The Jacksonville Jaguars opted not to get pass-rush help at the NFL trade deadline but they did gave their interior offensive line a boost by acquiring left guard Ezra Cleveland from the Minnesota Vikings. Analysts have mostly given the Jags superb marks for the moves.
Seth Walden of ESPN gave Jacksonville an A-, noting that their pass block win rate of 45 percent is the third-worst in the NFL. He believes Cleveland can shore up the left guard position, which he describes as a weakness, and praises the Jags for the move.
" In Minnesota this season, Cleveland's 92% pass block win rate ranked 31st out of 65 guards, and his run block win rate ranked 18th. For Jacksonville, this move makes sense. This team is trying to contend right now, has a clear shot at the AFC South, and can fill in a weakness for relatively cheap."
Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports also gave the Jaguars an A, as Cleveland "aids them in the goal of keeping Trevor Lawrence upright." Dajani points out that the former Boise State Bronco has previously lined up at offensive tackle and wonders if he could play on the edge in Jacksonville. Either way, he believes the Jags got a legitimate starter in Cleveland.
The Jaguars got Cleveland, a second-round pick in 2020, in exchange for a sixth-round selection next year. Ben Bartch was their starter at left guard in the opener but eventually got benched. Tyler Shatley replaced him in the lineup in Week 4 and Walker Little took over the following game.
However, Little suffered an MCL injury and Shatley once again returned to left guard. He's played there the last three games but there's a strong chance Cleveland will get the start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10.
Cleveland has been dealing with a foot injury over the last few weeks but he's proven to be durable throughout his NFL career, appearing in 53 games with 49 starts over the last 3+ years. In Jacksonville, he'll join offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, his position coach in Minnesota in 2020 and 2021.
The Jacksonville Jaguars got bang for the buck in Ezra Cleveland
All things considered, trading for Ezra Cleveland was a smart move for the Jaguars, and they only had to part ways with a Day 3 selection to get him. While Walker Little has begun practicing and is an option to once again line up at left guard, Cleveland should get the nod in Week 10 if he's healthy. Jacksonville is currently in their BYE, so Cleveland will have ample time to get healthy and familiarized with his new team.
Looking back, the Jaguars could've addressed the left guard slot in the offseason because they expected Ben Bartch to fully recover from a knee injury he suffered last year. Although he managed to return in time for the opener, he wasn't at full strength. Once that became clear, the coaching staff plugged Shatley into the lineup.
Following the trade for Cleveland, the Jaguars released Bartch and later brought him back to the practice squad. This allows them to call him in case the injury bug strikes in the second half of the season.
In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars checked off a box when they acquired Ezra Cleveland and they didn't have to pay a hefty price to do so. That's the definition of a good trade, one that deservedly got good reviews.