JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell's season-ending media availability Tuesday
1.It's time to win.We begin this Wednesday takeaways on expectations for 2016, and it was clear during General Manager David Caldwell's Tuesday media availability they are high. No, Caldwell didn't offer an expected victory total and didn't talk of the postseason. But he made a point in his opening remarks to say, "I think it's important we raise the level of expectations going into this offseason, not only for our players and coaches, but for myself, too, and everybody in this organization." Caldwell was asked if there was more pressure on the franchise and leadership in the fourth season under him and Head Coach Gus Bradley. "No, and I know you guys think it has to be a certain number, a certain division crown or something like that – it doesn't," Caldwell said. "With [Owner] Shad [Khan] … we're going to be mindful, we're going to be thoughtful, we're going to consider the circumstances and see where we're at. I think if anything it's a gut feel. To say, 'Hey, you have got to be 10-6,' that's not good for anybody and that's not realistic. As you know, in the NFL a lot of things can happen in a lot of different ways. And not only that, but why would we want to set our limits at 10-6? Maybe we could do better than that."
2.Khan understands the process.That has been clear from the time Caldwell and Bradley took over in January 2013, with Khan offering unwavering support from the beginning of what everyone involved knew would be a long – and often difficult – rebuilding process. Khan made clear last week he still understood it and was still supportive by announcing Bradley will return for a fourth season. Caldwell elaborated on Khan's role in the process Tuesday, calling the communication between him, Bradley and Khan "an ongoing conversation." Caldwell also said all decisions made by the trio involve "thoughtful consideration," adding, "There's not going to be any flippant decisions and after a one-week bad performance; we're going to take in the whole picture, all of the circumstances. We're going to make an educated, well-thought-out decision."
3.It's a mental thing.Quarterback Blake Bortles was understandably a huge topic Tuesday, and Caldwell made clear he believes Bortles is absolutely the team's quarterback moving forward. "We've been looking for a franchise quarterback for a long period of time," he said. "We now feel like we have one." Bortles threw 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions this season after throwing 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as a rookie last season, and Caldwell echoed what Bortles said Monday that the next step won't necessarily be about statistics. "I was pleased with the progress he's made," Caldwell said. "I think for him it's going to be more mentally. I think for him, I think he has a lot of peoples' attention, probably a lot of defensive coordinators in the division and across the league. They'll have a whole offseason to study him and then teams within the division will find a way from a personnel standpoint to match up with him. For him, it's going to be mentally and focusing in on the finer details and staying ahead of the curve."
4.Free agency will look the same – with a difference.The Jaguars will be active in free agency. Caldwell made that clear Tuesday, and that's no surprise: they signed eight unrestricted free agents last offseason, and the plan all along was to have enough cap space to target difference-making free agents again this offseason. The Jaguars are expected to enter free agency in March with as much salary-cap space as any team in the NFL, and while Caldwell said the team won't spend to the cap – partly because there will be contracts to be negotiated in future seasons with players such as quarterback Blake Bortles, wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and linebacker Telvin Smith – he said they will be active. Very active. "I don't know if we'll set the market, but we'll have our targets of guys that we really want and we'll do whatever we need to get them," Caldwell said. One difference from past offseasons could be target age: while the Jaguars typically have signed free agents in their mid-20s, Caldwell said consideration could be given to players in their early 30s. "Now, we're at that point in time where we can compete and compete for championships; I have no issue with signing guys that are 30, 31 and 32," Caldwell said.
*5.Faith remains high in Joeckel. *Left tackle Luke Joeckel has been a topic in recent days – understandably so after he allowed five sacks in a season-ending loss to Houston Sunday. Still, while Joeckel has struggled at various times since being selected No. 2 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, Caldwell said the third-year veteran progressed this season before the regular-season finale. Joeckel according to Caldwell allowed two sacks before Sunday, and Caldwell spoke highly of Joeckel's mental toughness. "I think he's been pretty resilient especially after what he's gone through the first two years," Caldwell said. "I know there have been a lot of people critical of his play the first two years, and to come back and have the season that he had up until that last game was pretty good. I would say his mental toughness, I don't have any questions with that." Caldwell also noted that Joeckel despite entering his fourth season is still comparatively young having turned 24 in November.