Jaguars earn rave reviews for signing DT Arik Armstead in free agency

• The consensus thinks the Jaguars hit it out of the ballpark with the Arik Armstead signing.

Oct 29, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91)
Oct 29, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars acquired several players in free agency who should make them better in 2024. The best of the bunch is, without a doubt, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, who gives them a huge boost in the interior defensive line. Analysts across the league recognize the impact he can have and gave the Jags positive grades for his signing.

Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus gave Jacksonville an A- for landing Armstead, noting that his 85.1 pass-rush grade in 2023 was a career-best. On top of that, Spielberger highlighted that the grizzled veteran registered 42 total pressures on just 360 pass-rush snaps.

Spielberg is aware that Armstead has dealt with injuries and is about to turn 31, but overall, he likes his acquisition.

"Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke drafted Armstead to the 49ers when he was their general manager back in 2015, and Armstead adds a much-needed interior pass rush element to this talented defensive front, but this is a strong contract."

Garrett Powell of CBS Sports also gave the Jags an A for signing Armstead, arguing that he can help Josh Allen elevate his game the same way he did for Nick Bosa on the San Francisco 49ers.

"Those two should fit together seamlessly plugging up the middle of the Jacksonville defensive front. Nick Bosa won the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award lining up next to Armstead, so perhaps his presence can elevate Jaguars Pro Bowl edge rusher Josh Allen to similar heights. "

The interior defensive line was one of Jacksonville's biggest needs this offseason. Last season, they struggled to defend the run and rarely generated pressure inside. Not surprisingly, they released veteran Folorunso Fatukasi, who wasn't much of a factor the past two years.

Based on the moves the team's brass made early in free agency, it looked like they were going to wait until the draft to address it. But once they lost wide receiver Calvin Ridley to the Tennessee Titans, they made a run for Armstead.

A first-round pick in 2015, Armstead was held back by injuries to start his NFL career. He eventually hit his stride and became a key cog on the 49ers' defensive front. Although he's only posted double-digit sacks once in a season, he's provided a stout presence in the middle for San Francisco in recent years.

Signing Arik Armstead comes with a caveat for the Jaguars

The 49ers wanted to keep Armstead but asked him to take a pay cut. The reason was that foot and knee injuries have limited him to 21 games the past two years. Even when he suited up, he wasn't 100 percent. He revealed after the season that he played through a torn meniscus and would need surgery. On the other hand, he deserves praise because he managed to remain productive even though he wasn't at full strength.

Armstead says that he'll be back from surgery by training camp, and the Jaguars were aware he was going to miss time, so it shouldn't be a That said, his health could be one of the biggest plotlines of the offseason. But if he's a full-go, as expected, he will give the Jaguars a huge presence on and off the field. As Pete Prisco of CBS Sports suggested, Armstead is the kind of player Jacksonville sorely missed in the second half of the 2023 season, when they seemingly got complacent.

On the field, Armstead could be the last piece in their defensive puzzled. Playing alongside DaVon Hamilton, who's poised to bounce back in 2024, he'll help Travon Walker and Josh Allen get more favorable matchups on the edges, which in turn will make the defensive front harder to stop.

The bottom line is that Arik Armstead comes with a bit of an injury risk, but he's the kind of player that could tip the scale in the Jaguars' favor, and help them keep up in the AFC South race next season.

Here are more stories from Black & Teal: