It wasn’t a sexy signing. Offensive linemen in free agency never are. But, when the Jaguars landed Panthers offensive guard Andrew Norwell to kickoff free agency two weeks ago, it sent a couple of messages.
One, they understand that who’s blocking upfront, in particular for RB Leonard Fournette and the run game, matters. And two, they weren’t gong to be denied by price.
Giving Norwell $15 million to sign and guaranteeing his first two years at $30 million total is definitely not messing around in free agency. Rather, it’s sending a clear message: we will pay top dollar, and then some, to win the line scrimmage.
Coach Doug Marrone said as much at the NFL Owners meetings Monday in Orlando telling Jaguars.com:
“He earned everything and earned this contract,” Marrone said. “He still is a young player who can get better, and he can help people around him get better, and we feel like our people around him can help him get better – going against our defensive line, and things of that nature.
“We were fortunate to get him and he felt very comfortable with us.”
Indeed, Norwell won’t turn 27 until the middle of the 2018 season, and would appear to have easily five or more good, if not great years left in him. However, the Jaguars were savy enough to put an “out” in the five year deal for the team two years from now.
It’s unlikely that they would have to go to it, but if Jacksonville wanted to move on from Norwell, It would still be a more tolerable $9 million in dead cap money for 2020. And, you could live with that, too.
What the Jags and their fans are hoping to “live with” is a guard who repeats his 2017 All Pro season with the Panthers blocking for Cam Newton and Co.
Now, he’s part of a line not only opening holes for the backs, but protecting newly re-signed QB Blake Bortles, also.
As for Marrone, a former lineman himself, he knows what Norwell potentially means in the trenches, etc. And that’s why he’s still smiling two months after a surprising season got all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
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