Jaguars get poor reviews for signing Darrell Savage in free agency

• PFF wasn't thriled with the Jaguars signing of Darnell Savage

January 20, 2024; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) scores a
January 20, 2024; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) scores a / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Safety wasn't a pressing need for the Jacksonville Jaguars but that didn't stop them from signing former first-round pick Darnell Savage in free agency. A vested veteran, Savage will be tasked with preventing big plays in the defensive backfield. However, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus isn't a fan of the move and even dubbed it his least favorite the Jags made.

Speilberger recently talked about his favorite and least favorite moves each NFL team made in free agency. Regarding Jacksonville, he says Savage excels in coverage but feels they overpaid for his services.

"Jacksonville does need a rangy free safety who can cover a lot of ground and make plays on the ball when targeted, which is how Savage could fit alongside Andre Cisco. However, there are also rumblings that they envision him as a slot defender. In our opinion, the contract value here carries the extra “player was a first-round pick” cost with it, and Savage is not a very willing/aggressive tackler coming forward, which isn’t ideal in a nickel role or at safety."

Savage has experience playing nickel, so he could be an option to replace Tre Herndon in the slot. That said, he will more likely line up next to Andre Cisco in the back end. The former Maryland Terrapin isn't particularly great against the run, but he can limit big plays in the passing game, which makes him better suited to play safety.

If Savage does take over the starting spot next to Cisco, he'll then replace Rayshawn Jenkins, who signed a two-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Jenkins was one of the Jags starting safeties the past three years. He had a great 2022 but was otherwise inconsistent, which is one of the reasons he was let go before free agency.

The Jaguars might've made a lateral move with Darnell Savage

It's easy to see why Spielberger didn't like the Darnell Savage signing. While he's got a different skill set from Rayshawn Jenkins, it doesn't feel like the Jags got an upgrade and instead made a lateral move at safety. The fact that he's getting an annual average of $7 million doesn't help.

Jenkins was due to make $9 million and releasing him freed up $5 million. Savage, on the other hand, will have a manageable cap hit of $2.7 million next season. However, that amount will go up significantly in 2025. In his defense, he may be a better fit in defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen's scheme than Jenkins probably was. Either way, the Jaguars already had a promising in-house replacement in sophomore Antonio Johnson, who flashed as a rookie.

Johnson dealt with a hamstring injury early as a rookie but once he was able to contribute, he played nickel and progressively got more playing time. However, he was listed as a safety and appeared to be the first in line to replace Jenkins in 2024. Bringing Savage maybe threw a wrench to that scenario.

With Savage in the fold, Johnson could remain in the slot. That's not necessarily a bad plan, as he fared well last year. However, he might have a better impact at safety, which is why signing Savage was a bit of a suprise.

In the end, it won't matter where Darnell Savage will line up as long as he can contribute. Having said that, his signing seemed unnecessary. Perhaps the move will look much better once the regular season starts but it doesn't at this moment.

Here are more stories from Black & Teal: