Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing

Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing
Giants offensive line Plan B: Free agents after losing Andrew Norwell, Weston Richburg
If there was one move that everyone expected to go down in 2018 NFL free agency, it was probably the New York Giants landing offensive guard Andrew Norwell.

It just made too much sense. With new coach Pat Shurmur wanting Eli Manning to stick around as his starting quarterback at least through 2018, and the Giants in prime draft-day position with a top-five pick and new general manager Dave Gettleman touting a strong connection to Norwell from his time with the Carolina Panthers, filling the teams biggest need — in the trenches — seemed like a piece of cake.

The ex-Giants coach, in a move that reaffirmed the Jacksonville Jaguars sneakily brilliant commitment to stocking up at the line of scrimmage, stole Norwell, one of free agencys surest things and the consensus top guard available, right out of New Yorks grasp.

Interior line didnt seem like a massive need for the Jags. They already had a pretty effective run game last year and the fifth-best sack rate, but this makes both of those areas even better. Norwell, according to PFF, was the best pass blocking guard in the league last year. One less excuse for Blake Bortles to stink.

Suddenly, without the one big-ticket veteran that warranted their infatuation and seemed destined to become a Giant, Gettlemans bunch is left to turn to Plan B. The question is: What is Plan B? Its up to you to decide whether the Giants ever had one to begin with, but they have no choice now but to move forward, so heres a look at what could be next now that Norwell is out of the picture:

As much as the Panthers would have liked to keep Norwell on their line, it wasnt entirely surprising that they couldnt afford to keep him. Having already signed his counterpart to a big-money deal last season, they wouldnt be able to match the $13.3 million a year price tag he was able to fetch.

Lets start with the veteran free-agent market, which officially opens Wednesday but, for all intents and purposes, is already in full swing. Norwell was the best the Giants couldve done, although his left-tackle price tag of $66.5 million wouldve been steep for a team with so-so salary-cap space. After him, whats left in free agency is about what youd expect — a couple remaining big-money targets, some grizzled rental options, a few low-risk upside projects and even a couple familiar faces:

The Jaguars already had a pretty effective running game last season. It should be an even more effective part of their game plan with Norwell in the fold. Hes an especially effective pass blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, Norwell didnt allow a single sack last season and was their top-graded pass blocker among guards.
B: Free agents after losing Andrew Norwell, Weston Richburg” alt=”Giants offensive line Plan B: Free agents after losing Andrew Norwell, Weston Richburg”>
Giants offensive line Plan B: Free agents after losing Andrew Norwell, Weston Richburg

If youre the Giants, your best bet at still making a big splash is with Solder, not only because of his name but because of his resume. But in a market that saw the teams own Weston Richburg land a five-year deal, whos to say they wouldnt be forced to make Solder the games highest-paid left tackle if they were to strike a contract?

That results in a lot of punishment for the 66, 260-pound quarterback. Building an offensive line with players as good as Norwell has helped keep Newton upright as a passer and bolsters a rushing attack that finished the season No. 4 in rushing yards thanks largely to the star quarterback.

Report: Cardinals OG target Andrew Norwell to sign with Jaguars

But the best approach, at least in free agency, might actually be to re-up Pugh, or at least attempt to. Whether or not the Giants are able to retain him, adding someone like Kelemete and then supplementing the group with a low-cost, prove-it deal for someone like Jeremiah Sirles or Alex Boone would then at least bolster the competition up front, especially since theres also …

Theres no way, for the sake of getting offensive-line help, the Giants could pass on a quarterback of the future — or even generational running back Saquon Barkley — with their No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, right?

Andrew Norwell to be the highest paid guard in the NFL with new $66.5 million deal with the Jaguars
Andrew Norwell to be the highest paid guard in the NFL with new $66.5 million deal with the Jaguars

NY Giants lose out on big target Andrew Norwell to Tom Coughlins Jaguars

Or at least thats what their stance should be. Unless New York is dead set against taking a RB so early and is absolutely sold on just one of the top passing prospects and that one prospect goes No. 1, theres no reason the Giants should be taking even this years consensus No. 1 lineman, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, at No. 2. Its not as if the G-Men might not desperately need blockers in April, but theres just too much value to be had with the second pick that the team would be better off auctioning it off and trying for a lineman later in the first.

The expected deal will guarantee Norwell $30 million and on average make him the NFL’s most well-paid guard.

If it were a stud left tackle at No. 2, that might be different. But anyone who argues that Nelson is worth taking regardless of the pick value should first consider what the Giants might be able to get in return for simply moving down a couple spots. If it means landing a lesser guard or even one of the drafts few first-round tackle prospects plus an extra haul of picks for which Gettleman can target interior competition, thats exactly the route the Giants should take. Because if Gettleman has proven anything in his track record as a GM, its that hes been able to unearth starting material from later-round linemen.

Giants miss out on Andrew Norwell as he reportedly agrees to deal with Jaguars

The Giants lost the free agent they desired most to a coach they once lost interest in.

Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin swooped in and agreed with All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to a five-year, $66.5 million deal that makes him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.

Norwell immediately upgrades the interior of Jacksonville, which struggled much of last season. The addition of the undrafted 26-year-old will improve Leonard Fournettes outlook for 2018. Norwell should also make life easier for Blake Bortles protecting the QB from pressure up the gut.

Coughlin, who won two Super Bowls in 12 years with the Giants but was fired after four straight non-playoff seasons, has done a great job in the front office of the Jaguars, who were minutes from reaching Super Bowl LII.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that former Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell is expected to sign with the Jaguars, according to sources informed of the deal. The deal is set to count five years and $66.5 million, with $30 million fully guaranteed.

Jaguars to sign Andrew Norwell | What now for Giants?

Well, they could turn internally to one of their own free agents, but dont expect a hometown discount from Justin Pugh, who must feel like an afterthought based on quiet negotiations during the exclusive period. 

NY Giants were in the mix, but All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell will sign a mega contract worth $66.5 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per ESPN

But thats more than former teammate Weston Richburg can say, since the Giants didnt pursue him hard at all and he wound up with the 49ers.

Jaguars Sign Andrew Norwell To 5-Year, $$66.5 Million Deal

Any offensive lineman entering negotiations with the Giants suddenly has some more leverage after seeing Norwell go to the Jaguars. The Giants need at least two new starters in free agency or high in the draft.

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.

Andrew Norwell to sign 5-year, $66.5M deal with Jaguars

Here are some other free agents they should pursue quickly, with dominoes falling ahead of Wednesdays official signing period:

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 theres no personal income tax. 

Pugh was a starter from day one as a first-round draft pick in 2013, but he has missed 13 games over the last two seasons due to injury. Hes been solid and versatile, but he hasnt made a Pro Bowl.

Will the Giants pay more than $10 million a year for Pugh? Or will some other team with more cap space swoop in as the market for guards suddenly skyrockets? Probably the latter.

Jacksonville led the league in rushing attempts (527) and yards (2,262) in 2017 en route to the AFC title game. The Jaguars even had a postseason-high 101 rushing yards, and the second-place Eagles, who obviously played an extra game, only had 89. Norwells signing in Jacksonville signals a further commitment a ground attack that covers up all the passing warts (and losing Allen Robinson in free agency only adds to that, though the Jags will surely address that position in the coming weeks).
New York Giants: O-line options with Norwell, Richburg gone
New York Giants: O-line options with Norwell, Richburg gone

It seems like a general assumption that Solder will return to the Patriots, but it there also were erroneous reports that Norwell and the Giants was a “done deal.” Nothing is done until the deal is in place.

The Patriots have shown a willingness to let free agents test the open market and come back to them for a final bid. Sometimes they stay at the last minute (Devin McCourty) and sometimes they go.

The Giants should take most of the money they were willing to give to Norwell and redirect it to Solder. Tackle is a bigger need than guard anyway.

Report: Andrew Norwell to pass on Colts, sign with Jaguars

If not Solder, than maybe the Giants go with the cheaper option in Fleming, whose career with the Patriots got off to a slow start. The fourth-round pick was cut in 2015 but resigned to the practice squad and promoted to starter when Solder was injured.

Report: Giants interested in tackle Chris Hubbard

He started the final five games of the 2017 regular season and the ensuing three playoff games at right tackle, so he is hitting the market at the right time. Still, he is a cheaper option than Pugh or Solder.

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