Jags commit $175M, including $78M guaranteed, to free agents
Mar. 11, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Having won nine of 48 games in three years, the Jacksonville Jaguars were no easy sell in free agency.
They couldn't get players in a room with energetic coach Gus Bradley and couldn't get them to see owner Shad Khan's vision for the franchise. So they had two things to offer: money and opportunity.
The first was probably more attractive than the second.
The small-market Jaguars committed $175 million, including $78 million guaranteed, to six free agents who are expected to be immediate starters and possibly key components to getting the team back in the hunt in the AFC.
"We probably haven't spent as much as we thought we would have," general manager Dave Caldwell said.
Jacksonville signed tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, right tackle Jermey Parnell, cornerback Davon House, linebacker Dan Skuta and free safety Sergio Brown to contracts Wednesday.
Thomas and Odrick are proven starters. Parnell, House, Skuta and Brown were part-time players who are now getting paid to take on bigger roles.
The team had nearly $70 million in salary cap space and planned to spend big. The Jaguars targeted Thomas, Odrick, Parnell, Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb and New England safety Devin McCourty — and landed three of them.
Caldwell called his six-man class "maybe a double" instead of a home run.
Thomas signed a five-year, $46 million contract that includes $24 million guaranteed. Odrick inked a five-year, $42.5 million deal that includes $22 million guaranteed. Parnell signed a five-year, $32 million contract that includes $13 million guaranteed. House signed for four years and $25 million, including $10 million guaranteed. Skuta signed for five years and $20.5 million, with $8 million guaranteed. And Brown inked a three-year, $9 million contract that included $1 million guaranteed.
The six toured revamped EverBank Field and then got an introductory PowerPoint presentation from Bradley.
"We all came out of that room like, 'Wow!'" Skuta said.
It was a welcome relief for all of them, especially since they had secondhand snippets of information about Jacksonville and the culture Bradley and Caldwell have tried to create while gutting and revamping the roster.
"The whole time you're going through the process, you hope you don't get that pitted stomach feeling as soon as you sign your contract and it's like, 'Oh boy, what'd I get myself into?'" Odrick said. "But I've had a smile on my face all day, and it's not because I saw a certain number. It's because of the people I've been meeting."
The Jaguars aren't done, either.
Caldwell said he will continue to evaluate remaining free agents as well as guys who have been or will be released this week.
"Right now, there's not a whole lot brewing on anybody," Caldwell said. "We'll kind of just kind of regroup here and see where we're at the end of today and throughout the weekend and see if there's going to be another wave of players that may get released and kind of keep our eye on some new players to hit the market."
Caldwell said he doesn't "have a good feel" on whether Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL with 1,845 yards rushing last season, could join Jacksonville's free-agent haul.
"I wouldn't anticipate anything happening (over the next four of days)," said Caldwell, who spoke to Murray's agent Tuesday. "I can't tell you that one way or the other. I don't really have a good feel for it to be honest with you."
Caldwell was feeling pretty good about the six guys he signed.
Thomas was the most significant addition, giving second-year quarterback Blake Bortles a reliable route-runner and talented pass-catcher to work the middle of the field.
"It's a good feeling to have a home," said Thomas, who caught 108 passes for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns the past two seasons in Denver. "For the last couple months I wasn't sure where I was going to be. I was looking for a great opportunity. I feel like the franchise valued me and really wanted me to be here."
His arrival makes the future uncertain for veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is due to make $8.2 million in 2015. Caldwell ruled out trading Lewis, but added "he's going to have to compete to be here."
Odrick spent the last five seasons in Miami but was the odd man out when the Dolphins targeted defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. With Odrick in, Red Bryant's future is unclear. Bryant is scheduled to count $4.5 million against the salary cap and is due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 15.
"We'll regroup with our coaching staff and kind of see what we need to do moving forward, but no decisions have been made," Caldwell said.