JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tom Coughlin’s resume, reputation and rings already are making a difference for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The team’s new executive vice president of football operations played a pivotal role in landing one of the NFL’s top free-agent classes. General manager Dave Caldwell even said Coughlin “was critical in us closing those deals.”
The Jaguars signed four free agents Friday, including three defensive starters to contracts totaling more than $150 million. Defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safety Barry Church and linebacker Lerentee McCray inked deals in Jacksonville, and each of them said Coughlin was a part of the lure to the small-market franchise.
“I’ve been a fan of Tom Coughlin’s since I’ve been in the NFL and having to compete against his teams,” Campbell said. “I really like the way his mindset is and the way he prepares his guys, so I wanted to be a part of that.”
Coughlin has two Super Bowls rings from his 12 seasons with the New York Giants. He also led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances in his first five years as the team’s first head coach. Although he’s known for running a strict operation filled with rules, Coughlin also commands a higher level of respect than anything seen in Jacksonville over the last 15 years.
“He’s just a straight arrow, no nonsense, keep it real, tell it how it is, honest,” Campbell said. “He values defensive line and leadership, and I think the main thing that I like about him is that he’s a winner. He’s won plenty of times before.”
The Jaguars are counting on Coughlin helping them do it again.
“The biggest factor I believe for me coming down here was just seeing the potential that this team had and just seeing that I could be a part of something special,” Church said. “Just adding Coach Coughlin to that is just an added bonus. He’s going to get the most out of every player that we have here. He’s stern in what he believes in. If we could buy in as a team in what he believes in, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Bouye signed a five-year deal worth $67.5 million, with $26 million guaranteed. Campbell signed a four-year deal worth $60 million, with $30 million guaranteed. Church signed a four-year contract worth $26 million.
Together, the trio should bolster an already-solid defense.
“I was doing my research, seeing the Super Bowls (Coughlin) won in New York,” Bouye said. “I just knew they were trying to turn this around and they’re trying to win now. That’s one thing Coughlin told me today and that got me really excited. I’m just ready to go to work.”
McCray signed a one-year deal worth up to $3.5 million, with $1 million guaranteed. He’s expected to be a key special teams addition.
Jacksonville also formally introduced left tackle Branden Albert, the only upgrade the team has made on the offensive side of the ball. Coughlin and Caldwell traded their 2018 seventh-round pick to Miami in exchange for Albert, a two-time Pro Bowler entering his 10th season.
“They’re serious about football; they want to win,” Albert said. “As you can see, they’re doing a lot of things to make it happen.”
And just having Coughlin in the building is paying dividends.
“Two years ago when we played the Giants, Bobby Hart texts me. He’s a young right tackle over there,” Albert said. “I know him personally. I guess they do scouting each week of players. He told me Coach Coughlin doesn’t give anybody compliments, but he loved Branden Albert for some reason.
“Now that I get to meet him, the football brain that he has, it’s a big compliment. That’s another reason why I just felt like I’m meant to be here.”
Owner Shad Khan hired Coughlin in January to oversee all aspects of football ops, usurping much of Caldwell’s control. Although some thought that would cause problems behind the scenes, the relationship seemed to work perfectly during the first event of the new league year.
“I think Tom’s invaluable in this process,” Caldwell said. “His reputation, he’s got a lot of relationships with agents and as we start to get the ball rolling and then get Tom on the phone with some of these agents was critical in us closing those deals.”