JACKSONVILLE – This was a day for new:
New League Year, new Jaguars leadership and a roster that suddenly feels new and improved. Very definitely improved.
"We're excited; we're thrilled to death," Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
The 2022 NFL League Year opened Wednesday at 4 p.m., at which time the Jaguars announced they had agreed to terms with seven unrestricted free agents:
- Tight end Evan Engram, formerly with the New York Giants.
- Defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, formerly with the New York Jets.
- Wide receiver Zay Jones, formerly with the Las Vegas Raiders.
- Wide receiver Christian Kirk, formerly with the Arizona Cardinals.
- Linebacker Foye Oluokun, formerly with the Atlanta Falcons.
- Offensive guard Brandon Scherff, formerly with the Washington Commanders.
- Cornerback Darious Williams, formerly with the Los Angeles Rams.
General Manager Baalke said so-called "first wave" of free agency went as hoped. He said the team initially targeted six players, acquiring all six, with a seventh player coming available somewhat unexpectedly and the team taking advantage of the opportunity.
"We had a plan," Baalke said. "We had six targets and we got six targets. We literally had six guys at the top of our list and we were fortunate enough to get those guys."
Pederson and Baalke each spoke to the media shortly after the acquisitions became "official" Wednesday. Pederson was asked how much better he feels about the roster than he did Sunday – the day before teams officially began negotiating with prospective free agents.
"A lot better," he said. "We're still not there. We still have some pieces and some things we have to add. Really now it's about adding the backup guys, the depth guys. We definitely feel better from the standpoint that we had a plan. We executed our plan in free agency. And we hit all out benchmarks. That's encouraging."
Pederson was asked how much the acquisitions had helped quarterback Trevor Lawrence, now entering his second NFL season.
"I think we've helped the team," Pederson said. "Obviously Trevor's a big part of the team, the quarterback position. It's something you have to look at and you have to be honest with yourself. If you have the quarterback in place, what is around him? You really focus on the offensive line and the skill position is obviously a big component of that.
"I feel like we did really well putting some pieces around him."
Baalke said the Jaguars this week mostly targeted young players entering their second contracts. Six of the seven players acquired Wednesday are between 25 and 28, with the 30-year-old Scherff the exception.
"With the exception of Scherff, age was a factor," Baalke said.
Baalke also noted that all free agents acquired this week except Engram signed a multi-year deal.
"We tried to get that on a longer-term deal and it didn't work," Baalke said. "We're trying to fix this thing long-term and have a vision for the future as we build this thing out. Right now, it's a combination of free agency and the draft. We hope to get this organization to the point where we're not relying on free agency as much and we're relying on the draft and second contracts."
Baalke, too, said "selling" free agents on the Jaguars and Jacksonville wasn't difficult – that despite the franchise winning one game in 2020 and three this past season.
"This is a desirable place," Baalke said. "I know some people don't think so, but it is. There are a lot of players who wanted to be here for various reasons. Money does play a factor – let's not kid ourselves –but at the same time, the energy here, the community – what's going on in this community day to day …
"There are a lot of reasons: the head coach, the coaching staff, the ties they had to certain players. All of that factors in."
Baalke told reporters no decision yet has been made regarding center Brandon Linder's future with the team. A third-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and the team's most-tenured player, Linder has started at center for the Jaguars the past eight seasons and is entering the final year of his contract. "Brandon and I just had a great conversation," Baalke said. "We're working through that as we speak. No decision has been made relatively to Brandon as of right now. We're moving forward."
Baalke on Wednesday said he has spoken with left tackle Cam Robinson regarding a contract extension, with Baalke calling the discussions "positive." The Jaguars last week placed the NFL's franchise tag on Robinson for a second consecutive season. If the Jaguars and Robinson don't reach an agreement on an extension, Robinson would either play on a one-year contract in 2022 or not play. "We're in contact with his agent; we were in contact with his agent this morning," Baalke said. "This is something we're hoping gets done sooner rather than later relative to an extension. When that takes place, I don't have that answer. We're going to be working through all that."