JACKSONVILLE – The unofficial began becoming official late Thursday afternoon.
That happened a lot around the NFL – and in Jacksonville, it meant the long-reported trade bringing left tackle Branden Albert to the Jaguars is now a done deal.
Albert, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, joined the Jaguars in a trade with the Miami Dolphins for the Jaguars' seventh-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The deal that had been reported since mid-February became official Thursday at 4 p.m.
"Brandon is an experienced left tackle," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said in a statement. "He will compete for the starting role and has proven over his 120-game career that he has the mental and physical tools to excel in this league.
"The play of the offensive and defensive line will be of significant importance to our organization's success and the acquisition of Branden Albert is a step in that direction."
Thursday at 4 p.m. marked the official start of the 2017 NFL League Year, the time pre-league year trades around the NFL can become official. A separate deal between the Dolphins and Jaguars that sent tight end Julius Thomas to Miami for a 2017 seventh-round draft selection also became official at that time.
Albert (6-feet-5, 315 pounds) played with the Dolphins the past three seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2015. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2013, his final season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Branden Albert is a Pro Bowl player who instantly impacts our team," Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said in a statement. "Branden has played 120 games over the last nine seasons and has a lot of great football ahead of him.
"His consistency, leadership and on-field performance were all key factors in our desire to acquire Branden from the Dolphins. We look forward to him getting started in Jacksonville."
Albert, originally the No. 15 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chiefs, played collegiately at the University of Virginia. He has started 118 of 120 games in nine NFL seasons, and has started at least 12 games in seven of those seasons.
Thomas (6-5, 256 pounds), who played with the Jaguars the past two seasons, signed with Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent before the 2015 season. He caught 76 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns in two seasons, including 30 receptions for 281 yards and four touchdowns this past season.
He started 16 games and played 21 for the Jaguars, missing four games at the beginning of the 2015 season with a hand injury and missing time late this past season with a back injury.
The move to acquire Albert is a major one for an offensive line that improved its pass protection last season, but that has struggled at times in recent seasons in the running game. Albert is considered a good run blocker. The team opted during February not to exercise a four-year option for Kelvin Beachum, who started 15 games at left tackle for the Jaguars last season.
Caldwell said during last week's NFL Scouting Combine that the team liked guard A.J. Cann and center Brandon Linder, noting at the time that either player could move positions if the Jaguars signed an interior offensive linemen in free agency.
Teams have been able to negotiate with agents for free agents from other teams since Tuesday at noon. But while many deals have been reported, those deals couldn't be officially finalized by teams until 4 p.m. Thursday.
It was expected that the Jaguars could be active at several positions in free agency, including interior offensive line, cornerback, safety and defensive end. Jaguars.com will report free agency news as it becomes official.