The Saints released three-time pro bowl guard Larry Warford on Friday. Even though he's playing at an extremely high level, the Saints decided to move in a different direction. They got younger along the interior of the line in this year's draft, Warford carried a $12.8 million cap hit in 2020, and his pass protection regressed just a bit in 2019 primarily because more athletic rushers are coming from the interior more often. Regardless, he was still a pro bowler this past year and is currently only 28 years old. The Jaguars have not had a pro bowler on the offensive line since Tony Boselli in 2000. With Warford reportedly only asking for roughly $7 million in free agency, should the Jags take a chance on the guard?
Why shouldn't they? The only reason the Jags have for not taking a look at the guard is their own incompetence in the front office. The last two lineman they have broken the bank for in free agency haven't fared well in Jacksonville. Zane Beadles didn't last long in Duval, and signing First-Team All-Pro Andrew Norwell has yet to pay off. Norwell was added to a team that was coming off an AFC Championship appearance in 2017, only to watch that same team crash and burn the following year. But Warford isn't looking for big money. He isn't leaving as an unrestricted free agent who is pressing the market to be the highest-paid lineman in the league. No, he was cut. He is going to have a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove.
Inserting Warford into the lineup at right guard immediately upgrades the offensive side of the ball. While the tape shows that Warford may have struggled a little bit in pass protection late this past season, it still shows he is elite at the point of attack in the run game and much better than anyone the Jaguars have trotted out onto the field at right guard in recent years. I expect Jay Gruden to hand the rock to Fournette a TON this year as well, so it makes sense to add a premiere run-blocking guard to complement Norwell on the opposite side. Adding Warford also provides edge and competition, another factor that we haven't seen on the offensive line in some time. The team has not had great depth along the line in the past. Who has pressed the starting five to be better in the past? Tyler Shatley? Josh Wells? K.C. McDermott? Just look at what happened when Cam Robinson went down in Week 2 of 2018. The addition can push rookie Ben Bartch and help him progress as well. Lastly, this team is young, and this locker room just lost arguably its two most influential veteran leaders in Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye. Warford adds another veteran presence on the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars can undoubtedly move some money around to afford his $7 million price tag. If the front office and coaching staff is truly trying to establish a winning culture, this should be a no brainer.
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