JACKSONVILLE – Don't think Malik Jackson can't affect the quarterback.
Don't think he's "just" a defensive tackle, either – and as Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell sees it, it's incorrect to call Jackson "just" any one position on the defensive line.
Jackson, who played a versatile role as a defensive end in a three-four defense with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos this past season, signed with the Jaguars Thursday as the most high-profile – and high-priced – member of the team's 2016 free-agent class.
Versatility and disruption were big reason for Jackson's signing, Caldwell said, and he absolutely believes those strengths will transfer to the Jaguars' defense.
"He's a versatile guy," Caldwell said. "His role won't be much different than what he did in Denver, to be honest with you. He'll line up in very similar situations here, and he'll be a little more aggressive off the ball for us."
Caldwell said the team envisions Jackson playing at least three different positions across the line – including three-technique tackle and strong-side end.
Takeaways from Caldwell's Thursday media availability:
*The running game will be very two-headed. Caldwell said while signing a free-agent running back in free agency wasn't a "pressing need," it was important. That was evidenced by the signing of Chris Ivory, a 1,000-yard rusher with the New York Jets last season. Caldwell said he anticipates Ivory and T.J. Yeldon – an early second-round selection last offseason – essentially splitting carries. "I don't know who will start what game," he said. "I'm sure it will be different every game and every situation, but to have both of those guys fresh through the course of the year – it's something we [now] don't have to address in the draft we don't want to." Added Caldwell, "They are both big backs. They are both physical backs. They have a really different running style. T.J. is a more patient. Chris is a little bit more urgent."
*Free safety absolutely was a free-agency priority.Free safety was targeted as a need position, and it was filled by the signing of Tashaun Gipson from the Cleveland Browns. Caldwell said with San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle wanting to visit multiple teams, Gipson became the target at the position. "We had a target, and Tashaun was at the top of our target list," Caldwell said. Gipson led the AFC in interceptions in 2013 and 2014 and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2014. "We look forward to him getting back to that level of play coming up this year," Caldwell said.
*Consistency mattered at punter.Caldwell briefly addressed the signing of punter Brad Nortman, saying he liked Nortman's hang time and ability to land punts inside the 20 as well as the fifth-year veteran's consistency. "He probably has fewer mis-hits than most guys, a very consistent player," Caldwell said, adding that the team approached former punter Bryan Anger before free agency opened Wednesday. "We offered a deal to Bryan," Caldwell said. "They weren't willing to negotiate with us. Brad's people reached out to see if we were going to move on. We felt like we owed it to Bryan to give him the opportunity to come back here. So we moved on to next best guy out there."
*Edge rusher remains a possibility in free agency.Caldwell said the team has been in contact with the agent for defensive end Robert Ayers of the New York Giants.
*The Jaguars' interest in "top-tier" free agent corners wasn't high.Many considered Janoris Jenkins of the Rams and Sean Smith of the Chiefs the top two free-agent cornerbacks, but Caldwell said of the players, "They just weren't a good fit for us." Jenkins signed with the Giants and Smith signed with the Raiders.
*Interest wasn't high in Alex Mack.The Jaguars signed former Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack to an offer sheet when he was a transition free-agent two years ago. Caldwell said the team didn't pursue Mack this offseason, and said Mack being 31 played a role in the decision. "He's still a very good player, but we also feel like as opposed to two years ago we have guys who can fill the center position," Caldwell said. Caldwell on Thursday mentioned guards Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann and reserve interior linemen Tyler Shatley and Luke Bowanko as possibilities at center, and said the team has not ruled out re-signing free-agent Stefen Wisniewski. "We're not done with the offensive line," Caldwell said. "There are still some free agents out there and there's the possibility of the draft."
Take a look at the Jaguars newest free agents as they officially sign their contracts.
*Gipson could help Johnathan Cyprien.Gibson's ability to cover the deep third of the field is something the Jaguars have needed at the safety position for several seasons. "This will be a situation with Tashaun where he can play in the deep third and go sideline to sideline," Caldwell said, adding that that presence could allow Johnathan Cyprien to focus more on the true strong-safety position. "When we put Cyprien close to the line of scrimmage and in the box, he's extremely effective and a very good football player." Caldwell said.