Jacksonville Jaguars take care of a pressing need by signing C Mitch Morse

Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Jacksonville Jaguars made a huge move before the start of the tampering window in free agency, signing veteran Mitch Morse to a two-year deal. He'll most likely be taking over the starting job at center, sending incumbent Luke Fortner to the bench.

The Jags signed Morse to a two-year deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Media. Other reports later confirmed the move. Given that he was released in a cap-saving move before free agency began, he was free to sign with any team he pleased. A second-round pick in 2015, he spent four years with the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Buffalo Bills.

Morse played for Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson when he was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs in 2015. That familiarity might've played a role in his decision to choose Jacksonville over the Pittsburgh Steelers, another club he met with during his free-agency tour.

Based on the contract he got, Morse will most likely replace Fortner in the starting lineup. Fortner, a third-round pick in the 2022 draft, has made 34 consecutive starts but he didn't play particularly well last year. He struggled in the running game and ranked 31st at the position in pass block win rate.

When the Jags re-signed Ezra Cleveland and restructured Brandon Scherff's contract, they might've unintentionally hinted that center was the biggest issue on the offensive line in 2022. Thus, it's fair to believe that Morse's arrival will bolster the group's overall play.

What does the signing of Mitch Morse means for the Jaguars?

Although center was the Jaguars' biggest need ahead of free agency, they didn't need to invest premium resources to address it. At an annual average of $5.2 million, Mitch Morse gives the Jags stability at the position the next two years.

With Morse in the fold, it's highly unlikely that they'll go after a center prospect early in the draft, meaning Jackson Powers-Johnson at No. 17 is highly unlikely. Still, the Jaguars could invest a draft pick at the position in later rounds. If Sedrick Van Pran happens to be available in the third or fourth round, the front office may roll the dice on him.

Another option would be to wait until next year to add another center. This is a reasonable path when you take into account that they already have Morse and Fortner in the mix, so Jacksonville may want to prioritize addressing other positions.

On the other hand, Fortner's future in Jacksonville just became a bit murky. While the team's brass may not have given up on him just yet, he'll probably take on a backup role and learn behind Morse. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as he'll get to work on his craft without having the pressure to deliver.

Moreover, learning behind Morse could be the best thing that happens to Fortner. And if he shows considerable improvement in 2023, maybe he can compete and have a shot at reclaiming the starting job. That said, there's a scenario where the Jags have seen enough of Fortner and may be ready to move on. Either way, Morse's signing gives the Jaguars plenty of flexibility at the position.

The Jacksonville Jaguars checked off an important box by signing Mitch Morse. They can now turn their attention to making upgrades to other position groups. Stay tuned for updates as free agency heats up.

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