Jaguars to sign Andrew Norwell | What now for Giants?

Jaguars to sign Andrew Norwell | What now for Giants?
Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing
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.

Video: Losing out on Andrew Norwell significantly impacts Giants offseason

Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing

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.

“Yeah, we didn’t start off real well as an O-line with coach Meyer,” Barton recalled. “It was kind of motivation for us, because he didn’t think much of our unit. But we worked hard to change his perception, and, really, that set the tone for the next three years headed toward the 2014 national championship.”

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:

Coming out of Ohio State as an undrafted free agent, he slowly earned his stripes and became a pivotal player on Carolinas offensive line. Norwell hasnt missed a game since the 2015 season, and was voted to the Pro Bowl for his dominant effort in 2017. His breakout season came at the perfect time, and gave him a lot of leverage heading into free agency.

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:

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.
Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing
Jaguars Fully Committing to Run Game With Andrew Norwell Signing

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?

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.

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 …

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.

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?

What Andrew Norwell signing with the Jaguars means for the OL free agent market

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.

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.

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.

SI-share-whatsapp Created with Sketch. Al Bello/Getty Images Sport Quickly Jacksonville rode their run game to the AFC title game last season, and signing Andrew Norwell will only reinforce its strength. By Jonathan Jones March 13, 2018 On Monday afternoon one NFL GM thought that there were two teams still in the Andrew Norwell sweepstakes: the 49ers and Giants. It was known that the Panthers couldnt retain Norwell, and many assumed Norwell was bound for New York to reunite with Dave Gettleman, the former Panthers GM who signed him in free agency after he went undrafted in 2014.

But the Jaguars turned up as the surprise suitors for Norwell, signing the consistent left guard to a five-year deal worth up to $66.5 million, according to reports. The deal includes $30 million in fully guaranteed money.

Norwell immediately solidifies the left side of the Jacksonville line that already had Cam Robinson at left tackle. Now Blake Bortles blindside will be well protected but, far more importantly for these Jags, theyll run the ball even more in 2018 and beyond.

WATCH: Losing out on Andrew Norwell puts Quenton Nelson in Giants crosshairs
WATCH: Losing out on Andrew Norwell puts Quenton Nelson in Giants crosshairs

Giants will not re-sign all of their exclusive rights free agents

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).

Was left guard the most pressing need in Jacksonville? Of course not, and certainly not when considering agent Drew Rosenhaus negotiated the highest average-per-year salary of any offensive lineman for Norwell. But the Jaguars are committed to rushing the ball back to the AFC title game, and Norwell is a huge part of that formula.

Posted in World