Sam: Jags willing to spend on & off field
PHOENIX – There's a lot of business being discussed at the annual NFL Meeting in Phoenix but much of the discussion of course is about football.
Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell told me today that he agrees with Owner Shad Khan's assessment last month of the Jaguars won-loss record: "The fans deserve better. Sooner rather than later. Jacksonville is a great community with great passion for the Jaguars and they deserve a Super Bowl title. Hopefully we're on the way to bringing that."
Caldwell reiterated that he didn't spend as much in free agency as he thought he might but added, "We're not done yet. There are still some good players out there." He added that the Jaguars were in the DeMarco Murray sweepstakes until Tuesday night when, "We realized we weren't his first choice." When asked if they were serious about the pursuit he added, "We were probably his second best offer. By millions. And I'll leave it at that."
Among the six free agents Caldwell signed he named Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick and Jermey Parnell as "slotted as starters," and said the rest will have a chance to compete for starting spots. His signing of Bernard Pierce off the waiver wire from Baltimore after a DUI seemed out of character for the Jaguars but Caldwell said Pierce didn't have any prior problems so he thought it was a good risk to take.
"We're not going to have 53 choirboys," the Jaguars GM continued. "But we're going to have 50 high character guys in that locker room."
Just over a month away from the draft, Caldwell said he had plenty of time to focus on the players available at the number 3 spot but he didn't attend any pro days because "the guys we're interested in were at the combine, so we didn't need to duplicate our efforts."
While it's not the first time he's been interested in a trade out of the first round position ("We had a chance last year but we had the quarterback we wanted") Caldwell seemed more open to moving the pick if another draft pick they liked was available. "If you can get an extra starter in the second round, you should consider it," he noted. When I asked him about being interested in what happened in front of him on draft day he smiled and said, "Yes." Caldwell admitted that if the player they want is there, they'll take him, but if not, they'll try and move down since the other guys are all rated about the same. Interpret that as saying if Leonard Williams, the DL from USC doesn't go to the Titans, the Jaguars will take him. Otherwise, they'll try to pick up an extra pick by moving down a bit to get one of the next tier players on their board. He doesn't expect it to go down to draft day though, anticipating getting calls the day before, similar to last year.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping just signed a new 5-year deal and was a pretty popular guy at these meetings. "Teams have seen the movement we've made in fan engagement and stadium experience and want to know how we're doing it." While the perception of the Jaguars in Jacksonville has changed around the league, Lamping admitted it's not as if, "We went from the bottom of the league to the top. But the Jaguars are no longer mentioned as the team leaving their city. That's because of Shad's commitment to Jacksonville."
Last month the Florida Legislature tabled out of committee the funding of sports improvements in the state to bring it to a full vote of the entire body. Lamping says the original bill was approved by the full legislature so that gives him hope the funding will pass as well. "That's just the nature of a political body like that," he added. He did note that Khan was willing to front the money out of his own pocket for the stadium improvements as long as "we can find a partner," i.e. the Florida legislature.
That money is already designated in the state for sports improvements in different venues and if it gets approved, Khan will instantly put up the money to get the project done, agreeing to a reimbursement from the state over 15 years.
"It's a complicated project but to have it done for '16 we'll have to start right after this season. We want to be sensitive to the other events in the stadium but we want to get it going."
Tomorrow we'll have a chance to talk with Khan as well as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley.
Copyright 2015 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.