Signing Mitch Morse is one of the best moves the Jaguars made in free agency

• The Jaguars got a bargain in Mitch Morse, at least accoring to CBS Sports.

Jan 2, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and center Mitch
Jan 2, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and center Mitch / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars are keeping the offensive line from 2023 mostly intact but they will make a significant chance. Early in free agency, they inked veteran Mitch Morse, who will give the interior offensive line a massive boost right out of the gate. On top of that, they didn't have to overspend for his services. Jared Dubin of CBS Sports, for one, liked the move.

Dublin put together a list of what he sees as bargain signings and included Morse, noting that he'll quickly shore up the center position, arguably the Jaguars' weakest link in the trenches last year. The fact that they're giving him an average salary of $5.25 million per year makes it a bargain in Dublin's eyes.

"The Jaguars drafted Luke Fortner a couple years ago, but clearly still felt like they needed an upgrade at center. Enter Mitch Morse, who was a cap casualty in Buffalo but can quite obviously still play. He's on the older side, which is why he came at such a low cost: two years, $10.5 million, $7 million guaranteed. Giving Trevor Lawrence a sturdy veteran in front of him to help with protections and key the run game should prove helpful."

Morse, a second-round pick in 2014, began his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs and joined the Buffalo Bills in 2018. In total, the former Mizzou Tiger has made 126 starts. He missed four games in 2022 but has otherwise stayed healthy the past three years.

But in spite of his reliability, the Bills were in a cap crunch and had released Morse, along with other players. Morse quickly drew interest across the league but he ended up signing with the Jags. He cited his familiarity with head coach Doug Pederson, his offense coordinator as a rookie in Kansas City, as a big reason. He also brought up the presence of quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Morse won't outright get the starting job, but he should have no trouble beating incumbent Luke Fortner, who ranked 31st in pass block win among centers rate last year.

Mitch Morse should have a big impact for the Jaguars in 2024

The offensive line struggled to protect Trevor Lawrence and open lanes in the running game. When they brought in Mitch Morse, they sent the message that they thought Luke Fortner was the biggest culprit for their shortcomings.

A third-round pick in 2022, Fortner flashed as a rookie but regressed significantly last year. He could eventually put it all together but the Jags are in a position to compete for the AFC South and cannot afford to wait for him. Hence, the Mitch Morse signing.

Morse should quickly bolster the center spot, but it will also give Fortner the chance to work on his craft and learn behind him. It also allows the team's brass to look for a long-term answer at the position. At 31, Morse should be able to play out his deal in Jacksonville. That's more than enough time for the front office to look at other options.

With Morse in the fold, the Jags won't probably take a center early in the draft but they could target one in Rounds 3 or 4. They have an additional extra pick in the fourth. At that point of the selection meeting, there will be a handful of developmental prospects worth kicking the tires on. Conversely, Jacksonville could wait until next year's crop. Either way, they have options, and that's possible because of the Morse signing.

The Jaguars expect Mitch Morse to be the piece the offensive line was missing last year. If he is, they'll have no trouble keeping up in the AFC South arms race next season.

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