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View from the O-Zone: Early FA splash lives up to hype


JACKSONVILLE – You wanted excitement? You wanted aggressiveness? You wanted a splash?

You wanted all that from the Jaguars in 2015 free agency?

Well, guess what? You got it.

Talk about living up to the hype …

Aggressiveness. Excitement. Ker-splash. Check, check … and, oh yes …


The NFL's free-agency period began Tuesday at 4 p.m. – and at long last, a litany of pre-free-agency, not-so-well-kept secrets around the league and around the Jaguars were revealed. A weekend of parameter-setting became deal-finalizing on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, it all became official when names were signed on dotted lines, which meant we at at last officially for-real can report the following players had joined the Jaguars …officially:

*Julius Thomas, a tight end from the Broncos. He's the receiving tight end the Jaguars need, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and unquestionably the highest-profile signing of this and any Jaguars free-agent class in a long, long time.

*Jared Odrick, a defensive tackle from the Dolphins. He'll likely play the five-technique end for the Jaguars, and he'll give the team some flexibility until tackle Sen'Derrick Marks is fully healthy. He wasn't as high-profile as Thomas before free agency, but in terms of quality and potential impact, he's as important as any of the six signings.

*Jermey Parnell, a right tackle from the Cowboys. He addresses the need at tackle. This was huge get, and a player the Jaguars targeted early.

*Dan Skuta, a linebacker from the 49ers. The seven-year veteran is versatile enough to play middle and outside linebacker, and with five sacks this past season, could fit as the team's Otto linebacker.

That was the first wave, the players around whom rumors and reports swirled over the weekend and Monday. Then came Tuesday:

*Davon House, a cornerback from Green Bay. Look for him to start opposite Demetrius McCray, which will enable second-year corner Aaron Colvin to play nickel full time.

*Sergio Brown, a safety from the Colts. Look for him at free safety, filling another area pretty much generally acknowledged as a major Jaguars need entering the offseason.

All became official Wednesday, and all are expected to be on hand for an introductory press conference at EverBank Field Wednesday afternoon.

So, check, check, check …

Well, six checks, actually – and included in those checks are some really big checks. Although the official terms were not disclosed, all six signed long-term deals and some signed really high-priced ones. According to reports Thomas signed for $46 million with $24 million guaranteed over five years, and reports were that Odrick signed for $22 million guaranteed.

That's a lot of guaranteein,' which should put to rest any complaints about the Jaguars and General Manager Dave Caldwell not using that much-publicized $60 million-plus ins salary cap space with which the team entered the free agency period.

No, Caldwell and Owner Shad Khan had given plenty of indication that this free-agency period would be different than the first two under Caldwell's guidance, and make no mistake:

This is different.

Caldwell talked before it began of swinging for the fences if those swings involved "blue-chip" prospects, and as much as reasonably could be expected, that's what happened.

The Jaguars didn't sign every No. 1 prospect on their wish list. There were reports of efforts made involving Randall Cobb and Devin McCourty, players who eventually re-signed with their former teams prior to free agency. Familiarity is hard to beat, particularly if familiarity can come close to matching the money.

No, this was aggressiveness on a scale not seen the past two offseasons. In those offseasons, Caldwell wanted to build the core, and give drafted players time to develop. At that point, the plan was to supplement the core with free agents.

Wednesday was some serious supplementin', no?

Only time will tell how Wednesday's signings will be viewed from a historical perspective. Free-agency by definition is huge risk with uncertain reward, and the Jaguars' moves Wednesday fit the definition.

But Caldwell and this regime have had two drafts. If the foundation isn't yet built, it's at least on its way. That meant it was time to start adding pieces. It was necessary to start addressing obvious needs, and to use some of the team's well-publicized cap room to do it.

And that's what the Jaguars did.

The signings guarantee nothing, and there's no guarantee a player such as Thomas will match the numbers he posted playing with Peyton Manning in Denver. The reality is he probably won't. But here is what Thomas and the rest of the class does do:

They make the Jaguars better. They give them more talent.

They make them deeper.

They also don't make the team significantly older, and that's significant because all six players are in the ideal range for free agents. None is older than 28. All have at least four years of NFL experience. That doesn't mean all six will continue to ascend, and it doesn't mean all will develop into core players.

It does mean all of them will have a chance. And in a system that guarantees nothing, a chance is what you want.

So, yes, there were a lot of checks around the 'Bank Wednesday. And yes, they were big, risky and splashy ones. But if you think the Jaguars are better than they were Tuesday – and the thought here is that's the case – then the checks were as worthwhile as they were necessary.

Ker-splash …

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