Meyer, Jaguars fail to generate splash in NFL free agency
Coach Urban Meyer’s rebuilding project in Jacksonville started with a thud instead of a splash.
The Jaguars opened free agency Monday by agreeing to terms with two defensive linemen who did little in their first contracts; a pair of special teamers; a speedy receiver who failed to reach 530 yards in any of his first six seasons; and a journeyman running back whose first stint in Jacksonville couldn’t have gone much worse.
Big names? Not even close.
System fits? Maybe.
It was hardly the way anyone expected Meyer’s first foray into free agency to go. It’s essentially the equivalent of landing a college recruiting class that barely registers a blip nationally.
The Jaguars agreed to terms with former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris on a three-year, $24.4 million deal that includes $14 million guaranteed, a person familiar with negotiations said. They also agreed to bring back Dawuane Smoot, giving him a two-year deal worth $14 million, said another person familiar with negotiations.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because neither side can make free agent agreements official until the new league year begins Wednesday.
Robertson-Harris confirmed his new team by tweeting “DUUUVAL,” the city’s rallying cry.
Jacksonville also landed safety Rudy Ford and receiver Jamal Agnew, two guys best known for their special teams play, as well as receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Carlos Hyde. None of those four would be considered surefire starters, not even for a 1-15 team. Jacksonville traded for Hyde in 2018 and released him five months later. He ran 58 times for 189 yards in eight games with the Jags.
Jacksonville did add one starter late Monday with the addition of former Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who reportedly agreed to a four-year deal.
Still, it was an underwhelming day for the team than had more salary-cap space (nearly $73 million) than any other team, and holes everywhere. One theory: Meyer was unfamiliar with the workings of the NFL and agents, and his two top front-office hires — general manager Trent Baalke and senior personnel executive Tom Gamble — had lengthy hiatuses out of the league.
Baalke stressed last week the need to find value in free agency — some would argue this was the year to take advantage of a depressed market — and certainly that could be the case with all seven of the team’s Day 1 additions.
It was clear Meyer emphasized relationships over risks. Hyde played for Meyer in college and for Baalke in San Francisco. Passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and receivers coach Sanjay Lal worked with Hyde and Dorsett in Seattle last year.
Agnew averaged 28 yards a kick return and 12.7 a punt return with Detroit last year and reunites with former Lions and current Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who could use his speed in what’s expected to be a wide-open offense featuring presumptive No. 1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence.
“DUUUVAL!!! Ima give y’all everything I got and more,” Agnew tweeted.
Robertson-Harris and Smoot are somewhat outliers, although Meyer kept several defensive assistants familiar with Smoot, who had 11 1/2 sacks in four years with the Jags.
Robertson-Harris and Smoot are expected to be 3-4 defensive ends in new coordinator Joe Cullen’s scheme.
Jacksonville has 2019 Pro Bowl pass rusher Josh Allen and nose tackle DaVon Hamilton, a third-round draft pick a year ago, but is looking to make significant additions around those two. K’Lavon Chaisson, the 20th overall pick in 2020, could make a jump while moving from defensive end to a more natural fit at outside linebacker.
But Robertson-Harris and Smooth provided little buzz for Jaguars fans to start the NFL’s “legal tampering” period. They were hoping for Dalvin Tomlinson of the New York Giants or possibly Baltimore’s Matt Judon, Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett or Cincinnati’s Carl Lawson. Judon agreed to terms with New England and Barrett stayed in Tampa.
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