5 contract decisions that will pay off for the Jaguars in 2023

The Jacksonville Jaguars took a conservative approach in free agency to avoid handicapping their ability to make big moves in future years. Yet, they still managed to make a handful of smart contract decisions. Here are the best five.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan talks with the team's first round draft pick Anton Harrison as they walk.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan talks with the team's first round draft pick Anton Harrison as they walk. / Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY
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No. 4 Jaguars decision that can pay off: Giving D'Ernest Johnson a 1-year deal

Travis Etienne, a first-round pick in 2021, proved last year that he can be a featured back, racking up more than 1,100 rushing yards and five touchdowns. This is more impressive when you take into account that he had missed his rookie campaign to a Lisfranc Injury. The former Clemson Tiger was so good that the Jags felt comfortable trading James Robinson to the New York Jets before the deadline.

However, moving on from Robinson left a void at running back. JaMycal Hasty did a commendable job of filling it but the Jaguars still needed to add reinforcements to the backfield. Enter D'Ernest Johnson, who signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars in free agency.

Even though Johnson only got limited playing time during his four-year stint with the Cleveland Browns, he took advantage of every opportunity he got. The Immokalee, Florida native left Cleveland with an average of 5.2 yards per carry and 738 yards on 141 rushes. On top of that, he can contribute on special teams, so his one-year contract worth $1.092 with just $50,000 guaranteed looks like a bargain.

There's a chance Johnson could be a cap casualty but his ability to play on both offense and special teams should help him earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He won't challenge Etienne for the starting job and will need to fend off Hasty and rookie Tank Bigsy in training camp. However, he should feel good about his chances of making the team ahead of training camp.