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Report: Jaguars Add Former Joe Cullen DL With Jihad Ward

The Jacksonville Jaguars are reportedly adding defensive end Jihad Ward. He played last season for the Baltimore Ravens and under current Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen. His signing indicates a shift in scheme.

The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to shift their defensive scheme, now by reportedly adding defensive end Jihad Ward in free agency. 

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Ward will be signing with the Jaguars once free agency opens tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Ward will be reunited with Joe Cullen, the Jaguars defensive coordinator who served as Ward’s position coach last season with the Baltimore Ravens last season. 

This will be Ward’s fifth team since being drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Illinois alum has also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and a season and a half with the Ravens.

As a rookie, Ward started 13 games while playing in all 16 for the Raiders, and finished with 28 tackles—his best career mark in that category. Injuries and time buried on the practice squad made Ward ineffective the next three seasons. Then under Cullen and the Ravens in 2020, Ward had his best season yet as a pass rusher as he finished with three sacks and two passes defended.

Head Coach Urban Meyer said last Tuesday that the D-line is the hub around which the entire team will be built.

“I always believe you build your team around the defensive line and you move backwards, so that’s what we’re going to do. Our defensive line, we feel good about it, a few of our players are pretty good.”

As the coaching staff shapes what the Jaguars will look like in 2021, indications are the scheme will shift to a more 3-4/4-3 system. The front office has been drafting and signing players for this look the past couple of years, but the past coaching staff stayed with what they termed a “50-under front.” Ward’s past production lends itself to a rotational, depth player and not a starter, but his experience also lies more in the 3-4/4-3 scheme, which he played under Cullen and the Ravens.

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Ward, seen here sacking Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, indicates a shift in scheme for the Jaguars. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ward, seen here sacking Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, indicates a shift in scheme for the Jaguars. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After being hired in February, Cullen said of the Jaguars scheme changes, “we are still evaluating our current roster and I’ve been [in the NFL] for 14 years – eight years we were a 4-3 scheme and six years, we were a 3-4 scheme when we were multiple. It is all tailored to the personnel that you have and in both schemes, you have the flexibility to do both.

“I have coached 14 years in the NFL. I had an opportunity to be in a 4-3 scheme and also the opportunity to be in the 3-4 scheme. The versatility that can go with both schemes and the way they did things from [Former Ravens General Manager] Ozzie Newsome to [Current Ravens General Manager] Eric DeCosta and Coach [John] Harbaugh and learning under [Ravens Defensive Coordinator] Wink Martindale was valuable. It was just great knowledge I gained in my five years.”

Within that scheme, Cullen spoke highly of Jihad Ward. Two weeks after the Ravens signed the defensive lineman, Cullen shifted him outside as an end and had this compliment to give.

“You look at Jihad Ward who two weeks ago was playing nose tackle for the Indianapolis, he’s a guy we liked coming out, our General Manager, Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] and Coach Harbs [Jim Harbaugh] way back in ’17 when he came out. We liked him then and we like, we got him off the waiver wire and signed him and he’s been a great addition, we’ve got him at the defensive end spot and then moving inside in sub situations and he’s done a great job there.”

So far, during the legal tampering period, the club has re-signed defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot, corner Sidney Jones IV and offensive lineman Tyler Shatley while adding defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris. 

The Jaguars also reportedly reached a three-year agreement with former Detroit Lions returner/wide receiver Jamal Agnew, as well as a two-year deal with safety and gunner Rudy Ford. 

Then Wednesday evening—in addition to Jenkins—the club reportedly signed wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Carlos Hyde. 

Teams can negotiate with restricted and unrestricted free agents until 3:59 pm Eastern on Wednesday, at which point free agency will officially be open.