It's been a while since we've heard from Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell.
Despite the team's recent success, Caldwell has worked in silence since the conclusion of last year's NFL Draft. Caldwell finally broke his public silence Wednesday during the NFL Combine's media sessions in Indianapolis.
1) Caldwell's thoughts on Blake Bortles' extension and external criticism:
“The timing [of the deal] was driven by the fact that we wanted to get it done before the Combine. Blake wanted to get it done so he could continue his work out west and be done with it, so we knew where we land [as a team] for the rest of free agency.”
“I think the NFL is a little bit of a copycat league in some regards. I think sometimes people have a hard time thinking for themselves, so when they see someone getting some attention, they tend to follow that. I think Blake handled himself extremely well after that. He took the high road. I think as a team we were successful in those games too, multiple games.”
Our Take: The Jaguars and Bortles have clearly found an understanding regarding his long-term outlook with the team. Bortles wanted to progress with the Jaguars and Jacksonville signed him to a very team-friendly deal. With that in mind, there was no reason to wait for a deal between the two sides.
Caldwell is also very well aware of the criticism hurled towards his quarterback. The general manager is impressed by Bortles' mental toughness and believes he was a key factor in the team's success last season.
2) Caldwell's thoughts on the quarterback draft class:
“I think there are numbers [of strong prospects]. There is a lot of value in it. Historically there may be two or three or four quarterbacks that can play or come in and help a team to where now you are looking at six to ten guys that can be drafted at some point in time.”
“We will look at anything that presents itself. If there is value there, I don’t think – we still have an opening at backup. Chad’s [Henne] contract is up too so we have to figure out that. The back-up quarterback is something we will have to address, whether it is through the draft or free agency.”
Our Take: Caldwell has studied the quarterback class and sees depth at the position in the draft. That depth will enable the Jaguars to make decisions on the position throughout the draft instead of just on Day 1. Caldwell said this class could have as many as 10 quarterback prospects who could play in the NFL. That's a clear indicator that the team feels like there will be talent at the position on Day 2 and Day 3.
The Jaguars will keep their options open at the backup quarterback position. Caldwell mentioned Henne's impending free agency. The Jaguars could always bring the veteran back on a cheap deal and have him compete with a late-round rookie for the backup job. They could also let Henne walk and invest in the backup position earlier than Day 3.
3) Caldwell's thoughts on soon-to-be free agent cornerback Aaron Colvin:
“He did a nice job in his role. He has found a niche in that nickel corner spot. The first year we played him outside a little bit, and I think once we moved him to the nickel, he has redefined that position to a degree.”
“He is playing really well in the nickel. I think there are a handful of good nickel corners and I think you can put him up there with some of the better ones.”
Our Take: The Jaguars like Colvin as their nickel corner. If Colvin is willing to bypass a big deal or an opportunity to play outside, he should be back with the Jaguars, based on Caldwell's comments.
The Jaguars consider Colvin to be among the best nickel corners in the league. Colvin needs to decide if that position is good enough for him as he enters his prime NFL years.
4) Caldwell's take on the AFC South moving forward:
“It is a very good division if you look at the AFC, if those things hold true and the young quarterbacks we have in the division between [Andrew] Luck, [Deshaun] Watson and [Marcus] Mariota, I think it could be one of the better divisions in football, which hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past years. We have a lot of work cut out for us.”
Our Take: It's a new year! The Jaguars know their road to a division championship will not be easy as it was last season. With Watson, Luck and Mariota all likely to return to full health, the Jaguars will need their defense to take the next step. They will also need Bortles to hang with those talented quarterbacks from a production standpoint.
The Jaguars will need to stock up on defensive depth and offensive upgrades this offseason.
5) Caldwell on what the Jaguars' approach to free agency will look like in March:
“This has been a four-year process for us. We felt like when we got here, it would be two years building the offense and two years building the defense. Our first two years we didn’t spent a lot of money in those acquisitions so when we got to this point we can keep this team together. Not only for this year, but for the long haul. We have to be cognizant of some guys that are coming up here with Jalen [Ramsey], Myles [Jack] and Yannick [Ngakoue]. Those guys are going to command some contracts if they continue to play at the level they are playing at. We have to be careful of what we do this year, but also moving forward. We are still in a really good cap situation. We can afford to be aggressive in this free agency and try to finish off what we started.”
Our Take: The Jaguars will take calculated risks in free agency. That doesn't mean they'll avoid big names, but they will probably be more selective than they've been over the last two offseasons. The Jaguars understand that they finally have some internal talent worth keeping. Good teams develop and pay homegrown talent. The Jaguars are finally back to being a good team.
Jacksonville has holes on offense. You can expect that side of the ball to be their focus this offseason.
6. Caldwell on wide receiver Allen Robinson's importance to the Jaguars as he heads into free agency:
“Allen is a great kid. There are a lot of things we like about him, but we just have to make sure [a potential deal] is the right thing for the team.”
Our Take: The franchise tag is worth roughly $16 million. The Jaguars need to decide if they want to invest that much on Robinson, who had a down year in 2016 and played just three snaps in 2017. He looks like he is recovering well from ACL surgery and probably has an idea of what he wants from a new deal. That price may be out of the team's range.
The Jaguars simply need to decide if they view Robinson as a No. 1 wide receiver. If they consider him to be "the guy" at the position, they'll need to franchise or transition tag him or reach a long-term deal.
Robinson would make a bit less under the transition tag, which could be the obvious solution. However, if Robinson is given the transition tag, the Jaguars wouldn't receive compensation if they pass on matching an external offer sheet.
Again, the Jaguars will take calculated risks this offseason.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.