CBS Sports not a fan of Jaguars aggressive approach early in free agency

• CBS Sports wasn't thrilled with the Jaguars early signings in free agency.

Nov 13, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis (13) runs with the
Nov 13, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis (13) runs with the / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have objectively gotten better during the tampering period. Already, they've addressed plenty of needs and they've done it without having to overspend. Yet, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports isn't thrilled with the way the Jags have handled free agency.

Benjamin put together a list of winners and losers in free agency, and placed Jacksonville, along with the rest of the AFC South, in the latter category, noting that they mostly made lateral moves.

"The Jacksonville Jaguars were all kinds of busy Monday, agreeing to deals with a slew of vets, but so many of their decisions register as lateral moves: going from Calvin Ridley to Gabe Davis out wide, Darious Williams to Ronald Darby at corner, Rayshawn Jenkins to Darnell Savage at safety. The Tennessee Titans were loaded with cap space and prioritized ... Tony Pollard? Chidobe Awuzie? There's still plenty of time for splashy upgrades, but with so many resources at their disposal, none of these rivals took a major leap forward."

The Jaguars released Darious Williams to create $11 million in space, not because he was bad. In Ronald Darby, they have an affordable replacement that will make in two seasons what Williams was scheduled to get paid in 2024. It's true that Darby wasn't nearly as productive last year but he's also posted pretty good stats. Besides giving up a 75.2 passer rating the past two years, he's given up just a touchdown.

On the other hand, Gabe Davis isn't an outright replacement for Calvin Ridley. Even after giving Davis a three-year deal that pays him an average of $13 million, they're still making a push to re-sign Ridley. As a matter of fact, it seems like it will come down to either Jacksonville or the New England Patriots.

On the other hand, the Mitch Morse signing brings stability at center at a reasonable $10.5 million over the next two years. Last season, he gave up just one sack and he should be able to give the running game a boost. While he'll replace incumbent Luke Fortner in the starting lineup, he could also serve as his mentor, and help him work on his craft.

There's also the decision to bring back Ezra Cleveland on a three-year, $24 million contract, which was originally reported to be worth $28.5 million. The contract looks much better when you compare it to those Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt got. Granted, both of them are better than Cleveland, but Jacksonville chose to go with a familiar face and didn't have to pay a premium to do so.

The Jaguars are being aggressive in an effort to get better in free agency

You have to give the Jacksonville Jaguars credit. Last year, opted to mostly stay put in free agency and chose to go with the options they already had in place. The approach came back to haunt them in the regular season, as injury quickly exposed the team's lack of depth. This time around, though, they're addressing as many needs as they can, and they're not paying top-market money.

Having said that, the signings cannot be properly assessed until the regular season starts. Remember how the Jaguars got plenty of flak for "overpaying" Christian Kirk and Zay Jones in 2022? Criticism decreased considerably once both of them showed out. Conversely, signing defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi looked good on paper but he was mostly a non-factor the past two years.

The point is that it may be premature to say the Jaguars made questionable moves. Perhaps if they had overpaid for most of the players they acquired, Cody Benjamin would have a point, but they've been relatively disciplined in free agency. If the signings end up flopping, you can revisit this post, but for the time being, Jacksonville looks in better shape than they were at the end of 2023.

Here are more stories from Black & Teal: