JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around the Jaguars in the first wave of 2018 free agency …
One of Thursday's highlights:
The podium appearance of fifth-year veteran wide receiver Marqise Lee.
Lee, who was entertaining when discussing several team-, receiver- and quarterback-related topics, also was obviously pleased to re-sign with the organization that selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
"It's great," said Lee, who after being slowed by injuries in his first two seasons has caught 119 passes for 1,553 yards and six touchdowns in 30 games over the past two seasons.
"The beginning of my career was pretty tough, but having the opportunity to get where we got last year [to the AFC Championship Game] felt amazing. To come back and have the opportunity to help get back toward where we were, it's great.
"It was a sickening feeling to get that far last year and fall a little bit short."
Lee, who led the Jaguars with 56 receptions for 702 and three touchdowns last season, said he wasn't certain when the '17 season ended that he would re-sign with the Jaguars.
Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all joined the Jaguars in 2014. They formed the core of the team's receiving corps for three seasons, but Lee said all members of the trio knew it was unlikely all three would return for a fifth season.
"We knew it was going to come up," Lee said. "We knew the team wasn't going to be able to keep everybody, so we talked about it. But at the end of the day, we have a strong relationship amongst each other. We're not worried. We'll still be around each other."
Lee was asked about being a leader in the wide-receiver group moving forward. He smiled.
"I was the leader of the room last year," he said, adding of second-year veterans Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook: "They're growing up. They understand what they have to do in their second year and how much we're depending on them."
Lee toward the end of podium time was asked with quarterback Blake Bortles. He was asked if Bortles had silenced his critics with his postseason performance.
"No – people like to talk," Lee said. "It is what it is. A lot of people are going to say a lot of things. When we come back the first week, somebody's going to say something; they're probably saying something now. At the end of the day, we don't care. I can speak for Blake: 'He doesn't care.'
"At the end of the day, we've got to play. Regardless of whether you're with us or not, we're going to go out there and play."
Both Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Donte Moncrief discussed the nature of the veteran wide receiver's contract – a one-year "prove-it" deal that both said should be motivation for Moncrief to fulfill his potential. Moncrief, a third-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, has been hampered through four seasons by toe and shoulder injuries. "There were things that were holding me back," Moncrief said. "I'm finally healthy. I know what I've got in me and it's on my shoulders and I'm ready to go." Said Caldwell, "He got banged up a little the last couple of years with some injuries. He got set back a little bit. I think there's another level for him to reach. For him to want to sign a one-year deal rather than a multi-year deal shows he has something to prove. We're banking on him proving it."
"We got there with him [Bortles last season], so I'm pretty sure we can get back there with him."
Take a look as the newest Jaguars arrived at EverBank Field and signed their new contracts.
"You go out and set the tempo, set the run game and get after guys. You keep pounding them and keep pounding them and sometime their will's going to break. I love the mentality here, especially on the offensive side. I look forward to it."
--Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell
"They have something special going on down here. That's very hard to find. They have a great culture and a family atmosphere, which is great. They're on the verge of something great. We're going to look forward to winning the Super Bowl in 2018, because that's what it's all about."
"The [Jaguars] team that I left [in 2011] and the [Jaguars] team that I've come to are totally different teams: new coaching staff, new front office, different players. From that standpoint, it's almost like I'm going to a completely different place."
--Jaguars safety Don Carey