"We have Luke Joeckel, and he spoke very highly of him," said Caldwell, speaking Thursday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Caldwell confessed he is genuinely intrigued with Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman in 2013 and rode a roller-coaster calendar year to arrive at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine as one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft.
The Jaguars drafted Joeckel, a left tackle and Manziel's teammate for two seasons with the Aggies, No. 2 overall in 2013. Jacksonville has the third overall pick in May, and Caldwell, among others, witnessed Manziel's electric playmaking ability first-hand last season.
The Jaguars' bid to fill the quarterback position failed multiple times and prompted coaching and regime changes that ushered in Caldwell and first-time head coach Gus Bradley 13 months ago.
"We'll treat Blaine like any other player," Caldwell said, "until we decide it's not in our best interest or he's beat out."
If not Manziel, the Jaguars are in line for another quarterback and will consider veterans in free agency or trade.
Caldwell isn't paying mind to the recent draft history -- hint: it's not good -- of the Jaguars and believes the foundation built last April on the strength of Joeckel and safety Johnathan Cyprien is a big stride in the right direction.
"Cyp probably didn't get the credit he deserves," Caldwell said of the Central Florida product, a standout at the 2013 Senior Bowl drafted as an in-the-box presence who proved more dynamic and versatile than even the Jaguars expected.
Joeckel was limited to seven games because of an ankle injury.
The recent losing trend can be traced to chronic failure in the first rounds of the draft.
Wide receiver Justin Blackmon (fifth, 2012) played 20 games and has been suspended twice. Caldwell said at this time life, not football, has to be Blackmon's focus and any reunion will be considered only after the first part is in order.
Gabbert and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (10th, 2010) haven't met expectations, nor come anywhere close. One of two first-round picks to prove any tangible worth to the franchise in the past decade was Eugene Monroe, a left tackle who started 76 games but was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in October 2013. The other, tight end Marcedes Lewis (28th, 2006), is in decline and could be released to save cap money this spring.
Defensive end Derrick Harvey (eighth, 2008), safety Reggie Nelson (21st, 2007) and wide receivers Matt Jones (21st, 2005) and Reggie Williams (ninth, 2004) are other bold-faced names on the franchise "miss" list.
While Manziel might be intriguing, Jacksonville is in no position to gamble and risk prolonged poor results. Counting a 4-12 record last season, the franchise is on a profound six-season slide since quarterback David Garrard and running back Fred Taylor led the 2007 Jaguars to the playoffs.
Caldwell said Thursday that part of the rationale behind trading Monroe was adding to a purse of draft picks -- now at 10 -- for a class that lines up as one of the deepest in decades.
--Quarterback leads the offseason shopping list of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will meet with all of the top-ranked passing prospects in private 15-minute interviews.
Coach Gus Bradley said Chad Henne is the team's starter "if we can get him re-signed," but the 2008 second-round pick will be 29 before the start of the 2014 season and is not regarded as a franchise quarterback. Blaine Gabbert, a first-round pick in 2010, could be released.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, a three-year starter and NFLDraftScout.com's top-ranked quarterback, is considered the most pro-ready.
"Really good poise, very good decision making and he's very accurate. I think that's what jumped out," said Bradley, who said he is working diligently with general manager David Caldwell to get up to speed on the 2014 draft class.
Texas A&M redshirt sophomore Johnny Manziel, introduced at a podium 50 yards away from Bradley eight minutes into his press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium, intrigues the team. Caldwell allowed as much Thursday. Bradley, who wants his roster lined with competition, admires Manziel's fighting spirit and natural leadership qualities.
"He's very talented. How can you argue with what he's done and the plays that he makes?" Bradley said. "Exciting player. Evaluation process, I really look forward to watching everything. We've been watching him for a while. He's done some great things for his team."
Height -- Manziel measured at 5-foot-11 3/4 on Friday morning -- will not disqualify any quarterback the Jaguars evaluate. Bradley said he was swayed by his experience with Russell Wilson at Seattle. With the Seahawks, height was never discussed during the player evaluation, according to Bradley, who said character, leadership and work ethic were the primary traits that rose to the forefront.
"If you put down traits that we're looking for in a quarterback, some of the things that keep popping up are timing, accuracy and decision-making. Those are the three major factors," Bradley said.
With Manziel, a teammate of the Jaguars' 2013 first-round pick Luke Joeckel, Bradley considers the Friday night interview with Manziel a critical part of his final draft grade in Jacksonville.
"I think it's important that ... it's one thing to have confidence and another to have humility," Bradley said. "Why is that important? If you have humility, you can talk about your weaknesses. That's what the great ones -- the Peyton Mannings -- have. That's what I look forward to talking to him about. Can you challenge yourself to get better every day?"
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, NFLDraftScout.com's fifth-rated prospect, will also be in the conversation for the Jaguars.
"Our GM and our scouting staff are into that more," Bradley said of the evaluation. "I can tell you that we've watched enough that we're really intrigued by him. Big, tall, timing. The evaluation process is never over. I'm looking forward to really watching him compete."
Bradley said the Jaguars were intrigued by the competitiveness and confidence of several other quarterbacks -- including Georgia senior Aaron Murray -- and that position is not a cinch for the team with the third overall pick in May. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, downgraded by some for poor production as a junior last season, stands out as a great player to the Jaguars' scouting department, too.
--Listening to Jaguars coach Gus Bradley talk about Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles leaves the impression Jacksonville might use their No. 3 pick for him ... if he's available. Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Friday, Bradley had high praise for the quarterback who played his collegiate ball 150 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
"I'm not ready to give a complete evaluation on him at this point," Bradley said, "but I can tell you we've watched enough tape on him that we're really intrigued by him, the traits that he has - big, tall, timing, accuracy, decision-making. Those are all things that we take a close look at.
"The evaluation process is never over. The combine is really important, but it's just another piece of the puzzle. I'm really looking forward to watching him compete. We'll keep an eye on him."
But Bradley had no sooner sung the praises for Bortles that he followed with similar strong words for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"You have to have confidence. It's one thing to have confidence, it's another thing to have humility," Bradley noted. "Can you have confidence and humility. If you have humility, then you can talk about your weaknesses. If you do that, then that's how you improve.
"I think that's what I'm excited to talk to him about. It's great the confidence and all that, but are you willing to get better? Are you willing to challenge yourself? Just like the Peyton Mannings and all the great quarterbacks. Can you challenge yourself in a way that you're open to be coached and you're open to really self-evaluate yourself to see the areas you need to improve on.
"He's very talented. I mean how can you argue with what he's done and the plays that he's made. He's an exciting player who's done some great things for his team."
--Like most others in his position, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has down-played Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's recent revelation that he's gay. Sam is the first player to publicly announce his homosexuality prior to the NFL draft.
Caldwell talked about Sam's strong pass-rushing skills and declared Sam's announcement as a non-issue.
"Not even worried that at all. We're very protective of our culture and there's no reason he wouldn't fit into our culture," Caldwell said. "In the 10 years I've been in the NFL, sexual orientation has never come up once in discussing a player. I don't think it would ever cone up to be honest with you."
--If the Jaguars do draft Johnny Manziel with the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft, it will because they believe he can be a franchise quarterback and not someone they bring in as a marketing tool. General manager Dave Caldwell spoke to the media on Thursday at the combine in Indianapolis and made it clear that the Jaguars were only interested in Manziel's skills on the field, not to help sell tickets.
"When (team owner) Shad (Khan) hired (head football coach) Gus (Bradley) and I, he said, 'It's not your job to sell tickets.' These decisions are football decisions and we'll put the best 53 players on the roster," Caldwell said. "If we do that and we win, the marketability and ticket sales will come."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Justin needs to take care of himself and our biggest thing for Justin is to make sure he lives a happy and healthy lifestyle. We haven't really thought much about (having him back). If he can get things right and he's right, we would welcome him back." - Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell talking about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the last eight games of the 2013 season due to an NFL-imposed suspension for a second violation of the league's substance abuse program.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The Jaguars re-signed tight end Clay Harbor and offensive tackles Cameron Bradfield and Sam Young to contracts, the team announced Thursday (March 6).
The deals were completed five days before Harbor and Young would have become unrestricted free agents.
Bradfield would have been a restricted free agent and has the most experience with the Jaguars of the three. He started 11 games at left tackle last season, filling in for injured rookie Luke Joeckel, and started 12 games at right tackle in 2012.
General manager Dave Caldwell says all three "have experience in our system and will compete on a daily basis."
Harbor was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles in September and finished with 24 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
Young was claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills in October and saw action in 11 games as a reserve.
--The Jaguars released guard Uche Nwaneri, who played every snap last season, and saved $3.7 million in salary-cap space.
Nwaneri, who was due to make about $5.9 million in 2014, started 92 games over the past seven seasons, including 63 of the team's last 64 games.
Nwaneri played in 104 games for the Jaguars after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Of his 92 starts, 16 were at left guard and 76 at right guard. He played in all 16 games in five of seven seasons and started all 16 games in three different seasons including 2013.
Scheduled to be unrestricted in March
--DB Will Blackmon
--DT Brandon Deaderick
--QB Chad Henne
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew
--DT Kyle Love
QUARTERBACK: Chad Henne is not the long-term answer, Blaine Gabbert is not the answer. It will be addressed; how early depends if their guy is available at No. 3.
DEFENSIVE END: Jaguars have not drafted an end since 2010, opting to go free agency instead. It hasn't worked. Look for a change in that thinking this year.
GUARD: The Jaguars tried three different players as starters and no one locked the job. They'll likely resolve this in rounds 3-5.
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