Jaguars get surprisingly low grade for free-agent haul

HC Doug Pederson and GM Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars ​at TIAA Bank Stadium at TIAA Bank Stadium on February 05, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
HC Doug Pederson and GM Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars ​at TIAA Bank Stadium at TIAA Bank Stadium on February 05, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars fortified their roster in the first wave of free agency, making several additions on both offense and defense. While it’s uncertain if all those signings they made will translate into wins on the football field, they’ve gotten a low mark for the time being.

Cody Benjamin graded every NFL team’s free agency moves and the Jaguars got a ‘C-‘ minus for their efforts. Benjamin argues that Jacksonville was “the toughest club to grade” because even though he acknowledges that they improved, he believes they could’ve used their resources better.

"Kirk, Jones and Engram, for example, are all nice upside bets, but did they deserve such lucrative deals? Why not just go all in on an Allen Robinson reunion? On defense, it’s the same thing: Oluokun is a rangy building block, but did a LB really need $15M per year? Their best work has been up front, where Lawrence should have a better line. Williams should also help shore up their secondary."

Before free agency started, the Jaguars had around $56 million in cap space but they used most of it on top market contracts. In particular, they gave offensive guard Brandon Scherff a three-year deal worth $49.5 million. Wide receiver Christian Kirk got a four-year, $72 million deal. They signed linebacker Foyesade Oluokun to a three-year, $45 million deal and Zay Jones inked a questionable three-year contract worth $24 million. Moreover, they applied the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson for the second consecutive year, and will pay him a salary of $16.6 million in 2022. Looking at all these contracts, there’s no doubt the Jaguars spent big in free agency but was it a bad investment?

The Jacksonville Jaguars had to spend big in free agency.

If the Jaguars could have spent less money in free agency, they would probably have but the truth is that they were coming off a season in which they managed to win three games. Jacksonville isn’t currently a top destination for free agents and general manager Trent Baalke will have to pay a premium to lure players.

Former Jaguars and Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson took a three-year, $46.5 million from the Los Angeles Rams because they just won the Super Bowl and are a perennial playoff contender. Thus, players will take a discount to sign with them. On the other hand, the Jaguars haven’t been very good in a while and they will have a hard time convincing free agents to join them.

When you don’t factor money in all the moves the Jaguars have made over the last week, they got better on both sides of the ball, and isn’t that the bottom line? At this moment, they aren’t hurting for cap room, so other than going into a shopping spree, there isn’t much to criticize about the approach they took. What were the alternatives? Sit on the surplus of cap space they had? Wait until the second wave of free agency to make a move? The team’s brass knew they needed to give the roster a makeover and that’s what they did.

Eventually, the Jaguars could be in a position where they don’t have to pay retail to convince players to sign if they start to win games. But right now, they need to pay market value for talent. If most of the signings pan out, nobody will argue with the amount of money the Jags had to invest this offseason.

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