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GM David Caldwell: Free agency stressful, productive


JACKSONVILLE – David Caldwell had a plan, and the Jaguars followed that plan.

And if the Jaguars didn't get every player they targeted when the NFL's 2015 free-agency period began, they got their share – and did OK when they didn't get their top targets. Caldwell, the Jaguars' general manager, said that may not have made the team's initial free-agency class a "home run."

But it made it a pretty good one.

"Maybe a double – how about that?" Caldwell said with a smile that indicated he liked it at least that much.

Caldwell on Wednesday discussed the Jaguars' first six signings of the 2015 free-agency period shortly before the players appeared at an afternoon media availability at EverBank Field. The second-year general manager also discussed several other topics.

Chief among those:

The ongoing, much-discussed pursuit of former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher and the 2014 Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. Murray is perhaps the top unsigned free agent in this year's class, and reports as of Wednesday afternoon were that the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Cowboys and Jaguars were involved.

Caldwell said while the Jaguars were not done in free agency this offseason, "Right now there's not a whole lot brewing."

"We've got to regroup and see where we're at," Caldwell said, adding that he didn't have a good feel for the Murray situation and that he wouldn't anticipate anything happening immediately.

"It's not just about the money," Caldwell said. "There are a lot of factors that go into it. There's only so much you can do."

But Caldwell spent most of his time with the media Wednesday talking about the Jaguars' class, a group that included:

*Former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas.

*Former Dallas Cowboys right tackle Jermey Parnell.

*Former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jared Odrick.

*Former San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Dan Skuta.

*Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House.

*Former Indianapolis Colts safety Sergio Brown.

Caldwell on Wednesday said the Jaguars signed three of the five players they considered primary targets as unrestricted free agents: Thomas, Parnell and Odrick. He said the team also targeted Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb and New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty.

"We had five initial targets," Caldwell said. "We got three of them and then we said, 'If we miss out on one, we will go to three other targets.' Those were Davon House, Dan Skuta and Sergio Brown. If we missed on another one, 'Let's see where DeMarco (Murray) goes and see where we can go on the market at maybe a position that wasn't a position of need.'"

The Jaguars entered free agency with more than $60 million in salary cap space, with Caldwell and Owner Shad Khan each saying since the end of last regular season that the team likely would be more active in first-tier free agency than had been the case the past two offseasons.

"We probably haven't spent as much as we thought we would have," Caldwell said, and when asked if it was fun to have had so much money to spend, he hesitated.

"I wouldn't call it fun. I give a lot of credit to our scouting department, our finance department, Tim Walsh and John Idzik," he said. "They've done a great job over the last three or four days, as well as our coaching staff. It's been fun from a team standpoint and working together and everyone working together. The last twelve to twenty-four hours has been quite stressful."

Also on Wednesday:

*Caldwell said that the theme of free agency was helping second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. "Not only Blake, but the offense," he added. "What can we do to protect him and help him out to give him some weapons to throw the ball to? Everything that we're doing right now and throughout the draft will revolve around helping Blake." …

*Caldwell was asked the status of suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, saying, "It's kind of a waiting game. It's in the league's hands. It's in his hands and we've got to wait and see." Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, missed last season and the final eight games of the 2013 season serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. …

*Caldwell didn't rule out signing former Carolina Panthers defensive end/pass rusher Greg Hardy. He is considered one of the top pass rushers in free agency, but spent the last 15 games of last season on the NFL's Commissioner's Exempt List while a domestic violence case was resolved. "We'd have to do some research into it," Caldwell said. "We haven't really been into a whole lot of discussion about it, but you know our philosophy here. We feel like if a player shows remorse, is trying to get better, it's not our job to judge. We are going to try to help anybody, not only on the field, but off the field. If they can be productive in our culture, if they can be productive in our community. Like I said all of us have made mistakes some probably a lot more than others. I am probably in that category, too. We just take it case by case and see where it's at." …

*Caldwell said he liked Cobb, the Packers' wide receiver, because he is a quality slot receiver and because he was 24 years old – considered extraordinarily young for an elite free agent. "He is an extremely gifted slot receiver, but he also adds a dual dimension as a punt returner, so we felt we could get two positions in one," Caldwell said. "It tells you how special he is that he stayed with the team he has a loyalty to." Caldwell said the team still would like to sign a slot receiver "if it's the right person." …

*Caldwell said the signing of Thomas doesn't necessarily affect the future of veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis. Asked if Lewis was definitely going to be with the Jaguars, Caldwell said, "He has to compete to be here." Caldwell added that he would be comfortable having both players on the roster. …

*Caldwell said Odrick's versatility was a big reason for the signing, adding that he "can play three of four of our positions along our D-line. He can play three technique, we can use him as a nose if we wanted to and he can also play six (technique). His flexibility and versatility for us was a key component." …

*Caldwell was asked how the addition of Odrick would affect Red Bryant, who started at strong-side defensive end last season. "We will regroup with our coaching staff and see what we need to do moving forward, but no decisions have been made," he said.

*Caldwell said while Parnell is a natural right tackle he can play left tackle "in a pinch." …

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