JACKSONVILLE – Youth will be served. In big doses.
General Manager David Caldwell realizes this. More than that, he said he feels good about it – and about the Jaguars' 2020 roster. Very good.
"I love this team," he said.
Caldwell spoke to the media via videoconference late Saturday afternoon. This was shortly after the team announced its initial 53-player roster for the 2020 regular season that begins next Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Considering the roster makeup – 12 drafted players, four undrafted rookie free agents – youth was expectedly a major topic.
"It's going to be a young team … but we feel good about it," Caldwell said.
All NFL teams had to trim their rosters to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday. For the Jaguars, "cutdown" day came at the end of a busy week, with the team waiving running back Leonard Fournette and trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue on Monday and trading safety Ronnie Harrison Thursday afternoon.
Those moves involving three players with 44 combined starts last season prompted observers to speculate that the team is "tanking" – i.e., trimming its roster talent to improve draft position. Caldwell on Saturday dismissed that notion.
"Before we decide where we are or where we stand, let us play some games," he said. "Let's see where we are. Let's see how these young guys are. I know the 53 players in this locker room are excited to be here and excited for their ability to put a good brand of football out there. …
"Let us play this season. Don't count these players out."
Caldwell added, "We can't afford a rebuilding year. That's not our mindset. Our mindset is to put the best team out there to play, to compete and to win."
As Head Coach Doug Marrone did early in the week, Caldwell on Saturday emphasized that the focus entering 2020 Training Camp was to keep the "53 guys who deserved to be on this team" on the roster. Caldwell said Jaguars Owner Shad Khan gave Caldwell and Marrone "a directive to put the best team out there," and said the approach played into waiving Fournette and trading Harrison.
"We had to do two things in this season – put the best team out there and get our salary cap under control," Caldwell said. "Those are two tough things to do initially at the same time, but we feel like we did a pretty good job. We'll see where we stand."
Caldwell also address other topics Saturday, including:
*Keeping sixth-round rookie Jake Luton as the lone quarterback on the 53-player roster behind starter Gardner Minshew II. The Jaguars released eight-year veteran quarterback Mike Glennon and third-year veteran quarterback Josh Dobbs. "Jake has been very impressive for a rookie quarterback," Caldwell said. "He actually made the decision relatively easy for us." …
*Waiving Fournette, calling the move less about the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and more about how the backs who made the roster – Chris Thompson, Devine Ozigbo and rookie James Robinson – performed in camp. Caldwell said the Jaguars waived Fournette Monday rather than waiting to give him the best chance to sign with a new team before mass releases around the NFL began later in the week. "We felt like it was the best thing for him and the best thing for the team," Caldwell said. …
*Trading Harrison to the Cleveland Browns Thursday for a fifth-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, saying strong safety developed into a three-way battle – Harrison, Josh Jones and rookie Daniel Thomas – in camp. "All three were really neck and neck," Caldwell said. "We were only able to keep two of the three. I got a call on Ronnie and I was able to get value for the guy who may have been possible the odd man out. It was more about the guys we have and getting value for Ronnie. …"
*Trading Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings for a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022: "Our No. 1 goal would have been to have him play for us. That was not feasible at the time, then we were able to draft [defensive end] K'Lavon Chaisson [No. 20 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft], who we feel really good about to be his replacement." Caldwell said the value for Ngakoue was good considering Ngakoue was on the franchise tag, unable to renegotiate his deal during the 2020 season and scheduled to cost the Jaguars more than $17 million in 2020. …
*The roster status of second-year linebacker Quincy Williams, who Caldwell said likely will be placed on injured reserve to start the season. Because Williams was on the initial 53-player roster before being placed on IR, he will be eligible to return this season. …