PFF projects Jaguars pending FA Ezra Cleveland to land with Cardinals or Commanders

• The Jaguars acquired Ezra Cleveland last year. PFF thinks he could leave in free agency.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages
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Left guard Ezra Cleveland joined the Jacksonville Jaguars at the 2023 trade deadline. Set to hit the open market in March, it makes sense for the Jags to keep him around for at least another year.
While injuries prevented him from making an impact last season, he could turn to provide stability inside if he had time to get acclimated. However, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus doesn't think Cleveland will return to Jacksonville, naming a couple of NFC teams as potential destinations in free agency.

Spielberg sees the Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Comanders as potential suitors for Cleveland because both clubs have a need at left guard.

"Left guard was the clear weak spot for Arizona this past season, with longtime swing guard Elijah Wilkinson struggling throughout the season. Here, Cleveland goes to a Cardinals offense led by Drew Petzing, who left Minnesota right before he arrived in 2020.

The Commanders need a left guard and should look to bolster an offensive line that likely will be protecting a rookie No. 2 overall pick quarterback. Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid attack features a lot of quick outs paired with zone-based RPOs that can get Cleveland in space, where he operates at his best."

Cleveland, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, became a starter in Week 6 of his rookie season. He went on to make 49 consecutive starts before a foot sprain forced him to miss time last year. It was during his injury-related absence that the Jaguars acquired him in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

In Jacksonville, Cleveland appeared in nine games with five starts, giving up four sacks and 18 total pressures. While those aren't great numbers, he played through injuries and looked out of place. That said, there's a reason to believe that he could fare much better if he spent a full offseason to get fully acclimated. He played well enough at times last year to make you think he can put it all together if he gets 100 percent healthy.

The fact that Cleveland was reunited with Phil Rauscher, his position coach in Minnesota, could be a deciding factor in whether the Jaguars will bring him back in 2024.

Ezra Cleveland coudl give the Jaguars an affordable choice at left guard

All things considered, Cleveland's short stint with the Jags didn't go the way they envisioned when they traded for him. However, re-signing him makes sense. He was a solid starter in Minnesota before his foot injury. Giving him a one-year deal would allow him to rebuild his stock while giving Jacksonville the chance to move on if he fails to bounce back.

While fixing the interior offensive line should be one of the Jaguars' top priorities, they may not have enough to upgrade all three spots. If they want to address one, they should focus on either center or right guard.

But if the Jaguars do want to take care of the left guard position, they should then consider adding one in the draft. By taking that route, the Jags could add depth and competition at the position in 2024.

Of course, Cleveland could ultimately leave if other teams outbid the Jaguars. While he may like to stay with Phil Rauscher, other clubs could offer him a better deal than Jacksonville. The truth is that it could go either way.

The bottom line is that the Jaguars' brass should make an effort to keep Cleveland around. He wasn't able to show he deserved a long-term deal in 2023. But with a bit more time, he could prove the team's brass made the right call when they traded for him.

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