Jaguars land several big-name players on opening day of free agency

Associated Press Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked by Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell during the 2016 season finale. Campbell has agreed to terms on a contract to join the Jaguars.

One of the most sought-after players on the market. A defensive end with eight straight years of at least five sacks. A strong safety that can also play free safety. And a new left tackle.


Befitting a team with myriad salary cap space (nearly $76 million) and myriad needs (aforementioned spots), the Jaguars sprinted out of the starting blocks at 4 p.m. Thursday, completing one trade and agreeing to terms with three defensive starters.

Miami left tackle Branden Albert was acquired for a 2018 seventh-round pick and a league source confirmed the Jaguars agreed to terms with Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye, Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell and Dallas strong safety Barry Church to contracts totaling $153.5 million.

Bouye (five years, $67.5 million, $26 million guaranteed) was the prize pick-up – the Jaguars added a No. 1A cornerback to play opposite Jalen Ramsey and weakened a division rival.

Campbell (four years, $60 million, $30 million guaranteed per ESPN) was also a coveted player – the Jaguars needed a strong-side defensive end after cutting Jared Odrick last month.

Church (four years, $26 million) replaces Jonathan Cyprien, who reportedly agreed to terms with Tennessee.

Albert replaces Kelvin Beachum, whose contract option wasn’t picked up.

Under new executive vice president Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars pivoted their free-agent strategy, targeting older players instead of exclusively players coming off their first contract.

When the season starts, Albert will be 32, Campbell 31 and Church 29. Bouye will be 26 and completed his rookie deal last year.

The Jaguars defense improved from 24th to sixth in yards allowed per game last year, but they were last in interceptions (seven). On offense, the Jaguars hope Albert can bring more stability as Blake Bortles’ blind-side blocker.

A league source said the Jaguars didn’t dive into the guard market, choosing to allocate their money to the aforementioned defensive trio. Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati to Cleveland), Larry Warford (Detroit to New Orleans) and Ronald Leary (Dallas to Denver) all changed teams.

Also Thursday, the Jaguars agreed to terms with Buffalo linebacker Lerentee McCray, cut defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, re-signed receiver Bryan Walters, officially traded tight end Julius Thomas to Miami for a seventh-round pick this year and saw Cyprien and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel (Seattle) depart.

The Jaguars swung big last year for Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon but he signed with the Giants. They connected Thursday with Bouye and Campbell – their deals will average $13.5 million and $15 million, respectively. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s contract signed last year averages $15 million.

Bouye has only 19 NFL starts, but has five interceptions and 32 pass break-ups in the last three seasons. He was pursued by the Texans as well as Indianapolis and Tennessee. His presence will allow the Jaguars to keep Ramsey on one side of the field instead of having him travel with an opponent’s top receiver.

Campbell had 56 1/2 sacks in nine years with the Cardinals. He brings positional versatility to the Jaguars’ defensive line, able to be an interior pass rusher.

“That’s a good get,” a league source said. “He’s still playing at a high level. They were probably trying to get more athletic at that (end) position.”

Church will also allow the Jaguars to mix things up because of his experience playing strong and free safety.

“I bet you see them using (free safety Tashaun) Gipson in the box more because (Church) can play free safety, too,” a league source said.

Albert visited Jacksonville last month. The Jaguars opted to trade a pick for Albert instead of waiting for him to hit free agency upon his release from the Dolphins. He will be the Jaguars’ most experienced offensive lineman.

“I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do – be the best left tackle I can be for the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Albert said on a conference call. “I’m not a vocal leader. I lead by example, I keep quiet and shut my mouth and do my job.”

McCray, 26, played for Denver for two years and Buffalo for one year as a special teamer (no starts). He played for current Jaguars special teams coach Joe DeCamilis with the Broncos in 2015.

Walters had 24 catches (two touchdowns) and also returned 17 punts (5.1-yard average) last year for the Jaguars. Per a league source, Walters’ deal is worth $1.8 million and could reach $2.3 million. The Jaguars have nine receivers under contract, including a projected top-six of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Rashad Greene, Arrelious Benn and Walters.

Marks was on the trade block at last week’s Scouting Combine and is out after four years with the Jaguars. The move frees up $4.475 million on the salary cap.

Marks lost his starting spot last year to Jackson.