigned, but Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said last week he expects all draft selections to be signed with training camp opens July 26.

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