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Free agency '22: "Building toward the future…"

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JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' future is now. It's looking brighter, too.

Guard Brandon Scherff said he believes it, as do wide receiver Christian Kirk and the rest of Jaguars' 2022 free-agency class. Most spoke to the media as Jaguars players for the first time Thursday – a day for smiles and hope, one with a decidedly forward-looking theme.

A young quarterback. A new head coach. A new direction.

"All of the above," Scherff said.

The Jaguars on Wednesday announced contract agreements with seven unrestricted free agents: Kirk, Scherff, wide receiver Zay Jones, linebacker Foye Oluokun, defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, tight end Evan Engram and cornerback Darious Williams.

All arrived in Jacksonville and spoke to the media Thursday except Williams, who is expected to arrive Friday.

"When I look at this team, I see a lot of fighters; you can go far with people who fight to the very end," said Fatukasi, who played his first four seasons with the New York Jets.

"I think there's a lot of upside to this organization," said Oluokun, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and who led the NFL in tackles this past season.

Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowl selection during seven seasons with Washington, is the most-experienced – and most-decorated – of the Jaguars' seven '22 free-agent acquisitions. He spoke last during Thursday's availability. Soft-spoken, he also spoke briefest.

Kirk and the other offensive players – Jones, Scherff and Engram – spoke of wanting to play for Head Coach Doug Pederson, hired as head coach in February.

"Once I started to get a close look at it and see the potential of this team, with Coach Pederson getting hired, it just all made sense to me," said Kirk, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who played his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. "It was pretty easy for me to have Jacksonville very high on my list.

"I'm just so thankful and glad that I ended up here."

Scherff, too, spoke highly of Pederson. He also said offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, for whom Scherff played two seasons in Washington, factored into his decision – as did geography.

"My wife, she enjoys the beach," said Scherff, who played collegiately at Iowa. "You're not going to get any beaches like this in Iowa. We just came from 30-degree weather. So, obviously, 'All of the above' – and just the opportunity to work with the guys on the O-line and put a good product on the field."

Jones, asked what drew him to the Jaguars, replied: "My heart."

"I went back and forth trying to decide between a couple of other teams and at the end of the day I was like, 'I want to be in Jacksonville,''' said Jones, who played the past two-plus seasons with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders after two-plus seasons with the Buffalo Bills. "There's no other explanation. I don't even know how to describe it myself. This is the place I wanted to go."

Jones and other offensive players spoke of another specific draw for the Jaguars: Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

"It's a great team and a young quarterback who to me looks very, very promising – very good," Jones said. "I want to be a part of something building toward the future."

Kirk said Lawrence "100 percent" played a role in his decision.

"I had the pleasure of watching him throughout his college career and see him win a national championship [at Clemson] and compete at such a high level," Kirk said. "I thought he had a really good season last year throughout all the ups and downs.

"Seeing the potential he has to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL was definitely part of my decision. I'm ready to get to work with him and help him grow."

Engram, a first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft who spent his first five seasons with the New York Giants, described his free-agency decision as a "whirlwind" and added: "When the Jaguars came up, there was an immediate interest on my part as well."

"I never looked at the past; I never looked at what has gone here before me," Engram said. "I just kind of looked at it with a clear mind and a futuristic view of how I can come in and implement my talent and my leadership qualities to help build this team."

Added Engram, "It's always important to keep your eyes forward and set goals and work and live by the standards that are set here from the top down. You can't ever really do that looking at the past. I think that's going to be a big message going forward here.

"That's what I feel here energy-wise, just being in the building. I'm excited to be a part of it."


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