JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Tight end Marcedes Lewis knew his role would change after the Jacksonville Jaguars signed free agent Julius Thomas in March.
Lewis' salary ended up getting modified, too.
Lewis restructured the final year of his contract, taking a significant pay cut to remain in Jacksonville. Now, with the Jaguars holding organized team activities, the veteran is trying to prove he can stay healthy and be a valuable asset in a complementary role alongside Thomas.
"I understand it from a business standpoint. I'm a businessman myself," Lewis said. "I'm just ready to work hard, do what I got to do and help this team do some good things. I'm paid to do a job. I've had a chance to come here and do some good things over the years and I'm looking forward to doing the same thing."
Lewis is the team's all-time leader among tight ends for receptions (315), receiving yards (3,789) and touchdowns (27). He's been a starter the past eight years.
But the 6-foot-6, 272-pound veteran has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, partially prompting the Jaguars to look at upgrading his position. Thomas should be an upgrade considering he's caught 108 passes for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns the last two years.
Lewis has one year remaining on his current contract, which the Jaguars asked him to restructure. He took a sizeable pay cut in the process. His base salary dropped from $6.65 million to $2 million, and his cap hit went from $8.2 million to $3.85 million.
Prior to the past two seasons, Lewis had been a model of consistency, starting all but two of the 113 games he played in following his rookie season of 2006. But things changed starting in 2013. He missed five of the first six games with a calf injury suffered in the preseason and saw his reception total dip to 25 catches for 359 yards, his lowest marks since his rookie season.
In 2014, he was on injured reserve for eight games due to a high ankle sprain. His numbers fell even lower that season as he finished with 18 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
When Thomas was signed, it left Lewis with a new role. Coach Gus Bradley was confident that Lewis would buy into the change.
"I would have been surprised if he hadn't," Bradley said. "Whatever we ask of him, whatever we challenge him with, he's done."
Thomas is confident that he and Lewis can co-exist and make for a dangerous combination. They work with the same marketing company and met in California a couple weeks after Thomas signed with the Jaguars.
"I told him then I don't know what the organization's plan is, but I would really like to play with you," Thomas said. "I have great respect for what you've done in this league. I have definitely seen some things that he does really well. I told him I think we could be really tough to defend out there on the field at the same time. He felt the same way and we're very excited for some of the different things we'll be able to do offensively with two tight ends like us."
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