Although he won’t be on the field when organized team activity workouts begin Monday or when training camp starts in late July, new Jaguars left tackle Kelvin Beachum feels he’s making progress from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained last October while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m doing everything I can to put myself in the best position to play football,” he said Wednesday after a promotional appearance in Riverside. “There are a number of tests and a number of metrics I have to meet via the training staff and the strength and conditioning staff, and I’m in the process of getting those done.
“As far as an exact time frame [for a debut], I don’t know as of yet.”
Beachum, who signed in mid-March, is expected to take over for Luke Joeckel.
Upon Beachum’s arrival, general manager Dave Caldwell said early August was the Jaguars’ estimate for him being able to practice.
“We’d like to solidify that group as quickly as possible,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “You want to get the competition ironed out so the five guys can play together [in the third preseason game].”
Under that timetable, if Beachum doesn’t begin practicing until Aug. 4-6, he would have the Jets (August 11) and Tampa Bay (August 20) games to get first-team snaps. Ideally, a decision on the starting offensive line would be made before the Aug. 28 game against Cincinnati.
Although not cleared for teamwork, Beachum is doing football drills as a part of his rehabilitation.
“I’m already taking [pass protection]sets and doing football-oriented things so there is a smooth transition when I get to the point [of being cleared],” he said. “It’s not, ‘Just focus on your knee and then play football.’ It’s working on football things as I’m getting better.”
The Jaguars’ interest in Beachum was initially a surprise because they hadn’t publicly given up on Joeckel (and still haven’t since he remains on the roster) and because Beachum had the knee injury and other suitors, including Seattle and Pittsburgh.
But things moved quickly once Beachum arrived for a March 14 visit.
“There was a lot of back and forth going on — prior to getting to the airport, then at the airport and even when I got on the plane,” he said. “We had a lot of things going on — a number of teams were calling at the same time.
“I didn’t know what [team]I was going to when I left Jacksonville, and I didn’t know what was going to happen when I connected in Charlotte.”
Beachum landed in Pittsburgh and signed his Jaguars’ contract at “4 or 5 in the morning,” and then returned to the airport and flew to Hawaii for the NFLPA meetings.
“I didn’t send the contract to them until I got to Hawaii,” he said.
And it was an interestingly-constructed contract.
According to the industry website Over The Cap, Beachum received a $1.5 million roster bonus — the only part of the contract guaranteed.
If Beachum shows he’s healthy and effective this year, the Jaguars can pick up an option that kicks in the final four years of the contract that includes $13 million guaranteed and carries a top salary of $10 million.
Essentially, Beachum is on a prove-it deal this year.
“It’s not so much betting on myself as it is about going out and playing football and playing good ball,” he said. “When you play football at high level, you get compensated for doing it.”
Beachum was a seventh-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2012 and started 39 games over four years. At 6-foot-2, he will likely be the NFL’s shortest left tackle, but makes up for that with toughness and long arms.
“He’s got great power in his lower body, and he plays with good technique and fundamentals” Olson said. “And he’s a nasty player.
“This guy was a really good, ascending player for the Steelers until the injury. We looked through the group of free agents on the offensive line and thought, ‘If this guy comes back healthy, he could be a steal.’ The doctors and trainers did their homework and said his rehab was right on schedule and nowadays, players are coming back from that injury and playing well.”
The Jaguars need Beachum to be healthy and need him to play well — they’ve allowed 172 sacks the last three years, 23 more than any other team.