The Jaguars had wants and needs, too – a veteran leader on a young offense and young locker room – so, in that sense, the news Tuesday that Meester had agreed to play a 14th NFL season wasn’t as much a surprise as a fit.
There was one other reason, too:
At 36, Meester very much feels he can play at a high level.
“I felt like I still had some left,” Meester said Tuesday after signing a one-year contract with the Jaguars. “I think the last couple of years have been pretty good. I didn’t want to leave and regret not playing one more year if I still had something left.”
Meester had become an unrestricted free agent March 12.
“He’s still competing at a high level, and we feel we can still get some time out of him,” Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said at the NFL’s annual spring meetings at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Ariz.
Meester, the only player to have played for all three previous Jaguars head coaches – Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey – now will get a chance to play for Gus Bradley, who became the team’s fourth permanent head coach January 17.
“That's a great deal,” Bradley said upon learning the news while at the meetings. “I think he knows the vision that we want to take this. I could sense it from the start that he was all in. I hoped it was a matter of time. It's a credit to Dave and him to get that done.
“He's been on successful teams, so he knows what it's about. He gets it.”
Meester, a second-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft, said he was impressed with Caldwell and Bradley in recent meetings.
“Just talking to them for a couple of minutes, just seeing the energy they had and what they wanted to do with this organization, I want to be a part of that,” Meester said. “I want to help in this rebuild and want to help turn this thing around.
“I know we’re doing the right things here, and I think that’s what was most important to me. We’re bringing in the right guys and we’re going to do things the right way. Just because we’re a young team doesn’t mean we can’t be a great team. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people and I’m excited about it.”
Meester, who will turn 36 next week, has played in a franchise-record 193 games, and has started all 16 games each of the last four seasons.
“The only thing we can go off of is his past history,” Caldwell said. ”He takes care of his body. He’s a pro. He loves to play. He wanted to be back. We wanted him back, so it made sense for us.
“We’re glad to have him back. He brings an element of veteran leadership. If we’re going to have a young quarterback at the helm, he obviously brings an element of leadership to that.”
Meester said he, Caldwell and Bradley did not discuss a role for next season. While he has started at center for more than a decade, Bradley has emphasized competition at every position. Mike Brewster, who started seven games at left guard, played center at Ohio State, and has been mentioned as a possibility to take over at center eventually.
“It had been discussed that every position is an open competition, but it’s like that every year,” Meester said. “That’s the way this business is. In 13 seasons, you’ve got to win that spot every year. I go into that with that same mindset. Nothing in this league is ever given to you.
“You’ve got to fight for it, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fight for my spot.”
“Four years ago people thought I was gone,” he said. “I just said that I was going to take it one at a time and do my best and here I am now. I’m not going to say ‘this is it.’ Hopefully we’re sitting at this table again next year, I don’t know. We’ll just approach it when it comes I guess.”
The one-year deal reportedly came with a significant pay cut. The Jaguars this offseason have emphasized getting younger, with the plan to build through the draft and stay out of high-priced veteran free agency —both regarding their free agents and ones from other teams.
“I’m never going to complain about a pay cut,” Meester said. “I have the opportunity to play the game I love, and I’m going to make a lot more money than most people out there, more than I could ever make doing whatever else.
“So no, I’m never going to complain about that. You’ve got to be thankful for what you get, and I’m very thankful for what they gave me.”