JACKSONVILLE – David Caldwell can feel the trend continuing.
He saw it this week, and the Jaguars' general manager on Friday said that was one of his big takeaways from the early days of 2015 free agency this week.
The six free agents the team signed Wednesday all talked about the vibe around the team, and all said one reason they were excited about joining the Jaguars was the culture of the organization and a feeling that the team was moving in the right direction.
Caldwell, entering his third season with the team, said he feels it, too – and he said it was certainly evident in the frenzied few days around the beginning of free agency.
"This is starting to turn into a place where players want to go," Caldwell said.
Caldwell, speaking on a conference call Friday for Jaguars' season-ticket members, spoke for about a half an hour. He covered a variety of topics, including the potential impact of two of the week's top free-agent signings – Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick.
Thomas, a tight end, caught 12 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl each of the past seasons with Denver. Caldwell said Thomas gives the Jaguars a significant added physical presence in the middle of the field on offense.
"From a playmaking-ability standpoint, he'll change the red zone and he'll change the way teams have to defend us not only in the passing game but in the run game," Caldwell said. "He'll stretch the middle of the field. He can open up things on the outside.
"We have some young receivers in Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson; maybe they won't see as tight of coverage anymore because you have a guy who can stretch the field."
Odrick, a first-round selection in the 2010 NFL by Miami, played five seasons with the Dolphins. That meant twice a year the past two seasons he played against the Buffalo Bills, where current Jaguars assistant head coach-offense/offensive line Doug Marrone was then the head coach.
Caldwell said Marrone didn't initially know the Jaguars were pursuing Odrick.
"But when it came up that we were going after him he said, 'That guy gave us a lot of fits in Buffalo,'" Caldwell said.
Caldwell also on Friday discussed the team's interest in former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who signed as a free agent Thursday with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I don't think it was ever very close," Caldwell said. "That was never our plan going into free agency. The longer he stayed out there, his people sort of recruited us. We sat back and in the weeds for a while. Monday, mid-afternoon, it didn't look like a deal was going to get done in Dallas, so we said, 'Let's take a shot – something that makes sense for us – and if it doesn't make sense for us it was never in our plan anyway.'
"He's a good player and he got a terrific deal, but running back is a tricky situation. I always felt that as we built this that would be the last piece we would add. When we're really ready to make our run, we'll start to invest in running backs when we get all of our other positions solidified."
Also on Friday:
*Caldwell said left tackle Luke Joeckel – the No. 3 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – has made progress physically in the first two months of the offseason, adding "he's really changing his body. What a lot of people don't realize is Luke should be going into his rookie year right now. He came out (of Texas A&M) as a true junior. He bypassed his fourth and fifth year in college. We knew when we took him he wasn't going to come in right away and be a Pro Bowler, but he had the work ethic and the intelligence and the drive to improve his game, so going into Year Three, Year Four or Year Five you're going to see a really good player in Luke Joeckel." …
*Caldwell addressed quarterback Blake Bortles' plans to work with the Jaguars' wide receivers in California later this month. Thomas said this week he plans to meet with Bortles there next week. "The camaraderie is such an important thing with the NFL and the locker room," Caldwell said. "Blake's a leader. That's why we drafted him. There's no doubt his intangibles and his makeup are exactly what you're looking for in the face of your franchise.''…
*Caldwell said the signings Wednesday will help with flexibility during the upcoming draft. "We felt like we had some glaring needs," Caldwell said, specifying right tackle, defensive end, safety and cornerback. He added that signing right tackle Jermey Parnell, Odrick, free safety Sergio Brown and cornerback Davon House "allows us to take the best player available rather than a specific player." …