The Jacksonville Jaguars had the most salary cap space of any team in the entire NFL heading into the offseason, and they took full advantage. The Jaguars had 5 premium targets in free agency and they managed to land three of them – tight end Julius Thomas, right tackle Jermey Parnell, and defensive end Jared Odrick.
As you can with basically any contract in free agency, the argument could be made the Jaguars overpaid all of these players to some extent. That’s the nature of free agency in the NFL, especially when teams have a significant amount of cap space to spend.
Bill Barnwell over at Grantland makes it an annual tradition to put together a team made up of players with “bad contracts.” This year, two of the Jaguars free agent signings made the list – Parnell and Odrick.
"Tackle: Jermey Parnell, JaguarsContract Flaw: The Marginal TalentIt’s not easy to be Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell, who surely has to pay above market value to attract quality young free agents to Jacksonville’s lengthy rebuilding project. And you can understand the logic in trying to build a quality offensive line that’s designed to keep struggling young franchise quarterback Blake Bortles upright.In Parnell, though, the Jaguars are paying a massive premium for an undrafted free agent who was Dallas’s swing tackle the past three seasons. Parnell, who suited up for just 20.9 percent of Dallas’s offensive snaps over that time frame and has just seven career starts, will have the largest cap hit of any right tackle this season at a whopping $8 million. To be fair, the deal is structured with the largest cap hits first, so the Jaguars can basically be out of the deal after two years with no dead money after paying $14.5 million. It’s still a ton of money to pay for a guy who couldn’t beat out Doug Free for regular snaps during Free’s disappointing 2012-13 run.Defensive Tackle: Jared Odrick, JaguarsContract Flaw: The Marginal TalentA more defensible free-agent signing than Parnell, Odrick was a passable-to-competent interior lineman on a Dolphins team whose defense absolutely collapsed during the second half of 2014; they were second in pass defense and fifth in run defense during the first half of the year according to DVOA, but fell to 31st and 28th, respectively, during a disastrous final half. The Dolphins recognized interior run defense as one of their biggest concerns and swapped out Odrick for the mammoth deal of Ndamukong Suh. The Jags settled for Odrick, who didn’t get Suh’s deal, but likely got more than anyone could have expected. His five-year, $42.5 million deal guarantees him $22.5 million over the next three years and leaves him with Jacksonville’s second-largest cap hit in 2015. He’ll have to take a huge leap forward on the field to live up to that figure, and given how Jacksonville’s had success finding interior linemen on the cheap with Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks, it’s a curious way to use a lot of money."
Quite frankly, I’m astonished Julius Thomas wasn’t also included in this list, so let’s take that as a minor victory. Still, it’s a little baffling to see Barnwell highlight Odrick and Parnell in particular as “marginal talents.”
Looking at Parnell, Barnwell highlights the fact that Parnell couldn’t beat out veteran right tackle Doug Free in Dallas during his disappointing 2012 season. Let’s delve into that a little more:
- Jermey Parnell came into the league in 2009 as a defensive end, after having played only FIVE games of college football.
- He signed with the Cowboys in 2010 and the team decided to try him out at offensive tackle.
- Parnell came in at left tackle in 2012 for an injured Tyron Smith and actually played pretty well, considering he had only been playing football for basically 3 years in his entire life.
- Parnell was expected to compete with Doug Free for the starting right tackle job in 2013, but he got injured in the preseason and Free took over the job permanently.
- When Parnell got a chance to play in 2014 for an injured Free, he outperformed him, thus earning him a lucrative free agent deal.
I will absolutely admit the Jaguars are taking some risk in signing Parnell to be a full time starter, solely because we haven’t seen Parnell play a full 16 game season. Still, to call Parnell a “marginal talent” is unfair and premature at best. If Parnell plays solid football and helps protect Blake Bortles, then this is a good signing.
Moving over to Jared Odrick, I’m not sure what metric is being used to call him marginal. Odrick finished as the 16th and 19th best defensive tackle in football in 2013 and 2014 according to Pro Football Focus, and the Jaguars are planning to deploy him in a manner more suited to his strengths. The release of Red Bryant was completely predicated on using Odrick as a defensive end who can hold the point and also contribute a pass rush. Yes, the Jaguars probably overpaid, but it’s free agency. Barnwell uses the Miami Dolphin’s run defense as a metric for bringing down Odrick, when the Dolphin’s linebacking corps and defensive ends were below average at stopping the run as well.
Again, Odrick and Parnell are probably overpaid, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if they play well, especially given the Jaguars salary cap situation.
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