Jaguars hope to never have to spend big again in free agency
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars hope to never need to spend like this again in free agency.
Jacksonville committed $260 million, including more than $155 million guaranteed, to add seven free agents who could help reshape a floundering franchise that’s lost 35 of its last 41 games.
“We’re trying to fix this thing long term, have a vision for the future as we build this thing out, and right now it’s a combination of free agency and the draft,” general manager Trent Baalke said Wednesday at the start of the new league year.
“We hope to get this organization to the point where we’re not relying on free agency as much,” he added. “We’re relying on our drafts and giving second contracts to those guys.”
The Jaguars have the top pick in the draft for the second straight year and are expected to choose between Alabama left tackle Evan Neal and Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson. They have 12 picks total, a chance for Baalke and new coach Doug Pederson to put their stamp on the franchise.
There’s no guarantee Jacksonville will take the right guys. The team’s lack of long-term success in the draft — only nine of 59 picks during owner Shad Khan’s first eight seasons have received second deals with the team — has forced the Jags to turn to free agency to continually rebuild. And given their losing ways in which they have double-digits losses in 10 of the last 11 seasons, they tend to have to overpay to get guys to the Sunshine State.
The Jags certainly looked like they did that to some degree in free agency. They officially agreed to terms Wednesday with:
— Arizona receiver Christian Kirk (4 years, $72 million, with $37 million guaranteed).
— Washington guard Brandon Scherff (3 years, $49.5 million with $30 million guaranteed).
— Atlanta linebacker Foyesade Oluokun (3 years, $45 million, with $28 million guaranteed).
— New York Jets defensive tackle Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi (3 years, $30 million, with $20 million guaranteed).
— Los Angeles Rams cornerback Darious Williams (3 years, $30 million, with $18 million guaranteed).
— Las Vegas receiver Zay Jones (3 years, $24 million, with $14 million guaranteed).
— New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (1 year, $9 million, with $8.25 million guaranteed).
It’s the most money the team has ever spent in free agency.
Jacksonville also re-signed backup offensive guard/tackle Will Richardson on Wednesday. He’s the fourth lineman to be added or kept this month. The Jaguars tagged left tackle Cam Robinson, guaranteeing him $16.7 million in 2022, brought back center Tyler Shatley on a two-year deal, and agreed to terms with Scherff.
Those O-line additions are part of the team’s primary goal of improving Trevor Lawrence’s supporting cast in hopes of helping him reach his potential as a franchise quarterback. Baalke and Peterson gave Lawrence three new pass catchesr in Kirk, Jones and Engram.
“On paper and what you see on film, you hope for that,” Pederson said.
Baalke brushed aside concerns about the perception they overpaid for Kirk, a slot receiver with the Cardinals who got No. 1 wideout money and then some with the Jags.
“If he comes in and he plays to the level that the contract is and he meets the incentives, which I hope he does,” Baalke said. “If he does, nobody here, nobody in the stands, nobody in the national media is going to care about what he was paid because he’s earned every penny. The only time it’s gonna matter is if he doesn’t play well, and we’re not worried about that.”
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