The Jaguars are big spenders once again in free agency this year, but this time dipped their toe into the offensive line market, reportedly agreeing to terms with top offensive lineman Andrew Norwell on a record-setting contract.
The deal with Norwell is a five-year pact worth $66.5 million according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and it makes Norwell the top-paid offensive guard in the NFL.
Highest Average Annual Value - Current OL Contracts:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2018
G Andrew Norwell $13.3M
OT Russell Okung $13.25M
OT Trent Williams $13.2M
Norwell was always going to have a strong market in a league that is weak when it comes to offensive line play as a whole right now, but the primary suitors for his services appeared to be the Giants and, as recently as Monday, the Cardinals.
The connection with the Giants was obvious: new GM Dave Gettleman snagged Norwell as an undrafted free agent, plugged him into the Panthers offensive line and Norwell developed into an All-Pro and a dominant force in the run game for Carolina. Arizona was apparently interested in trying to pair Norwell with Kirk Cousins in what would have been an eye-opening venture into free agency.
Neither team will have the chance, as Norwell opted for what most NFL players opt for -- money. As they should, and Norwell should be a prime example why. He played college football for Ohio State but still managed to go undrafted. He was never guaranteed this kind of life-changing money and now he can get it in a state where there's no personal income tax.
Additionally, it's a nice fit for Norwell. The Jaguars like to lean on the run and feed Leonard Fournette, and Norwell specializes in creating open holes up front. Putting him on the Jacksonville offensive line is going to make an already physical and dangerous run game even more lethal.
The Jaguars surprised people this offseason when they re-upped on Blake Bortles and let Allen Robinson go, but it's pretty obvious that those moves coupled with the signing of Norwell (who is also an excellent pass blocker) indicate exactly what the Jags want to do next year. Ground and pound is coming and if Fournette is healthy he could see between 350 and 400 carries next season for this offense.