One of the most commonly accepted axioms in football is that games are won (and lost) in the trenches and it’s hard to disagree. Clog up running lanes and you force your opponent to be one-dimensional. Give your quarterback enough time to throw and he will find someone open. The Jacksonville Jaguars had these principles in mind when operating in free agency, revamping both their offensive and defensive lines. This in turn got them praise from Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report.
Wharton recently wrote about every NFL team’s smartest moves in this year’s free agency and gave the Jags credit for fortifying the trenches. Wharton points out that Jacksonville had to pay retail but that’s the downside of being bad for so long. However, he believes that price tags notwithstanding, the Jaguars “massively upgraded their trench play“.
"Keeping Cam Robinson on the franchise tag and adding Scherff on offense will allow the team to take a pass-rusher first overall if they choose. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence will benefit considerably from Scherff and the continuity of keeping Robinson. The defensive front seven also received a huge facelift. Oluokun became a tackling machine in Atlanta, and he has former Jets defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi in front of him now to eat blockers. Last year’s struggles stopping the run and covering receivers over the middle of the field should not continue into 2022."
There’s no doubt the Jaguars spent big in free agency but they had to if they wanted to improve. Last season, they refrained from making splash signings and didn’t get much better. Things weren’t much different in 2020, when they hardly signed anyone besides tight end Tyler Eifert. All things considered, they’re better off using their surplus of cap space than not doing anything.
The Jaguars made upgrades to key positions in free agency.
Had the Jaguars signed Terron Armstead, nobody would have batted an eye even though he would have commanded top-market compensation. And that’s because he was the best left tackle available in free agency.
The same should be true for Brandon Scherff. He was the best offensive guard in the open market and Jacksonville compensated accordingly. You could argue that there are better ways to spend $49.5 million, which is the amount he got, but as long as he and left tackle Cam Robinson, who will have a salary of $16.6 million in 2022, can open up running lanes and keep Trevor Lawrence from having to spend a football game on his back, it will be money well-spent.
Folorunso Fatukasi isn’t an All-Pro defensive tackle but he can wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage and should have a bigger impact than former first-round pick Taven Bryan had in 2021. As Wharton noted, the Jaguars struggled to stop opposing teams from running the ball at ease last year. Fatukasi and Foyesade Oluokun should give their run defense a boost in 2022. Last season, Jacksonville allowed 100 rushing yards or more in seven of the last nine games, so it’s easy to see why they felt the need to invest so much in their front seven this offseason.
The Jaguars had no option but to spent all the cap space they had at their disposal and while they might have overpaid for wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, it was a good decision to upgrade both their offensive and defensive line, even if they had to pay a premium for it.