JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer knew free agency would be different from selection, but he wasn’t really prepared for one of the most glaring inconsistencies: Hiring guys without hitting them.
Teams may only contact the agents of players who become free agents within two days before the official start of the league year. Because that’s when most deals get done, Meyer built his team without any contact – and he hated it.
Yes, it was awful, Meyer said Friday morning. I disagree, but no one asked me. In the good old days you could meet them, eat with them, learn their intelligence, learn their character. I realized that what you don’t do is call someone with skin in the game because they don’t really have ….. I don’t see honesty as a very appropriate [word]. So we took a deep dive. All the guys we signed, we signed.
To answer your question: It was awful, and I don’t think it was meant to be. Not when you’re making organizational decisions. I don’t know how this rule came about, but to me it’s not a good deal.
Meyer was one of the best recruiters in the country when he was at Florida and Ohio State. Since ESPN began tracking recruiting classes in 2006, Meyer has never signed a class lower than seventh. He drew the best class twice and finished second three times. He’s never contracted a recruit he didn’t at least talk to before signing day.
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That hasn’t happened to any of the 11 free agents the Jaguars have signed so far. Running back Carlos Hyde, who agreed to a contract with the Jaguars on Monday, played for Meyer at Ohio State, so he knew him, but Meyer couldn’t talk to him until the new league year began at 4 p.m. The environment of E.T.
Fortunately for Meyer’s peace of mind, his assistant coaches had connections to six of the 11 players, including receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Phillip Dorsett and cornerback Shaquille Griffin. But none of the staff had to deal with defensive tackle Roy Robertson-Harris, running back Jamal Agnew, safety Rudy Ford, tight end Chris Manhertz or safety Rayshawn Jenkins.
But Meyer got help from former receiver Louis Murphy, who vouched for Griffin and Jenkins. Murphy, who Meyer says could join the staff, is from St. Petersburg, Florida, where Griffin and Jenkins played high school football.
He helped me with these guys, what kind of players they are, what kind of people, Meyer said. He is a big believer in the quality of football in St. Louis. Pete, so he was more of a supporter than anything else, but he helped.
The Jaguars couldn’t bring in one of their top targets – defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed with Minnesota – and despite spending the most money in free agency, the Jaguars didn’t spend much on several players. Griffin was given a three-year contract averaging $13.33 million per year and $29 million guaranteed, but Jenkins was the second highest paid player. He signed a four-year contract averaging $8.75 million per year and $16 million in guarantees.
Part of the reason is that Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke felt that the roster needed to be strengthened in several places and that the money needed to be spread out better.
In the recruitment process, we held a recruitment meeting, identified the best players and said: Go get them, Meyer said. Suddenly I find out that this guy is worth $28 million, and that this guy… I knew to say I didn’t know, of course I knew, but the way you put this puzzle together about your place in the hat, your choice, we can take it, but we have three of these guys to help us. And so I think if you put your team together exactly the way you want, you can take someone and get that athlete for $25 million.
We can’t do that right now. I don’t know. So it was a learning experience, and I’m proud of it.
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