JACKSONVILLE – A third acquisition is now official.
And with the signing of Barry Church on Friday, a 2017 Jaguars free-agency period that already was very defensive – and very focused in the secondary – became even more so.
Church, a safety from the Dallas Cowboys, signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Jaguars Friday morning at EverBank Field. The NFL's 2017 league year and official beginning of 2017 free agency began Thursday at 4 p.m.
Church was emotional in the moments after signing, fighting through tears.
"Words can barely describe it," he said. "I'm choking up right now. I'm super-excited."
Church (6-feet-2, 218 pounds), 29, an eight-year veteran who originally signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft, started all 59 games in which he played the last three seasons. He played mostly as a reserve three seasons before that.
"I barely got any calls on draft day," Church said. "To be able to sign a deal with Jacksonville and set my family up pretty good, it's super-emotional. Just knowing I have an opportunity to be part of something special, turn it around and have my name be a part of that … it's just amazing.
"It brought me to a little bit of tears, but now it's time to get to work and turn this ship right."
Church, who played collegiately at Toledo, is expected to replace Johnathan Cyprien at the strong safety position. Cyprien, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft, officially became an unrestricted free agent Thursday at 4 p.m.
Church has 462 career tackles with 16 passes defensed, five interceptions and seven forced fumbles with three fumble recoveries. He defensed four passes with two interceptions while starting 16 games last season.
Church is considered a very good in-the-box safety, and he has played a free-safety role at times in recent seasons. It is expected that his role in Jacksonville will be more as a strong safety.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to get these boys going in the right direction with my leadership and playing ability," Church said. "The sky's the limit. Hopefully we can turn things around. … They have all the talent. The defensive side of the ball is loaded with young talent. The offense is the same as well. It's a team that's definitely loaded. If we get in the right direction, we can turn it around."
The Jaguars' likely starting secondary now looks like: cornerback Jalen Ramsey, free safety Tashaun Gipson, Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye. The Jaguars also signed Bouye Friday along with defensive end Larentee McCray. Bouye previously had been with Houston and McCray had been with Buffalo.
"It looks amazing right now, but we definitely have to put the work in and let our play show on the field," Church said. "Hopefully we can turn this thing around."
The signings of Bouye, Church and McCray came less than a day after the Jaguars' first major 2017 acquisition became official, with left tackle Branden Albert officially coming to the Jaguars in a trade from the Miami Dolphins on Thursday afternoon.
Albert, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, was acquired for the Jaguars' seventh-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The team also finalized a trade sending tight end Julius Thomas to Miami for a 2017 seventh-round draft selection Thursday afternoon.
The Jaguars also released defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks Thursday and announced they had re-signed wide receiver Bryan Walters. They had announced the release of cornerback Davon House and defensive end Jared Odrick in recent weeks.
Teams had 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 confirmed or 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.