NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2021 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 17, meaning free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.
The Jaguars have the most salary-cap space available ($74.4 million), which is a good thing because they have a lot of holes to fill. However, GM Trent Baalke said the week prior to the start of free agency that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jaguars are going to be all-in on the top-dollar free agents. “We’re looking for value,” Baalke said. “That isn’t always the most expensive player.” Still, the Jaguars need to address tight end, interior defensive line, cornerback and safety and are also looking to add speed at receiver and running back.
Shaquill Griffin, cornerback
Griffin comes to Jacksonville for three years, $44.5 million ($29 million guaranteed), according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
What it means: The Jaguars now have two good, young cornerbacks under contract for at least the next three years. Griffin will start opposite C.J. Henderson, the ninth overall pick in 2020. Griffin has played on the right and left side, which gives the Jaguars some versatility if they want to shift sides based on matchups. Griffin is coming off a three-interception season, which would have been the most of any Jaguars defensive back.
What's the risk: Not much, really, because the Jaguars needed another starting corner and he was one of the top ones available. The team also re-signed CBs Sidney Jones and Tre Herndon (as you'll see below) and that should be their top four corners. Herndon likely will play nickel, but Jones can play there as well. The unit has some good depth now.
James O'Shaughnessy, tight end
The Jaguars have agreed to re-sign O’Shaughnessy, terms unknown.
What it means: The Jaguars now have a legitimate pass-catching tight end back on the roster. O’Shaughnessy has 80 catches for 778 yards and three TDs in 50 games with the Jaguars. The five other tight ends on the roster -- including Chris Manhertz, who has agreed to terms – have a combined 23 catches for 237 yards and one touchdown. O’Shaughnessy, who has 132 catches for 864 yards and three TDs in six NFL seasons, is coming off the best season of his career (28 catches for 262 yards) as the Jaguars’ No. 2 tight end.
What's the risk: It’s a solid re-signing because O’Shaughnessy is a decent blocker and reliable receiver. The Jaguars need more at the position, though. Manhertz is a blocker with 12 career catches. There are still tight ends on the market so another signing is possible in the next few weeks.
Marvin Jones Jr., wide receiver
Jones joins the Jaguars on a two-year, $14.5 million contract ($9.2 million guaranteed), according to Schefter.
What it means: Jones, who is coming off a career high in receptions (76) and the second-highest yardage total of his career (978), gives the Jaguars a durable, productive player who can help groom a young group of receivers. Since missing the entire 2014 season because of an ankle injury, Jones has missed just 11 games since. He has nine touchdown catches in three of the past four seasons. The Jaguars haven't had a receiver with nine or more TD catches since Allen Robinson (14) and Allen Hurns (10) in 2015.
What's the risk: The 31-year-old Jones has seen his yards per catch drop from a league-best 18.0 yards in 2017 to 12.6 and 12.9 the past two seasons, so he may not be as much of a downfield threat as he once was. The Jaguars have DJ Chark Jr. and Phillip Dorsett to stretch the field, though. And there's nothing better for a young quarterback as he adjusts to life in the NFL than than a veteran receiver.
Rayshawn Jenkins, safety
Jenkins agreed to a four-year deal, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
What it means: The Jaguars wanted to upgrade at safety and Jenkins should step into the starting strong safety role alongside free safety Jarrod Wilson. Jenkins had 138 tackles and five interceptions in 31 starts the last two seasons with the Chargers under former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds Jenkins is a big, physical tackler that can play close to the line of scrimmage.
What's the risk: With Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams getting franchise tagged, the best safety available was John Johnson III. Cleveland gave him a three-year deal worth $33.75 million and that may have been more than the Jaguars were willing to pay. Jenkins was a more affordable option.
Sidney Jones, cornerback
Jones returns to the Jaguars (terms not disclosed).
What it means: When Jones was healthy he played well last season and was the team's best cornerback. He'll compete to start during camp and gives the team good depth at the position. Jones signed with the Jaguars last season after three injury-plagued seasons in Philadelphia and revitalized his career in Jacksonville and earned a new deal.
What's the risk: Can he stay healthy? Jones has never played more than 12 games in a season and missed seven last season because of an Achilles injury. He missed all but one game as a rookie because of a torn Achilles he suffered at his pro day, missed seven games in 2018 with a hamstring injury, and was bothered by a hamstring injury in 2019 as well.
Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver
Dorsett agreed on a deal, terms unknown, per Fowler.
What it means: Urban Meyer said he wanted to add a speed receiver and Dorsett qualifies, but he's coming off a foot injury and averaged less than 14 yards per catch in 2019. He could fit as the Jaguars' No. 3 receiver behind DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., but there's a lot of excitement about second-year player Collin Johnson. Shenault being able to stay healthy was a concern when he entered the league and he wasn't able to do that as a rookie last season, so Dorsett is experienced insurance.
What's the risk: Dorsett missed the entire 2020 season because of a foot injury but had 29 catches for 397 yards and five touchdowns in New England in 2019. He's never caught more than 33 passes in a season and has never had more than 528 yards receiving in a season. He has only 23 catches of 20 or more yards since he entered the league in 2015.
Carlos Hyde, running back
Hyde reached agreement with the Jaguars on a two-year, $6 million deal, per Schefter.
What it means: The Jaguars wanted to find a way to take some of the workload off James Robinson and the addition of Hyde should do it. They're both bigger backs (Hyde is 6-foot, 229 pounds; Robinson is 5-10, 220) and physical runners so the Jaguars are going to do a lot of work inside the tackles. Coach Urban Meyer had Hyde for two years at Ohio State and trusts him, so expect Hyde to get a significant amount of work.
What's the risk: Hyde wasn't happy the last time he was in Jacksonville, so will that be a problem again if he's not being used the way he anticipated? Meyer also said he wants to add a speed back, whether in free agency or the draft, so that's something else to watch in terms of spreading the ball around.
Dawuane Smoot, defensive end
Smoot re-signed with the Jaguars for $14 million over two years, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
What it means: Smoot was a non-factor in his first two seasons but had 11.5 sacks the past two, including a team-high 5.5 in 2020. The rest of the defensive line -- including Josh Allen -- combined for seven, so Smoot was clearly the most productive lineman on the roster. Bringing him back gives the Jaguars a solid starter to put with Roy Robertson-Harris and second-year player DaVon Hamilton as a good core.
What's the risk: Smoot has been a consistent performer over the past two seasons. That set him apart from the rest of the defensive linemen in 2020 because that group really struggled, especially along the interior. However, the Jaguars need another pass-rusher to pair with Allen (who needs to rebound from a disappointing 2020), and Smoot isn't an elite-level rusher.
Tre Herndon, cornerback
Herndon has re-signed with the Jaguars, according to the team. Terms are unknown.
What it means: Herndon has started 26 games over the past two seasons and all but one came on the outside. However, he likely will fill the nickel back role going forward since the Jaguars are unlikely to re-sign D.J. Hayden. Herndon had a career-high 76 tackles last season and he has three interceptions in his three-year career. He led the Jaguars with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups in 2019, but the Jaguars need more of a playmaker on the other side of C.J. Henderson. If the team re-signs Sidney Jones he would fill that role, but if not expect the Jaguars to make corner a high priority in free agency and the draft.
What's the risk: This is a solid signing by the Jaguars. Herndon played well at nickel after Hayden was hurt last season and the Jaguars now have a reasonably priced full-time replacement in place. Herndon showed flashes that he could be an effective blitzer (two QB hits) in the rare times he was used that way.
Roy Robertson-Harris, defensive tackle
Robertson-Harris joins the Jaguars on a four-year deal worth $24.4 million ($14 million guaranteed).
What it means: Defensive line was, after quarterback, arguably the Jaguars' biggest need. The 6-foot-5, 292-pound Robertson-Harris is a former undrafted free agent who has started 13 games -- all during the past two seasons. Robertson-Harris started the first eight games last season before a shoulder injury landed him on season-ending IR. The Jaguars are likely switching to a 3-4 defense and have to rework their line up front, especially with the team not expected to re-sign Abry Jones and due to the disappointment of 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan.
Jihad Ward, defensive end
Ward joins the Jaguars, but terms were not disclosed.
What it means: Ward is a massive end (6-foot-5, 287 pounds) who played the past two seasons under current Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, so he has experience in the system Cullen wants to install. Ward was a rotational piece, but he can play inside and outside and tied his career high with three sacks last season.
What's the risk: The Jaguars are rebuilding their defensive line and it's unclear at this point how everyone fits because they'll likely add another lineman or two in the draft to go along with Ward and Roy Robertson-Harris, whom they agreed to terms with on Monday. Second-year player DaVon Hamilton, who is coming off a knee injury, figures in the mix prominently, as well.
Chris Manhertz, tight end
Manhertz signs a two-year, $7.25 million deal to join the Jaguars, with $4.25 million guaranteed, according to Schefter.
What it means: Manhertz isn't going to help much as a receiver, but Panthers coach Matt Rhule recently called him one of the league's top pass-blocking tight ends. That'll certainly help whichever QB takes snaps, because OTs Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor struggled in pass protection last season, especially against speed. Manhertz didn't play football at Canisius and began playing the sport only after graduating and he bounced around with the Bills and Saints before landing with the Panthers. He's played in all but one game the past four seasons.
What's the risk: Manhertz will help in pass protection and in two-tight end sets, but he's not going to give the Jaguars much in terms of receiving. He has 12 career catches, including a career-high six last season. He's a piece of the tight end room rebuild, but the Jaguars have to add a player that can give them something as a receiver. It's likely coming in the draft.
Tyler Shatley, guard/center
Shatley agrees to return to the Jaguars on a one-year deal, according to Adam Schefter.
What it means: The Jaguars are keeping one of their key reserves along the interior of the offensive line. Shatley can play both guard and center and he has started 25 games in his seven seasons with the Jaguars, including 10 last season. Center Brandon Linder has played in 16 games just once in his seven-year career and Shatley has filled in capably when he has started there.
What's the risk: Pretty minimal. Shatley has played in every single game over the past five seasons, either along the line on offense or on special teams, and that durability, along with his versatility, makes him valuable. Offensive line coach George Warhop clearly wanted Shatley back.
Rudy Ford, safety
Ford joins the Jaguars on a two-year deal.
What it means: The Jaguars need an upgrade at safety, and Ford could compete with second-year player Daniel Thomas at strong safety, but this seems like more of a special teams signing. Ford is a very good gunner but has battled injuries throughout his career. Still, with Thomas, Jarrod Wilson and Andrew Wingard the only safeties under contract for 2021 Ford could find a way into the rotation.
What's the risk: If this is just a special teams/backup safety signing there's no risk at all. If the Jaguars are counting on Ford being a starter (which seems unlikely) then it's a huge leap since he started just two games in four seasons with Arizona and Philadelphia. He also spent time on IR in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Jamal Agnew, kick returner
Agnew and the Jaguars agreed on a three-year deal.
What it means: The Jaguars spread the kick return duties among six players last season, but it looks like the job will be Agnew's for the next three years. Agnew averaged 11.6 yards per punt return and 25.8 yards per kickoff return and scored six TDs on returns, including two punt returns as a rookie to earn first-team All-Pro honors. Agnew ran 4.34 in college so he has the breakaway speed that Urban Meyer loves.
What's the risk: Meyer said he wanted to add a speed receiver, but how much can Agnew contribute on offense? Until Meyer talks about the signing, there's a question about how much they want him to, but Agnew came into the league as a cornerback and converted to receiver last season. He caught 16 passes under now-Jags coordinator Darrell Bevell so there is some familiarity, but getting work in a solid WRs group will be tough.
Aldrick Rosas, kicker
Terms of Rosas' deal were not disclosed.
What it means: The Jaguars already have one of the NFL's best kickers in Josh Lambo, but he's coming off a hip injury that cost him 12 games in 2020. Rosas was one of five kickers who filled in for Lambo during the season and made 8 of 11 field goal attempts in six games, but one of those was a 57-yarder -- tied for the third-longest in franchise history. He's insurance if Lambo isn't ready to go or falters.
What's the risk: Teams carry multiple kickers in the offseason and training camp to avoid too much wear and tear on one person, so there is no risk in adding Rosas. He made the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 so it's not out of the question that he could beat out Lambo, who has made 76 of 80 field goal attempts in four years with the Jaguars.