They spent time with him at the combine, had a private meeting at his pro day and already played host to him on a visit, so it's unlikely they'd waste any additional time and money on Bridgewater if he weren't a legitimate target. But where?
The Jaguars pick third, but it seems unlikely that they would take the former Louisville standout there. Based on recent reports and mock drafts, Bridgewater is dropping in the first round because of his shaky performances at his pro day and in private workouts. ESPN's Mel Kiper actually had him going to Houston with the top pick in the second round in his latest mock draft.
The Jaguars pick seventh in the second round (39th overall) and have 11 total draft picks. One theory has Caldwell putting a deal together to move back into the latter part of the first round -- likely the late teens or early 20s -- and selecting Bridgewater. Saturday's visit could be a final under-the-hood exam to make sure he's the right fit for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's system.
Caldwell hasn't said which of the big three quarterbacks he likes the best, but he has said it's harder to evaluate quarterbacks who played in spread offenses in college and project how their skills will translate at the NFL level. Bridgewater played in a West Coast pro-style offense at Louisville while Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles played in spread offenses. Draft analysts have said Bridgewater has the best pocket presence of the three and appears to be the most pro-ready of all the quarterbacks in the draft.
But his pro day performance was a bit unsettling -- Bridgewater said it was because he didn't wear a glove like he normally does -- and this latest visit may just be a chance for Caldwell and Bradley to get another look at him.
Regardless of which quarterback the Jaguars take, or when they take him, Caldwell is not budging on Chad Henne as the starter heading into 2014. He wants the rookie to sit back and learn. Maybe it's Bridgewater.
Even back to last month, Tom Savage, the Pittsburgh quarterback by way of Rutgers and Arizona, was right in the mix of those players Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien mentioned, when he said he didn't see a huge separation between the "top three" and the rest of the field. O'Brien attended Savage's pro day.
Yesterday during a conference call, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had this to say about Savage:
"The thing about him, I watched him early in the season, and the arm strength is easy to notice. He's got a big arm. You see him make some drive throws you don't see these other guys make, really driving deep comebacks, driving skinny posts, plenty of velocity and accuracy there."
Jeremiah had some questions about Savage's mobility, but said having watched him later in the season, Savage seemed less immobile than he had previously.
"Where he could land?" Jeremiah said. "I think he's got a very real shot of landing in the top of the second round, and those teams picking up high in the first round, if they elect to pass on quarterbacks and take some of these premier position players, which I think they'll probably a lot of them will have higher rated. Then I think there being the quarterback market in the top of the second round, you look at Houston, he kind of fits what Bill O'Brien wants to do. Jacksonville, we talked about Gus Bradley coming from Seattle where they had a mobile quarterback, but the GM Dave Caldwell has spent time with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Matt Ryan in Atlanta, so a pure pocket passer could be an option for them, as well."
Mobility hasn't seemed to be at the top of O'Brien's quarterback wish list, though neither has arm strength. He'll take accuracy over both, and several of Savage's draft evaluations note that he's struggled with consistency in that department. Savage is smart, though, as a lot of these guys are, and has experience in a pro-style offense.
Here's what ESPN.com's NFL draft experts said about Savage:
Polished mechanics and throws with quality balance. Good rhythm and tempo with timing throws. Above-average accuracy and touch working the short-to-intermediate part of the field. Throws a catchable ball and with quality placement. Deep ball accuracy is the most glaring concern in this area. Still learning to gauge proper touch and projection. However, he has the arm strength to develop in this area.
This wouldn't be the first overall pick, but the Texans could wait until the second round for their quarterback, and the level of interest in Savage lately might indicate early second round could be an option.
That 2011 class signed four-year deals with fifth-year team options. That team option varies depending on where a player was taken in the draft. The way the numbers work for Watt, the 11th overall selection that year, could hurt his finances disproportionately. Watt's 2015 salary is currently scheduled to be $6.969 million. The option number for players selected 11th through 32nd is the average of the top 25 salaries at that player's position, with the exclusion of the top three salaries at that position. The top 10 have a much more favorable number -- they'd get the same value as a transition tag. The deadlines to pick up those options is May 3.
Watt's value to the Texans is much higher than the salary he'd get if he played the 2015 season on this option salary. In theory, the Texans could hang on to Watt through 2016 by using this option for 2015 and the franchise tag the next season.
But just because his contract now locks him into the 2015 season, doesn't mean he'll definitely play on this deal. As with some franchise tags, picking up Watt's option could serve as a placeholder while the team and his representatives work out an extension.
It would serve the Texans better to do that and create the harmony that would come with a long-term deal, rather than keeping him with contractual handcuffs.
Watt is still early in the trajectory of a defensive lineman's career, so the Texans would be paying for future performance, not past performance. He would not be easy to replace, having drawn disproportionate attention on every play he was part of last season, while still managing to affect offenses in a big way. He startled the league with his outrageously high sack and batted pass numbers during the 2012 season when he was named Defensive Player of the Year. Watt's instincts and motor on the field are outstanding.
Off the field, well, here's the latest.
Guard/tackle Joe Reitz signed his one-year, $1.43 million qualifying offer as a restricted agent Thursday. Reitz, who went to high school in the Indianapolis area, has started 20 of the 34 games he's appeared in during his career. The Colts claimed Reitz off waivers from the Miami Dolphins in 2010.
The problem with the 6-7, 323-pound Reitz is his inability to remain healthy. He missed two games with a concussion last season and seven in 2012 with concussion and knee problems.
With Jeff Linkenbach signing with Kansas City, Reitz has an opportunity to be the Colts' primary utility backup offensive line because he plays either the guard or tackle position.
In his first two mocks, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had the Tennessee Titans taking Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 11. In Kiper's third draft he changed the selection to Anthony Barr, the UCLA linebacker.
Outside of running back, which the Titans won't be drafting in the first round, they have no glaring need.
But there are a number of spots where they can get better, deeper and/or younger -- including outside linebacker, on the defensive line, inside linebacker, tight end, tackle and cornerback.
In Kiper's mock draft 4.0 he has the Titans taking ...
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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today and his choice is a departure from what he predicted the Jaguars would do in his first three mock drafts.
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Does it mean they will? The day when we find out for sure is slowly approaching.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft, which accounts for Rounds 1 and 2, presents what I think might be a dream scenario for the Texans.
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There was only a brief respite for the AFC South, when the Indianapolis Colts' death grip on the division released.
In its 12 seasons of existence, the Colts have won this division eight times and missed the playoffs only once. The Titans won the AFC South in 2002 and again in 2008 -- both years the Colts made it into the postseason as a wild-card team. Their only playoff-less season came in 2011, with Peyton Manning sidelined, when they earned the Andrew Luck pick in the 2012 draft.
With Luck, the playoffs returned to Indianapolis.
Now it’s up to the rest of the division to determine whether the Colts’ domination will return.
The AFC South has offered wild-card teams in six different seasons -- two in 2007 (the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars). Most recently, the Colts were a wild-card team in 2012 when the Houston Texans won their second consecutive division title. They didn’t come close to having one last season. The Colts were the only team with a winning record.
Tennessee finished 7-9, the Texans (2-14) and Jaguars (4-12) wound up with top-five picks in this year’s draft, and the Titans and Texans are starting fresh with new head coaches as a result of what transpired.
Can the balance of power shift? Or are we still a few years away from some semblance of parity in the division? NFL Nation’s AFC South reporters Michael DiRocco, Paul Kuharsky, Mike Wells and Tania Ganguli offer their thoughts.
Will the Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs in 2014?
Michael DiRocco: I like what the Colts did in free agency in signing linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and defensive end Arthur Jones, moves that should help improve a defense that got embarrassed in the playoffs. Adding receiver Hakeem Nicks may turn out to be one of the better moves within the division because it gives Andrew Luck an experienced, big-play receiver (provided he stays healthy). Indy is the best team in the division, but I think it could widen the gap with a good draft, especially if it adds help up front. A dominant defense is something Peyton Manning never had there, but it seems as if the Colts are trying to get one for Luck.
Paul Kuharsky: The Colts were a playoff team the past two seasons and they will be a playoff team in 2014, as well. The primary reason is the same: Andrew Luck. He's a quarterback with a knack for making big plays at big moments, and he and his team have great faith they can pull games out late. The offensive line will be better with Donald Thomas back healthy. Other key guys who will return from injury will give them a great boost on offense -- Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard. I think they will miss safety Antoine Bethea, who was often the glue of the secondary, and they need help on the back end of the defense. But they have a way of functionally patching holes, finding fill-ins and surviving just fine. As long as Luck is healthy, they're the leader of the pack.
Mike Wells: The Colts can go ahead and start making "Back-to-Back AFC South Champion" T-shirts. Partially because they'll be that much better than the rest of the division and partially because they aren't thinking about just winning the division. The Colts want to take another step in the AFC. They reached the divisional round of the playoffs last season, so ideally they'd like to at least get to the AFC Championship Game this coming season. Depending on health and how the offensive line blocks, the Colts could have one of the best offenses in the league next season. So winning the division is the least of the Colts' worries.
Will the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs in 2014?
DiRocco: I really liked the hiring of coach Ken Whisenhunt. He should be a huge help to quarterback Jake Locker, who is likely facing his last chance in Tennessee. Whisenhunt likes his quarterbacks to stay in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly, so that may be a bit of a challenge for Locker. To me, the Titans' playoff chances hinge on the impact that Whisenhunt has on Locker. The defense is good enough and the offense, even without Chris Johnson, has some playmakers, especially with the addition of Dexter McCluster. Locker has to improve significantly. If he does, they're a legitimate wild-card contender.
Kuharsky: The Titans' biggest upgrade comes with Ken Whisenhunt and a new coaching staff. Mike Munchak proved to be in over his head as the team's head coach. I don't think the Titans are super-talented. But I think the offense will be much better with Whisenhunt designing the offense and calling the plays. The big question is clearly at quarterback, where Jake Locker has to show he can learn the system, stay healthy and be productive. Defensively, coordinator Ray Horton brings a new scheme and a far more aggressive mindset. If some guys who faded under Jerry Gray can rebound, it's a unit that could surprise. I think the Titans will improve, but I don't know that they will be a playoff team.
Wells: The Titans need to figure out if Jake Locker is the answer at quarterback for them first. The first step is for him remain healthy. Then they have to find a replacement for Chris Johnson at running back. New coach Ken Whisenhunt led Arizona to the Super Bowl in 2008, but the Titans aren't ready to close the gap between them and the Colts. Tennessee will be a better overall team but it may not show in the record. Houston may end up having a better record than the Titans next season.
@PaulKuharskyNFL only if Locker stays healthy, young WR step up, and Horton's defense is as good as advertised.- Taki C (@Takithrator) April 15, 2014
Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the playoffs in 2014?
DiRocco: The talent level on the roster is still the worst in the division, although GM David Caldwell has made significant improvements with his first two free-agency classes and his first draft. The team still lacks a franchise quarterback and there aren't a lot of playmakers on offense, either. That will be addressed in the draft, but relying on too many rookies never ends well. The defensive line got an upgrade via free agency but the Jaguars need to improve their speed on defense, especially at linebacker. They should be able to challenge a .500 record in 2014 but they're another season away from competing for a playoff spot.
Kuharsky: The Jaguars have had a nice offseason and continue to make steady progress under the fine leadership of general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. The free-agent haul upgraded the lines on both sides of the ball and I expect them to get a blue-chip non-quarterback at No. 3 in the draft and perhaps a guy who will take over for quarterback Chad Henne down the line. With the longtime face of the franchise, Maurice Jones-Drew, now with the Raiders, Jacksonville's national identity is as anonymous as ever. It could be a team that proves how such things can be overrated. I don't think the Jaguars will be a playoff team yet, but I think they are closer than most people think. And if they are a surprise team in 2014, I won't be that surprised.
Wells: There's no way I can say "yes" when I had to Google to see which quarterbacks the Jaguars still have on the roster. It's also going to take some time getting used to not seeing Maurice Jones-Drew taking handoffs in the backfield for them. I do like how the Jaguars rolled the dice and made a run at Cleveland center Alex Mack. You can't fault them for being aggressive. The Colts, who have questions at center, had no interest in taking that approach with Mack. The Jaguars need to find a quarterback before they think about making the playoffs.
@ESPNdirocco Improved? Sure! Playoffs? It is gonna be a bit hard until they have someone better than Henne leading this offense.- Jason Greenbaum (@JWGreenbaum) April 14, 2014
Will the Houston Texans make the playoffs in 2014?
DiRocco: Things went bad quickly for the Texans, but the answer isn't as simple as plugging in a new quarterback. Houston had ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing from 2010 to 2012 but dropped to 20th last season. Injuries played a big role in that but the decline in the offensive line's play was startling. There is still a lot of talent on defense -- J.J. Watt, Kareem Jackson, Brian Cushing, for example -- but the Texans are too unsettled on offense to be a playoff team. To win in the AFC, you have to keep up with the high-scoring offenses in New England and Denver and the Texans don't have the firepower to do that even when the defense is healthy and playing well.
Kuharsky: In Bill O'Brien, the Texans have a somewhat mysterious new head coach. He did good work in New England with the Patriots, but it was very much in the background. He moved Penn State further down the rebuilding track than anyone could have fairly expected. His new team completely forgot how to win in 2013. The dive from 12-4 division winner in 2012 to 2-14 and No. 1 in the draft happened very swiftly. I don't think a reverse turnaround is going to unfold in 2014. I expect the Texans to play with more purpose, and they have some top-flight talent. But the quarterback question and the time the new staff needs to fill out the roster is going to mean it's a rebuilding year that is unlikely to result in a postseason game.
Wells: The Texans fooled me last season. I picked them to win the division and face Denver in the AFC Championship Game. Houston won its first two games then lost its final 14 games of the season. Receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster are still around on offense and the defense is led by J.J. Watt, but can new coach Bill O'Brien make the transition from being a college head coach to an NFL head coach? The Texans may end up using the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback. They'll win more than two games next season, but they won't win enough of them to make the playoffs.
@taniaganguli If Clowney can play QB, too, then yes.- Mike K(lowney) (@Zepp1978) April 15, 2014
Nicks, who signed a one-year deal, will wear No. 14, according to Colts.com.
It's not surprising that Nicks had to settle for another number. You can't look at the No. 88 jersey and not think about Harrison. He spent his entire career with the Colts, totaling 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. Harrison missed out on making the Hall of Fame this year, but he'll be in there sooner than later.
The Colts hope Nicks makes No. 14 a household name for them next season and possibly longer if he's able to have a bounce-back season. He did not catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his career last season with the New York Giants.
Chris Johnson has found a new home, and it’s with the New York Jets.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports it’s a two-year deal. ProFootballTalk says it has "a base value of $8 million, with another $1 million available in incentives based on yardage." I still want to see the guarantee and the structure to have a real sense of it. Johnson was due an $8 million base salary this year with the Titans before they cut him.
He could be great for the Jets. If Johnson plays well there, keep in mind it doesn't mean he would have played well in Nashville.
I see two big questions ahead for him.
- How does he react to what’s likely to be a reduced role? He was THE centerpiece of the Titans' offense for the bulk of his time in Tennessee. Will the Jets be selling him as that or giving him a narrower role and not talking constantly about their desire to give him 20 carries a game? The role is likely to be narrower, and he’s a guy who understandably wants the ball and enjoys NFL stardom. He’s been a good teammate, though not necessarily a great team guy. What direction do things go with that?
- How does he handle the New York press when things don’t go well? Fair or not, a good share of Jets fans will view him as an offensive savior. If he averages 3.9 yards a carry as he did for the Titans last year, if he fails to break an occasional tackle in the backfield, if he suggests the negative issue is with the offensive line or play calling, a giant press corps will be more difficult for him to deal with than our small group in Nashville ever was.
To commemorate that milestone, I'm looking back at each draft and giving you the best and worst selections in each round. Today is the first round.
These rankings are based on what the player did with the Jaguars. If they failed to produce with the Jaguars but had success somewhere else -- whether they left as free agents, were cut and caught on somewhere else, or traded -- that's a negative.
I'm expecting some disagreement, which is fine. Your feedback is welcome (click the email link at the bottom), and I'm going to post some of the best comments (read: those without profanity) on April 16.
Here we go ...
Round 1: Best pick
Tom Coughlin selected offensive tackle Tony Boselli with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft and Boselli became one of the cornerstones of the franchise's surprising early success. He went on to make five Pro Bowls and was voted to the All-Pro team three times in his seven-year career with the Jaguars.
Boselli started 12 games as a rookie and all 16 in his second season. By his third season, he was regarded as one of the best tackles in the game. That soon changed into him being regarded as the best tackle in the game. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut short a career that could have ended with Boselli being the first Jaguars player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
RB Fred Taylor (1998) holds Jaguars career records in rushing yards (11,271) and attempts (2,428) and single-game records in yards (234) and attempts (37). He is currently 15th on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
LB Kevin Hardy (1996) ranks fourth on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (28.5) and fourth in team history with 789 tackles. He had 10.5 sacks and was voted to the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl in 1999.
DT John Henderson (2002) is third on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (29), which is a significant achievement for a defensive tackle. He also ranks fifth in team history in tackles (563) and is a two-time Pro Bowler.
Round 1: Worst pick
The Jaguars took receiver R. Jay Soward with the 29th overall pick in 2000. It turned out to be the biggest bust in team history.
Soward eventually admitted that he battled alcohol issues throughout his career and smoked marijuana regularly while he was at USC. That's why his NFL career ended with just 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown, three carries for 28 yards, and 18 punt and kickoff returns.
Soward struggled just getting to practices and meetings on time. Coughlin sent limos to pick Soward up to make sure he made it on time. He was suspended multiple times for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
DE Derrick Harvey (2008) never came close to living up to the hype of being the eighth overall pick. He was an elite pass-rusher at Florida but managed just eight sacks in his three seasons with the Jaguars.
QB Blaine Gabbert (2011) was 5-22 as a starter and threw 22 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions in 28 career games. The No. 10 overall pick also couldn't stay healthy. He missed games because of injuries to his shoulder, forearm (the final six games of the 2012 season), thumb, hamstring, and a cut on his hand. He failed to finish six of his last 10 starts (including preseason) because of those injuries.
WR Justin Blackmon (2012) has already violated the league's substance abuse policy three times in his first two seasons and is currently suspended indefinitely.
Stadium Journey used a Fanfare five-star scale to rate the categories: Food and beverage, atmosphere, neighborhood, fans, access, return on investment and extra. The Colts received five stars in every category except food and beverage, which they received four stars in.
"Lucas Oil Stadium is a fantastic venue, with the emphasis on the fans," according to Stadium Journey. "This is one of the best sports stadium experiences in the country and should be on an NFL fans' bucket list, especially as the team is well on its way to becoming an attraction in itself."
Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Dallas' AT&T Stadium and Carolina's Bank of America Stadium round out the top five stadiums.
San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium and Washington's FedEx Field were ranked as the worst three stadiums in the league.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s nothing wrong with swinging for the fences every once in a while. Sometimes it works and you do hit one into the stands.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell took a shot with Alex Mack. He didn’t connect because the Cleveland Browns quickly decided to match the Jaguars’ five-year, $42 million ($26 million guaranteed) offer sheet Mack signed earlier on Friday. But it was a heckuva swing.
Caldwell deserves a lot of credit for attempting to steal one of the game’s best offensive linemen away from a Browns team that made a mistake by not using the franchise tag. The contract was structured in a way that was supposed to make it difficult for the Browns to accept by including a clause that allowed Mack to void the deal after two years, but Browns management accepted that risk.
Even though Caldwell was unable to pull it off, it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren’t going to be the last guy picked for the dodgeball game any longer. Owner Shad Khan has made a significant financial contribution to the team’s facilities -- spending $11 million to renovate the weight room and locker room and $20 million to help finance the stadium and scoreboard improvements -- and now he is showing he’s willing to do the same when it comes to improving the roster.
Adding seven free agents, including guard Zane Beadles ($30 million over five years) and defensive linemen Red Bryant ($19.5 million over four years) and Chris Clemons ($17.5 million over four years), was a good indication of that commitment, but his willingness to give Caldwell the green light to pay that much money to land Mack offers even more proof.
Caldwell has steadily improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Taking a shot at Mack was a shrewd gamble that would have accelerated the rebuilding process. It didn’t work, but the Jaguars are no worse than they were before Mack signed the offer sheet.