Would It Make Any Sense for the Jaguars To Not Retain Andrew Norwell?

With one report of Andrew Norwell's place on the Jaguars' roster potentially being in question, we take a look at the case for and against retaining the veteran guard.
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One year after Andrew Norwell turned in his best season in three years with the Jaguars, is there a chance the team could pull a surprise move and reshuffle its left side? 

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has already gone record saying he doesn't think Jacksonville needs to overhaul its offensive line in his first year, but the team's newest regime has just a few weeks left before they have to make their first major personnel decisions. 

Could one of those decisions potentially lead the Jaguars to not retain Norwell, who is under contract for two more seasons, for 2021? It is hard to envision it based on the situation the Jaguars are entering next season, but there has been at least one report from CBS' Sports suggesting it as a possibility.

This isn't to say that one report makes it any more likely that Norwell isn't with the Jaguars in 2021, but it does give us a chance to examine if the Jaguars are truly better off with or without the former All-Pro entering Meyer's NFL debut. 

So, would it make any sense for the Jaguars to not retain Norwell for a fourth season in Jacksonville? We take a look at each side of the argument here. 

The Case To Retain Andrew Norwell

The biggest reason to retain Andrew Norwell entering 2021 likely doesn't sound like a winning strategy at first, which may be why the question is being asked to begin with. 

Ultimately though, the best argument for Jacksonville to bring Norwell back in 2021 centers around the theory that the Jaguars aren't in any position to create even more holes on an already limited roster. Norwell wasn't dominant in 2020, or either of his previous two seasons, but he did at least play solid football and didn't look like a liability throughout the course of the season.

According to Pro Football Focus, last year was Norwell's best season as a pass blocker in Jacksonville. He No. 25 among guards in that area in 2019, but went all the way up to No. 8 in 2020. Sports Info Solutions had Norwell down for two penalties and 12 blown blocks in 13 games, finishing with better efficiency rates than the year before.

Norwell isn't among the NFL's top guards like the Jaguars were hoping he would be when they signed him to a five-year, $66.5 million deal in 2018, but he is serviceable and is trending upward. In fact, one could make an argument that he would be unlikely to last very long on the open market because starting-caliber guards are hard to come by.

Then there is the factor that the Jaguars aren't exactly a team that should be opening up holes on the left side of its offensive line unless they have a guaranteed plan to find replacements. Left tackle Cam Robinson is already set to be a free agent on March 17, so releasing or trading Norwell would mean the Jaguars would have to replace two players who combined for 72 starts over the last two seasons, all while starting a rookie quarterback. 

Jacksonville could just as easily get out of Norwell's contract in 2022 when things are more stabilized around their eventual No. 1 pick as well. Doing so now just seems unnecessary unless the Jaguars are confident in landing his replacement. Jacksonville doesn't need the cap relief today; they already lead the NFL in available cap space. 

Perhaps there is an argument the Jaguars feel as if Norwell doesn't fit their new offensive direction, but they did retain offensive line coach George Warhop. Doing so suggests they will likely be looking for the same traits in offensive linemen. 

The Case To Trade/Release Andrew Norwell

If the Jaguars were to trade or release Andrew Norwell, they would create even more cap flexibility for what is already arguably the NFL's best cap situation. Norwell already has the highest cap hit on the roster for 2021 so by all intents and purposes, he is the biggest current financial domino on the team. 

Below is a look at how much the Jaguars would save by moving Norwell off the roster with either pre or post-June 1st designations, per Spotrac.com. According to Spotrac's roster manager tool, trading or releasing Norwell would give the Jaguars $97,578,001 in cap space.

Pre June 1 Release Pre June 1 Trade Post June 1 ReleasePost June 1 Trade

2021 Dead Cap: $6,000,000

2021 Dead Cap: $6,000,000

2021 Dead Cap: $3,000,000

2022 Dead Cap: $3,000,000

2021 Cap Savings: $9,000,000

2021 Cap Savings: $9,000,000

2022 Dead Cap: $3,000,000

2022 Dead Cap: $3,000,000

2021 Cap Savings: $12,000,000

2021 Cap Savings: $12,000,000

Essentially, cutting ties with Norwell would bolster what is already a strong cap space situation entering an offseason where the Jaguars could benefit from a stricter cap. As other teams are forced to move on from expensive veterans, the Jaguars could manage to pick up a number of quality veterans, and moving on from Norwell would only make this easier.

This is also set to be a strong free agency guard market. Perhaps if the Jaguars felt good about their chances to land any of Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney, or Gabe Jackson, each of whom would likely serve as a decent upgrade over Norwell, the move would make more sense.

Norwell would be the top guard on the market after that trio, however, so it stands to reason those are the only three veterans who immediately come to mind as replacements. Jacksonville could have 2020 fourth-round pick Ben Bartch as an in-house replacement, but that seems like a risky move with a rookie quarterback entering the picture.

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has repeatedly said he wants the best of the best, and it certainly doesn't seem like the Jaguars will give anyone a pass just because they are a significant holdover from the last regime or aren't necessarily gaping gaps on the roster. If Meyer and the Jaguars think they can upgrade over Norwell, they should do it -- even if he is coming off a solid season. 

Conclusion

In short, there are more reasons for the Jaguars to retain Norwell than there are for them to trade or release him. With that said, the Jaguars should be expected to turn every stone this offseason, and a player like Norwell hasn't earned any kind of roster spot guarantees or protections.

Norwell had a good year in 2020 and is far from the biggest question mark on Jacksonville's offensive line. If the Jaguars aren't confident in landing one of the top guards on the market, they should run it back with him for at least one more year. 

But if they can find that potential upgrade, it is a move they somewhat have to make. Having two new starters on the left side may not be ideal but it could still stand to be an improvement.