Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell expressed his confidence that fourth-year receiver Cecil Shorts will remain a major part of the Jaguars offense beyond 2014.
Caldwell spoke to The Times-Union following Tuesday’s “State of the Franchise” address at EverBank Field.
Shorts is entering the final season of his original four-year, $2.6 million contract. In the past two seasons combined, Shorts has caught 121 passes for 1,756 yards and 10 touchdowns.
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The Jaguars receiving corps is in transition. Suspended Justin Blackmon is not likely to ever return to the team. Caldwell also selected two receivers in Friday’s second round of the NFL Draft in Southern California’s Marqise Lee and Penn State’s Allen Robinson. Shorts is the lone veteran receiver on the roster who has consistently produced. Caldwell appears interested in spending some of the Jaguars sizable salary-cap space to secure him going forward.
“We’ve had some general discussions with his representation,” Caldwell said. “Obviously, we want him here for the long haul. He’s a valuable part of our organization, and we’d love to, at some point in time, take care of Cecil.”
Caldwell is confident in Shorts’ ability to serve as a mentor to Lee and Robinson, as he did for Ace Sanders last season.
“Cecil is a complete pro. That’s what we love about him,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys on our team. He loves ball. He loves to compete. If they just shadow what he does as young players, they’re going to be very good.”
Lee and Robinson could also take some heat off Shorts. His yardage and TD totals dropped last season as teams focused on him. Now, the Jaguars could have more targets to keep defenses honest. Shorts could even see time in the slot at times to try and take him off the opponent’s best cornerback.
“For Cecil, he’s our No. 1 playmaker,” Caldwell said. “He gets the double coverage and all the attention. This will definitely open things up for him, and we’ll be able to move him around a little bit. You might see Cecil a little bit more inside this year. We don’t know how the combinations will work just yet until we get the team up and running, but we’ll have more flexibility than we have in the past.”
Caldwell already made one major move on the offensive side this week, releasing guard Will Rackley. A third-round pick in 2011, Rackley started 25 games, including 11 last season.
“It was more a scheme-fit situation than it was a situation where we have some young guys coming in,” Caldwell said. “Will, we feel like, is a better fit in a different offense than what we have. So this was our way to give him a better opportunity to strike somewhere else.”
■ Caldwell said he’d like to sign the team’s nine draft picks a little earlier than last year.
■ On the undrafted free agents: “Our personnel staff did a really good job. With all 17 guys, there aren’t any disappointments that I’m concerned about. Seeing them move around today during OTAs, you feel really good about it. We got size on the d-line. We got some athletic offensive linemen. We got two really good receivers [Miami’s Allen Hurns and Louisville’s Damian Copeland]. We got a good safety [Craig Loston], a physical guy that played in the SEC at LSU. A good nickel cornerback in Rashaad Reynolds. I was really pleased.”
■ On whether he looks at positive draft grades from the media: “People will send them to me. My mother will send them to me. Sometimes, it makes me a little bit too nervous when they agree too much. But it’s great and very flattering. Our personnel staff did a great job, and our coaching staff did a great job, so really the credit goes to them.”