Deep down, Jeremy Mincey knew what he wanted.
Specifically, the five-year veteran said he knew where he wanted to be, which was the place he has played most of his NFL career and a place he thinks of as his NFL home. So, while Mincey tested pro free agency and drew interest he said Wednesday he couldn't have been more pleased with the result.
Because the result meant essentially staying home.
"It's been a long, hard road – a long, hard walk," Mincey said at a press conference announcing he had re-signed with the Jaguars Wednesday, the same day the team officially announced that it re-signed linebacker Russell Allen to a long-term extension.
"I'm here to stay."
Mincey, whose NFL career had several starts and stops before he became a key part of the Jaguars' defensive front the past two seasons, on Wednesday signed a long-term contract to remain with the team. Duration and terms were not disclosed by the Jaguars, but published reports indicate Mincey signed a four-year deal worth $27.2 million including incentives.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker called Mincey a high-motor guy.
"With Jeremy, he's going to give us 100 percent every single down," Tucker said. "We can count on that. That's what's special about him. …. I'm proud of him and I'm happy for him. He's worked extremely hard to get to where he is and he's still hungry to get better."
Asked if he ever dreamed of a day such as Wednesday, Mincey laughed.
"The check I'm going to get is actually unfathomable," he said.
Mincey also received interest from Chicago and Cleveland, and strongly considered Chicago until hearing from Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith Tuesday evening.
"It wasn't really a financial issue," Mincey said. "It was more seeing the organization step up at the right moment and seeing how much they cared and respected me – at the right time. I was shocked and impressed. He won me over at the last minute."
Mincey compared the phone call to a "game-winning shot."
"He made it happen at the right moment," he said. "He really wanted me here, and that was the bottom line. He could have let me go and reach out and sign some guys on the free-agent market, but he didn't. He chose to keep me here. I'm just glad he chose to make that decision."
Mincey said once Smith offered more than he was being offered by the Bears, he decided to remain in Jacksonville, opting not to hear a counteroffer from Chicago.
"Once they outbid the Bears, that was it," he said. "I'm a Jaguar. This is where I wanted to be. I'm happy to be here."
Mincey said while his decision wasn't all about money, he still wanted to be treated fairly.
"Everything ended up working out," he said.
For Mincey, the contract was validation of sorts – and a payoff following the early part of an NFL career that has been filled with adversity.
Mincey, a two-year starter at the University of Florida, originally was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. The Patriots waived him that September 1, and he spent part of the 2006 season on the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad before Jacksonville signed him as a free agent in December 2006.
"It was hard just staying patient," Mincey said. "I had to beat guys out over and over and deal with injuries. The key for me is being patient and humble. I stayed humble and patient through this process and I knew my break would come sooner or later. I had to be humble and patient enough for it to come and I guess I was."
Mincey spent two seasons with the Jaguars before being waived in the 2009 preseason, but re-signed as a free agent in January 2010.
Since then, he has developed into one of the Jaguars' top defensive linemen. Mincey in 2010 started eight games, leading the team with five sacks. He then started every game this past season, registering a team-high eight sacks with four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception and seven tackles for loss. He finished this past season with 101 tackles – fourth on the team – and 45 quarterback pressures.
"I think it's a good fit for him," Tucker said. "He's comfortable in our system. We're glad to have him back."
Mincey said while he is aware that with a long-term extension and higher salary come higher expectation, he is prepared to bring an increased work ethic, too.
"That's what I do this for – I do this to improve my ability," he said. "They pay me to come in here and do my job. Last season was just a brief description of who I am and what I bring to the table. I feel like I have a long way to go, and I'm going to keep climbing up that hill until I get there."
For Mincey, that the climb will continue in Jacksonville matters. On the second day of the 2006 NFL Draft, a cousin told him he was going to be a Jaguar for a long time. Soon thereafter, he was drafted by the Patriots. Mincey said the thought stayed with him, and when the Jaguars signed him from the 49ers' practice squad later that year he turned down a signing bonus to join the Jaguars.
"Sometimes, you can't escape fate," he said. "Things happen for the right reason at the right time."