GAINESVILLE – There is no need to hurry.
If David Caldwell has had a message in recent weeks regarding the roster-building process, that was it. And the Jaguars’ new general manager reiterated that Tuesday – just hours before the start of the NFL’s free-agency period.
There are other ways to acquire players than high-profile free agency.
There are other ways than the draft, too, and as the Jaguars build, reshape and restructure the roster in the coming days, weeks and months, Caldwell said the Jaguars will use all options – and all of the time – available.
“We’re not in an overly big rush,” Caldwell said Tuesday while attending the University of Florida Pro Day at Florida Field in Gainesville. “We don’t have to have this roster complete until we go into training camp, and there will still be turnover even through that in terms of guys getting cut through camp and cutdown day. This roster is going to take a while to take shape.”
Caldwell, in Gainesville along with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and several member of the Jaguars’ coaching and scouting staff, spoke as the NFL prepared for the opening of the free-agency period at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Caldwell, who has said since taking the job in January that the Jaguars will build through the draft, said the approach in free agency will be in line that that philosophy. The team spoke with representatives of some free agents during the NFL’s three-day window leading to free agency and he said he expects discussions Tuesday afternoon and evening.
“I wouldn’t say we were overly active,” said Caldwell, adding that he expected a few signings leaguewide after 4 p.m. Tuesday with a slower pace until the April 25-27 NFL Draft. “We had some good dialogue with some agents, then tested the market with certain guys to see where they were and we’re we are.”
But Caldwell said while the Jaguars may sign a number of veteran free agents to address needs, he doesn’t necessarily expect singings to be imminent.
“Our progress will be relatively slow,” Caldwell said. “If there’s a deal that makes sense for us and the player, we’ll do it relatively quickly. It has to be a situation where the player wants to be with us and where it makes sense for us, too.”
The Jaguars allowed all 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents to hit the open market, a list that includes players such as cornerback Derek Cox, linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, center Brad Meester and fullback Greg Jones.
Smith is considered likely to sign elsewhere, and Caldwell said he doesn’t know what to expect for Cox on the open market. The team is discussing a return with Jones and Meester, and Caldwell said Tuesday the team has “good conversations” with Meester and his representation.
“He has to make a decision, too, that he wants to play,” Caldwell said. “We don’t to pressure him. He’s such a good cornerstone for this franchise. I think he’s still in the decision process. I think it’s about him deciding. Once he decides he definitely wants to play, we’ll try to come to an agreement.”
As far as signing players from other teams, Caldwell said while it’s a possibility, it could come after the initial high-profile – often high-priced – frenzy of the first few days. While free agency is well-covered and much-hyped in March, as often as not the teams participating heavily don’t get the expected results. The Jaguars, for example, have signed 51 unrestrictred free agents since 2000.
“We’re looking to build this for the future, for sustainability,” Caldwell said. “That’s the No. 1 goal, that you have to get your core players through the draft and supplement in college free agency. If the deal makes sense in (pro) free agency that you get some youth or a veteran who wants to be a part of it and provide some leadership, we’ll go that route, too.”
Also Tuesday, Bradley spoke at length with Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp. The two had spoken by phone since Bradley took the Jaguars job, but never had met face-to-face.
“To build that relationship, it’s important,” Bradley said. “It’s been great. I knew coming down here we were going to hook up and we did. It was awesome.”
Bradley, too, said the first weeks of the evaluation and planning process have gone smoothly, and that his relationship with Caldwell – whom he first met during the interview process – has continued to develop.
“The great thing is through free agency and the draft, my family’s not here and his family’s not here,” Bradley said. “I told you before, ‘It’s like a marriage,’ That’s what it has been. We go until 10:30, 11 o’clock at night, watching tape, and I think we have a clear vision of where we want to go.
“It’s coming together. There have been difficult decision we’ve had to make, but we’re just going on our vision.”