PFF loves a pair of Jaguars 2021 free agent signings

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Tyler Nettuno
·3 min read
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The Jacksonville Jaguars took a bit of a different approach to free agency this offseason. Despite leading the league in available cap space at the beginning of the period, the team elected not to be aggressive and potentially overpay, rather settling for a number of value signings that added depth at areas of significant need.

A lot of those signings, however, are players who didn’t see significant starting action on their previous teams and are more likely to be role players than high-quality starters. It was an interesting strategy that will be hard to evaluate until after the draft, but it shouldn’t be surprising that in the short term, national pundits aren’t incredibly high on this free-agent class.

According to Pro Football Focus’ free agent grades, most of Jacksonville’s signings range from average to poor. However, two of its pick-ups were enough to achieve a “very good” grade: the additions of defensive end Tyson Alualu and receiver Marvin Jones.

Alualu returns to the Jaguars after a four-year stint in Pittsburgh. He’s never quite lived up to his 10th-overall selection, but now as a veteran, he’s become a very capable rotational player. With a contract that pays just $3 million per year, it’s hard not to like this move.

Things have come full circle for Alualu. The former top-10 pick in 2010 returns to Jacksonville after spending the past four years in Pittsburgh. He never came close to living up to that first-round billing across the first seven years of his career with Jacksonville, but he found his niche in a reduced role with the Steelers.

Alualu is coming off the best two years of his career, earning PFF grades of 80.1 in 2019 and 89.6 in 2020. That even comes after playing more nose tackle this past season following Javon Hargrave’s departure.

Meanwhile, Jones is looking for greener pastures after spending the beginning of his career in Detroit. The 31-year-old has been remarkably consistent with the Lions, and at a price tag of under $7 million each year, it’s a value deal they won’t complain about as signing Curtis Samuel would’ve been significantly higher (though possibly worth it).

Jones has been a model of consistency for the Lions, earning PFF grades between 71.9 and 76.3 in all five seasons with the team on at least 500 offensive snaps each year. He and Kenny Golladay formed one of the better contested-catch duos at the position over the past several years. Jones’ 59.1% contested catch rate since 2018 ranks fourth among 32 wide receivers with at least 50 such targets over that span. He now will likely get to play with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who often gave his wide receivers opportunities on 50-50 balls at Clemson.

Jacksonville’s receiving group is talented but young, with the top two options in D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. being under 25 years old. Jones provides a solid veteran presence to help bring Lawrence along, and he’s a big-bodied jump-ball receiver who thrives in the red zone. He’s the only wide receiver in the NFL with at least nine touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.

The Jaguars did things differently this offseason, and only time will tell whether they should have been more aggressive. But they stacked up depth at positions of need (especially on defense) and now the focus of the draft should be adding weapons and protection for Lawrence.