Jacksonville’s rebuilding project took a major step forward Tuesday with the addition of two proven starters, including former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, and four players who could thrive in bigger roles.
It was one of the largest free-agent spending sprees in franchise history.
The Jaguars agreed to terms with Thomas, former Miami defensive end Jared Odrick, former Dallas right tackle Jermey Parnell, former Green Bay cornerback Davon House, former San Francisco linebacker Dan Skuta and former Indianapolis free safety Sergio Brown, said a person familiar with the negotiations. The person spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the moves.
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The Jaguars also re-signed exclusive rights free agent offensive lineman Austin Pasztor.
Jacksonville, which went 9-39 the last three years, had nearly $70 million in salary cap space and planned to spend much of it to land much-needed talent in free agency.
Getting Thomas was a significant move that gives second-year quarterback Blake Bortles a reliable route-runner and talented pass-catcher to work the middle of the field.
Thomas had 108 receptions for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns the past two seasons with Denver, and that was despite missing time last season with a left ankle injury.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, the 26-year-old Thomas played just one year of college football at Portland State after finishing his eligibility on the school’s basketball team.
Thomas agreed on a five-year deal worth $46 million that included $24 million guaranteed. Terms of the other five deals were not available.
Like Thomas, Odrick has plenty of experience. A first-round draft pick in 2010, Odrick spent his first five seasons with the Dolphins but was the odd man out when Miami targeted free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Odrick has 129 tackles, 16 1/2 sacks and 11 passes defended in 65 career games.
He is expected to start at strong-side defensive end in Jacksonville, making Red Bryant’s future uncertain. Bryant is scheduled to count $4.5 million against the salary cap and is due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 15.
Parnell should help fill Jacksonville’s top need. The Jaguars allowed a franchise-record 71 sacks last season, and providing Bortles with better protection was the top priority for the offseason.
He started one game in 2012 and another in 2013 before seeing extensive action last season. Parnell started five regular-season games and both playoff games at right tackle – and played well enough for the Jaguars to notice.
They must have taken note of House, Skuta and Brown, too.
A fourth-round pick in 2011, House played in 13 games with four starts for the Packers in 2014 but missed the final three regular-season games because of a shoulder injury.
The 6-foot-0 House fits Jacksonville’s physical, press-coverage scheme. House has broken up at least 10 passes in each of the last two seasons. With Alan Ball and Will Blackmon gone, House will compete with Aaron Colvin, Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray.
Skuta had 35 tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles with San Francisco last season. He started nine games at outside linebacker in place of the suspended Aldon Smith.
Brown started eight games for Indianapolis in 2014, recording 34 tackles and breaking up six passes. He has 102 tackles and eight pass breakups in his five-year career, which began in New England in 2010.
Finding a sideline-to-sideline safety was among Jacksonville’s top needs. New England’s Devin McCourty would have been the best option for Jacksonville, but he opted to return to the Patriots.
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