Urban Meyer has been a wealth of insight every time he has taken the podium at TIAA Bank Field. The long-time college head coach has never been one to shy away from sharing exactly what he is thinking, and that hasn't changed with the Jaguars.
Meyer once again spoke on Friday morning, this time going over the dozen players the Jaguars added during the first wave of the free agency cycle and the process the team embarked on upon Meyer's first fray into the NFL offseason.
So, what were the most revealing things Meyer said during his post-free agency remarks? We break down five below.
The defensive line will remain a focus throughout the Urban Meyer era
The Jaguars were never afraid to make the defensive line an area of focus under the Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin regimes (aside from 2020, of course), and it doesn't appear as if anything is changing now that Meyer is in charge. He preached the importance of having both quantity and quality on the defensive line, noting the importance and value of having a host of hog mollies who could consistently win in the trenches throughout a 60-minute game.
"So, on defense, the number one need, regardless of what the statistics said, the number one need to me is always going to be [to] build your defensive front. I expect our defensive line to always be the top four—in college, I expected to be in the top 5 in America. In the NFL, I told our staff I expected to be top 4—we should keep elevating that—the top 4 in the league and we felt it wasn’t," Meyer said on Friday.
This was clear during the team's free agency period as well. Counting the trade for nose tackle Malcom Brown, the Jaguars added four new defensive linemen this week. Meyer says he wanted a "big" defensive line that could rotate in waves, and this is exactly what he got in free agency.
The Jaguars will be unlikely to always pour this much resources and energy into improving the defensive line room each offseason; Meyer and his staff faced an unprecedented challenge with this year's group that they will likely hope to not have to face again. But what will remain is Meyer's commitment to building up the trenches, something he made more than obvious on Friday.
"I used to say that about the SEC, in college football, the defensive lines look different," Meyer said. "I’ve always had excellent defensive line coaches and I listen to their expertise, but I’ve also got a vision of what it’s supposed to look like. And once again, don’t put the car before the horse and expect—I know what the expectation is and that better be—I expect the defensive line to be one of the strengths of our team.”
Meyer quickly learned the difference between recruiting and free agency
On the surface, there are a few similarities between hitting the recruiting trail and testing the waters of an NFL free agency cycle. After all, in each case a coach has to convince the player to join his program. But there are many, many more differences than there are similarities, something Meyer had to learn quickly and likely a bit unsmoothly at times. Meyer wasn't used to not getting his top targets at Florida and Ohio State, but missing out on those very same targets while with the Jaguars is something Meyer knows he will have to adjust to.
“Yeah I remember, I said ‘Go get him, I want that guy, go get him.’ And in recruiting, we would have our recruiting meeting to identify the best players and go get them," Meyer said Friday. "And then all of a sudden, I start finding out this guy costs $28 million and this guy costs—and it was really—I knew it, to say I didn’t know it, of course I knew it—but just the way you put that puzzle together about, ‘Here’s your cap space, here’s your choices, can we take him, but we get three of these guys to help?’ And so, I imagine once you build your roster exactly the way you want it, then you can take one guy and go get the $25 million athlete. We’re not in a position to do that right now, we’re just not. So, it was a learning experience and I feel great about it.”
Eventually under Meyer, the Jaguars will go on a spending spree of sorts. This shouldn't be a question of if but of when. But for now, it is clear that Meyer has noticed that the seismic shift between college and the NFL is one that is built on dollar signs and cap space. If there were no cap limitations, perhaps Meyer would have picked up on more similarities to the recruiting area he once dominated in. But for now, Meyer is learning the necessary lesson of change.
"I think I heard from some players [that] they were excited about [the team] because they think we have a nice plan for winning because we have won a lot of games. But there really wasn’t a recruiting element of it," Meyer said.
"It came down to value. Are you willing to pay this kind of money for that player at a position of need? So, I didn’t feel the recruiting element. I was ready to. I had my recruiting stuff ready to go, but it didn’t really come down to that. It came down to are you going to pay the player and get in the game?
Meyer wanted a few more former Buckeyes
One of the most revealing things Meyer said on Friday was that he wanted to get more of his former players in the building. The only free agent the Jaguars signed this week who ever played for Meyer was veteran running back Carlos Hyde, who was among the more minor additions the Jaguars made. Otherwise, all other former Buckeyes went elsewhere.
"I was hoping to get some former players, but it didn’t work. Carlos [Hyde], I got. I’m trying to think. We went after a couple other ones or at least thought [of going after them], but once again, you start talking about value," Meyer said.
The main player who comes to mind here is wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal with Washington Football Team earlier this week. Samuel starred for Meyer at Ohio State and would have fit a major need for the Jaguars, but Meyer revealed the Jaguars' plan was never to spend big money at the receiver position.
Other former Meyer players who come to mind are Corey Linsley, Raekwon McMillan, Noah Brown, and Gareon Conley. The Jaguars didn't sign any other offensive linemen or linebackers, but they did sign a receiver and cornerback who weren't Brown and Conley.
The keyword for the Jaguars this week was 'value'
Trent Baalke stood at the podium a week before the start of free agency and told everybody the Jaguars' plan for free agency -- we just didn't all listen. Baalke preached the virtue of finding value during March as opposed to a spending spree (though he did note they would spend every dollar).
And hearing Meyer speak on Friday, it was clear the Jaguars' entire strategy from the jump was to fill out their depth and try to find value in veteran contracts, along with taking a roll of the dice on a trio of young and ascending defenders in Roy Robertson-Harris, Shaquill Griffin, and Rayshawn Jenkins.
"Obviously, he was high on the list and when you talk about value, which in the process we use, we assign value to players as we watched them, as we ranked for the last over a month, and he came in at an extremely high value for his potential, the fact that we still feel his best football is ahead of him, the quality of person and work ethic that he has, and the coaching he’s going to receive," Meyer said about Robertson-Harris specifically. "So, that was once again, he was at the top or near the top of our list on the value-based players and a big get, critical get.”
Value. That is a word Meyer used 10 times during his post-free agency remarks and one that we will likely hear over and over again throughout the rest of his tenure.
Assistant coaches, prior relationships had a major hand in the additions
Meyer stressed leading up to this week the importance that relationships would play on the Jaguars during their free agency process. So far, it is clear he wasn't just talking. The Jaguars added a number of players their coaching staff has experience with: Hyde, Phillip Dorsett, Malcom Brown, Jihad Ward, Marvin Jones, Jamal Agnew, and Tyson Alualu.
Meyer went even further in explaining just how important the roles his assistant coaches and prior relationships played. For instance, he said Ward was a player he didn't have to do a deep dive on because defensive coordinator Joe Cullen wanted him on the team.
Another example is the connections Meyer used to gather info on Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins, with Meyer using a former player, Louis Murphy, and members of the Los Angeles Chargers' roster to get insight.
"Louis Murphy helped me though. He helped me with these guys, just what kind of players they are, what kind of people. Louis Murphy might be coming down here to help us out a little bit too. He feels very strong about the quality of football in the St. Pete area obviously, so he was a cheerleader more than anything, but he did help," Meyer said.
"But I talked to, I know some players on the Chargers team, and I wanted to really do my deep due diligence because that’s the third position that needs immediate help, and he checked all the boxes. "