Wednesday’s start of the NFL free agent signing period will be busy for the Jaguars after a crazy 12-hour stretch on Tuesday.
*The Jaguars are expected to sign Carolina Panthers left guard Andrew Norwell. Per NFL Network, the deal is for a whopping $66.5 million over five years, including $30 million guaranteed.
*Receiver Allen Robinson, the team’s best offensive player in 2015-16, is expected to sign a three-year, $42 million ($25 million guaranteed) deal with the Chicago Bears.
*The Jaguars pivoted to re-sign Marqise Lee for a four-year deal worth up to $38 million ($18 million guaranteed) per ESPN, and then set up an agreement to sign the Indianapolis Colts’ Donte Moncrief.
*The Jaguars lost nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin to the division rival Houston Texans for what NFL Network reported was four years and $34 million ($18 million guaranteed).
*And late Tuesday, according to a league source, the Jaguars were working on a contract with Detroit cornerback D.J. Hayden, who would project to take over Colvin's role. Hayden has three interceptions in five seasons.
This year’s negotiating period – when teams can discuss a contract’s parameters with agents – wasn’t as busy for the Jaguars as last year, when they secured defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and strong safety Barry Church. But it was still important.
By adding starters at left guard (Norwell) and receiver (Moncrief), the Jaguars will enter next month’s draft with fewer needs. Norwell and Moncrief also fit the profile – players exiting their rookie contract – that has been preferred throughout the Jaguars’ build. General manager Dave Caldwell has long desired free agents who have a chance to play out the life of their deal. Norwell is 26 years old.
Norwell (6-foot-6 and 315 pounds) will replace Patrick Omameh.
Norwell’s average salary of $13.3 million will rank him first among guards and second among all offensive linemen (Washington left tackle Trent Williams is listed at $13.6 million, per Spotrac). The pursuit of Norwell can be viewed as an admission by the Jaguars that they should have been more serious in last year’s pursuit of Kevin Zeitler, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal with Cleveland. The Jaguars bowed out early in the process.
The final part of the regular season/playoffs pointed them toward Norwell.
In five of the last seven regular season games, the Jaguars averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry. In the AFC championship game loss at New England, they averaged only 3.2 yards per carry. Despite leading the NFL with 527 rushing attempts, the Jaguars were tied for 14th in carries of at least 10 yards (48).
“The run game, there were points we felt very good about it, but there were some points that we weren’t able to [establish the run],” coach Doug Marrone said last month. “We still want to progress. We still want to get better. It can be said best — ‘Hey, you guys were No. 1 in the league, but at times …’ That’s what we saw and that’s what we’ve looked at.”
Norwell will be counted on to provide more consistent blocking so tailback Leonard Fournette can gain more yards with straight-ahead carries instead of trying to bounce outside, which takes away his power.
Norwell grew up in Cincinnati and started 39 games at three positions (left guard, left tackle, right tackle) for Ohio State. But he was undrafted and signed with Carolina. He started nine and 13 games his first two years. In 2016-17, he started all 32 games and didn’t miss a snap.
Part of his All-Pro portfolio last year — he was not called for an enforced penalty in 1,079 snaps.
“He is such a great team player,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters late in 2017. “A big part of it is who he is as a young man, how hard he works [and] his dedication. He takes coaching very, very well. He takes constructive criticism very well. He applies it and improves himself.”
The Jaguars will leave themselves open for criticism if Robinson finds his 2015 form (1,400 yards and 14 touchdown catches) with the Bears. But when the Jaguars balked at paying Robinson the franchise tag fee, the leverage shifted into his camp and he found a deal that equal parts awards him life-changing money and will give him another kick at the free agent can entering his age 29 season.
Lee’s return is a semi-surprise since there was very little chatter about his return … and it became even more surprising when the Moncrief news surfaced.
Taken 22 spots ahead of Robinson in the second round of the 2014 draft, Lee missed nine games over his first two seasons while battling an assortment of lower-body injuries. But he has missed just two games (both in 2017 due to an ankle injury) the past two seasons while totaling 1,553 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Moncrief, a 2014 third-round pick who turns 25 in August, has never posted more than 733 yards receiving in a season. In four years for the Colts, he had 152 catches for 1,875 yards and 18 touchdowns. His ability to get to the end zone, though, jumps off his stat sheet and he could be looked to replace Robinson’s anticipated production.
Moncrief was particularly productive when quarterback Andrew Luck was healthy. In 31 regular-season games both played, Moncrief caught 14 touchdowns. Moncrief caught four touchdowns in 22 games started by other quarterbacks.
Similar to Lee, the Jaguars are betting Moncrief is still a developing player. He has just one season with more than 32 catches (64 in 2015) and has missed 11 games the past two seasons due to injury.
The Jaguars’ top four receivers are Moncrief, Lee, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole. The status of veteran Allen Hurns – who would count $7 million on the cap – is uncertain. If he is cut, the Jaguars could allocate that money to Moncrief and Lee.
Keeping Colvin was always unlikely due to the presence of cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye atop the depth chart, but his four-year deal with Houston stings because it helps a division rival.
Colvin, a fourth-round pick who recovered from a torn ACL suffered at the Senior Bowl in 2014, was essentially a starter for the Jaguars considering how often they lined up with an extra defensive back on the field. He recorded the only interception of his career during a victory over Buffalo in the first round of the AFC playoffs but was a useful player in other ways.
The Jaguars could address their need for a slot cornerback in the draft while also taking a longer look at Jalen Myrick and Tyler Patmon, who were used in reserve roles last season.
The Jaguars announced one signing Tuesday: Receiver Shane Wynn. The 25-year old Wynn (5-6, 168) spent time with Atlanta, Cleveland, the Jets, the Chargers and New Orleans before joining the Jaguars in 2016. He missed all of 2017 with an injury.