How’d they do? Grading the Jaguars free agent signings

From left to right, Marvin Jones Jr., Rayshawn Jenkins, Shaquill Griffin and Malcom Brown are four of the 12 free agents that the Jaguars signed. (Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL offseason is in full swing and so, too, is free agency. With the start of the league year Wednesday, the Jaguars have been very aggressive in bringing in free agents and re-signing their own.

Justin Barney and Cole Pepper take a look at the 12 newest Jaguars, how they fit and grade each one. Reported contracts are from ESPN’s Adam Schefter and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport unless indicated.

The new additions

Position Player (Former team)

WR/KR Jamal Agnew (Lions)

Deal: Three years, $14.25 million ($4 million guaranteed), according to Spotrac.

Grade: B+.

Simply as a kick returner, Agnew is a good addition. He has six career return touchdowns, as many as the Jaguars have as a franchise in the last 20 years. Whether he can make a difference as a wide receiver remains to be seen. Agnew came into the league as a defensive back, but has been almost exclusively a return man in Detroit.

DL Tyson Alulalu (Steelers)

Deal: Two years, $6 million.

Grade: B.

Every Jaguars fan knows Alualu. The Jaguars reached significantly to pick him 10th overall in the 2010 draft. While he never lived up to that billing, Alualu was dependable in Jacksonville. He spent seven seasons here before moving on to the Steelers. Alualu has 24.5 sacks in his career and can line up at tackle or end in the Jaguars expected 3-4 defense. Low risk, better than average reward for this signing.

DL Malcom Brown (Saints)

Deal: Acquired in trade; signed two-year, $11 million deal, with $8 million guaranteed, according to the NFL Network.

Grade: B+.

We don’t know what the Jaguars gave up to acquire him, but the Saints likely didn’t get much for a player who was a potential cap casualty. Jacksonville was in dire need for bulk on the defensive line. It didn’t sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson, who we thought was a major target, but Brown came much cheaper. At 6-2, 320 pounds, Brown can be an ideal nose tackle in the 3-4. He’s young enough to have a lengthy future ahead of him. Paired with second-year player DaVon Hamilton, this is another low-risk, above-average reward signings. Brown has 247 career tackles and 11.5 sacks.

WR Phillip Dorsett (Patriots)

Deal: Two years, $14.5 million ($9.2 million guaranteed), according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Grade: C.

The sixth-year receiver has been more of a spot starter in his career, playing in 71 games and starting 15 of those. But he’s a solid third or fourth option. In his career, Dorsett has 1,634 receiving yards on 124 catches and 11 touchdowns. The Jaguars are paying him with a bit more expectation of him being a No. 4 wideout, though.

S Rudy Ford (Eagles)

Deal: Two years, $4.2million ($600,000 guaranteed), according to OverTheCap.com.

Grade: C.

He was a special teams force with the Eagles and not much of a factor on defense. In four years in the league, Ford has logged 806 snaps on special teams, and just 125 on the defensive side of the ball. So this is purely a special teams addition for the Jaguars.

CB Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks)

Deal: Three years, $44.5 million ($29 million guaranteed).

Grade: A-.

This was a projection we looked at in our free agency primer and circled as a high-end candidate for the Jaguars. Griffin should be pegged as a Day 1 starter, opposite last year’s first-round pick CJ Henderson. He was a Pro Bowl player in 2019. Griffin is still very young (25). He’s going into his fifth year and has six interceptions and 249 tackles. Griffin and Henderson have the potential to form a shutdown duo in Jacksonville. This wasn’t an overly deep corner crop, and Griffin was right near the top of a relatively average group.

RB Carlos Hyde (Seahawks)

Deal: Two years, $6 million.

Grade: C.

His first tenure in Jacksonville ended unceremoniously, but that was under the previous regime in 2018. Hyde has been somewhat of a drifter in the league. He’s played with five different teams since 2014. But he did have a 1,000-yard season as recently as 2019 with the Texans. Hyde is a change of pace from starter James Robinson. And he played for Meyer at Ohio State.

S Rayshawn Jenkins (Los Angeles Chargers)

Deal: Four years, $35 million ($16 million guaranteed).

Grade: B.

Jenkins will likely become the Jaguars starter at strong safety. His performance in Los Angeles improved the past two seasons when he became the Rams’ starter. In his first two seasons in the NFL, Jenkins didn’t have an interception, but grabbed five picks the past two seasons. Jenkins, like several other additions, returns to his home state to play. The former Miami Hurricane is from St. Petersburg.

WR Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions)

Deal: Two years, $14.5 million ($9.2 million guaranteed).

Grade: C-.

Jacksonville needed a pass catcher in free agency and Jones was one of the top available players. Should Jacksonville have looked at a younger option like a JuJu Smith-Schuster? Jones’ age is a little bothersome (31), but this is only a two-year deal. Jones had a career-best in receptions last season (76) and knows how to find the end zone. Jones has 51 receiving TDs since coming into the league in 2012. He had a 1,101-yard receiving season in 2017 and has at least nine TD catches in three of the last four years.

TE Chris Manhertz (Panthers)

Deal: Two years, $6.65 million ($4.25 million guaranteed).

Grade: D+.

Fun fact. Chris Manhertz didn’t play high school football. His school canceled the football program before he was in school. So, instead, he played basketball. He later played hoops for Canisius. He never played football until he was offered a tryout by the Buffalo Bills, who signed him to a futures contract. He didn’t make the Bills’ preseason roster, but wound up on the Saints practice squad before making the active roster for a month in 2016. The Carolina Panthers then claimed him. In the following three-plus seasons, Manhertz caught six passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. His lone touchdown was thrown by running back Christian McCaffrey. Yes, he’s a project.

DT Roy Robertson-Harris (Bears)

Deal: Four years, $24.4 million ($14 million guaranteed).

Grade: B-.

Lost on a defense that featured Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, Robertson-Harris was a steady contributor when healthy. He’s coming off a shoulder injury that cost him the final two months of the season. He had surgery to repair the shoulder. With Robertson-Harris in the lineup, the Bears gave up more than seven points per game fewer than they did without him in 2020. With the Jaguars expected to adopt more of a 3-4 look on defense, Robertson-Harris figures to compete for a starting job at defensive end.

DE Jihad Ward (Ravens)

Deal: One year, $2.5 million ($2.45 million guaranteed, according to OverTheCap.com.

Grade: C+.

He has eight career sacks and 59 career tackles, and projects as a situational player with the Jaguars. He played for defensive coordinator Joe Cullen in Baltimore, so that’s a positive. Not a lot of money for a player whom Cullen knows.


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