There are a dozen new Jacksonville Jaguars after free agency, one of the biggest and busiest spending sprees the Jaguars have ever had -- even if it lacked spending on big-name players.
Each of these free agents will play a major role in Urban Meyer's first year at the helm of the Jaguars, but which ones will make the biggest impact? Who has the clearest path to playing time? Who will Meyer likely rely on the most in 2021?
To answer those questions, we opted to rank each of the Jaguars' 12 free agent additions (we are counting Malcom Brown) in order of potential impact, with a few surprises below.
No. 1: CB Shaquill Griffin
Is it any surprise the most expensive player the Jaguars signed this offseason happens to be their most potentially impactful addition? Receivers had their way with the Jaguars' secondary in 2020, largely because of the rash of injuries and lack of depth the Jaguars had at the position. Griffin was brought in to be an alpha dog and step into the No. 1 cornerback role across from 2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson, and that is exactly how he will be utilized.
Considering Griffin's ball production (three interceptions, 25 pass deflections) and scheme fit in Jacksonville's potentially press-heavy defense, Griffin is entering an ideal situation in Jacksonville. He will play more than any other player on this list and his role will be by far the most crucial to the Jaguars' weekly performance, making him an easy pick to top this list.
No. 2: DT Malcom Brown
This was a tough one to pick. There are a few different candidates for this spot, but we opt to give it to nose tackle Malcom Brown the distinction of being behind only Griffin in terms of potential impact. While two-down nose tackles are normally not looked to as impact players, the entire idea of base vs. nickel is a fallacy. Offenses still line up in heavy formations to pound the ball and bully a defense, especially in the AFC South, so hulking space eaters are still needed in droves in football.
Few defenses were as bad against the run in the last two years as the Jaguars. In 2020, running backs rushed for 2,452 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 23 touchdowns against the Jaguars as the Jaguars failed to put together a formidable interior defensive line. Brown will instantly slot into the Jaguars' starting nose tackle role and give them a top-flight run defender, even if he doesn't make a big impact against the pass.
No. 3: WR Marvin Jones
It was hard not to put Marvin Jones at No. 2, but the need for an impact run defender and the presence of DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault already in the offense have me putting Jones just behind Brown. This isn't to say Jones shouldn't be expected to have a substantial impact, because he is inarguably the most significant addition the Jaguars have made this offseason in terms of surrounding Trevor Lawrence with talent.
In the last two seasons alone, only five receivers have caught more touchdowns than Jones, who recorded 138 catches on 206 targets for 1,757 yards (12.7 yards per catch) and 18 in two seasons in Darrell Bevell's offense. He knows the offensive scheme, can play every receiver spot, is still immensely productive, and has the type of skill set a rookie quarterback can lean on early. He is the Jaguars' biggest current addition to the offense by far.
No. 4: DL Roy Robertson-Harris
If Malcom Brown is the most important addition the Jaguars made to their run defense, Roy Robertson-Harris is the most important addition they made to their pass-rush. The Jaguars got zero impact from their interior defensive linemen in terms of pushing the pocket and disrupting the passing game last season, with their six primary defensive tackles combining for just 2.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
While Robertson-Harris' fit as an every-down player is a bit of a projection since he was mostly a rotational defender in Chicago, his skill set is the only one the Jaguars added that has the potential to make a big impact as a pass-rusher. His blend of size, power, and explosiveness is unmatched on the roster and he should instantly slot in as both a starting 3-4 defensive end and the team's top sub-package interior rusher.
No. 5: S Rayshawn Jenkins
The highest-paid free agent the Jaguars acquired this year who isn't Shaquill Griffin, Rayshawn Jenkins should step into a starting role for the Jaguars at safety from the jump. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of role the Jaguars envision for Jenkins, but he has been most effective in his career when playing in the box. Jenkins will likely play as many snaps as any player on this list, though, so his potential impact will be high regardless of his role.
So, why does Jenkins come in at No. 5 and not earlier? Jenkins has been a starter for the last two seasons, but safeties are not always a lock to make big impacts on defenses unless they are top-tier talents. Jenkins is a solid player, but it is just easier for the four players in front of him to make a bigger impact.
No. 6: TE Chris Manhertz
On one hand, Chris Manhertz has just 12 catches in career games and his value as a pass-catcher is essentially non-existent. On the other hand, he is the Jaguars' top tight end on the depth chart and chances are this won't change unless the Jaguars pick one of the draft's top four tight ends within the top-100 picks.
Manhertz won't make a big impact in the passing offense as a route runner or pass-catcher, but he will likely be frequently used as an extra blocker in max protections. Add in his impact as a run blocker, which will likely be substantial, and Manhertz cracks the top half of this list with ease.
No. 7: PR/KR/WR Jamal Agnew
Jamal Agnew doesn't get put this high on the list because of any potential he has on offense. As of now, the entire value he brings to an offense, especially the Jaguars, is completely hypothetical. He has rare speed but this is just his second season on offense. With that said, he is a lock to be the team's starting return man considering the sizeable contract they gave him in the offseason.
The Jaguars have rotated through numerous return men in recent years. The only one who found any success, Keelan Cole, now plays for the New York Jets. With Urban Meyer placing such an emphasis on special teams, a special teams ace like Agnew is set to play a large role, but anything he does beyond returns is extra.
No. 8: DE/OLB Jihad Ward
Jihad Ward didn't have a giant role in the Ravens' defense last year, playing just 26% of the defensive snaps, but he was an effective sub-package player who Baltimore was able to line up all over the formation. If he was in a position to start along Jacksonville's defensive line, he would be higher on this list, but he instead looks to be a key part of their third-down wave of pass-rushers and as a potential top backup behind Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson at outside linebacker.
Ward will absolutely be a part of the defense -- defensive coordinator Joe Cullen didn't pound the table to add him to his defense not to play him. But his rotational role makes him a bit less impactful than the other players on this list who are set to be featured in starting roles.
No. 9: WR Phillip Dorsett
The Jaguars have a crowded receiver room entering the final phase of the 2021 offseason, so it is hard to envision Phillip Dorsett seeing a ton of snaps other than for designed deep shots that take advantage of his speed. Every receiver on the roster outside of Terry Godwin has been more productive and effective than Dorsett on a per snap basis in their careers, so it is hard to see exactly how Dorsett fits in.
With that said, Dorsett is one of only three burners currently on the Jaguars' offense, and one of those burners (Jamal Agnew) has only hypothetical value to the offense at this point. Urban Meyer has long been obsessed with speed in his offense, so Dorsett likely won't be completely overlooked even if in a limited role.
No. 10: S Rudy Ford
In terms of a potential impact on offense or defense, free agent safety Rudy Ford could truthfully be even lower on this list. But Ford is a top-notch gunner on special teams, collecting double-digit special teams tackles for the Eagles in 2020 despite playing in only eight games. Look at him as a more effective version of Cody Davis -- as long as he stays healthy.
While Ford has the looks of a terrific special teams player, he has played only 125 defensive snaps in his career. This shouldn't be expected to change in Jacksonville due to a safety room that already has Rayshawn Jenkins, Daniel Thomas, and Jarrod Wilson. He is a solid player for his role, but his projected role is just less impactful than others the Jaguars added.
No. 11: RB Carlos Hyde
It shouldn't be considered a lock that James Robinson dominates carries and snaps as intensely as he did in 2020, especially after the comments the Jaguars have made about adding more explosiveness to the running back room. With that said, the addition of Carlos Hyde doesn't indicate Hyde himself will be the one who takes touches away from Robinson.
Hyde is more or less insurance for Robinson, at least considering what the Jaguars have said and what they paid Hyde. Hyde is built similarly and has a similar style of game, so the Jaguars could slot him into the offense in any event Robinson isn't available and ensure they still have a power running game. With that said, this is the only scenario we can see Hyde making a big impact.
No. 12: QB C.J. Beathard
There is no questioning who comes last on this list in terms of potential impact. If C.J. Beathard sees meaningful snaps in 2021, then something went horribly wrong for the Jaguars and the season had likely already been lost. That isn't a knock on Beathard, but the simple reality that the Jaguars are a team set to find a potential franchise quarterback in four weeks, while Beathard was added to be nothing more than a backup.
With the Jaguars guaranteed to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall, the Jaguars have their starter for 2021 -- and for the next plus-decade, they hope.