Yep, you read that headline correctly. The Jaguars should not release Andrew Norwell this offseason. There are several key reasons why the Jaguars should hold onto their starting left guard for at least one more season. Norwell was signed with Jacksonville before the 2018 season to a market setting deal, paying him an average of $13.3 million per season. While he hasn't lived up to his hefty price tag, Norwell shouldn't be on the move anytime soon.
The first is the issue of money. Andrew Norwell's cap hit in 2020 is $14.5 million, but by releasing him, the Jaguars would save only $5.5 million against the cap and would still be on the hook for $9 million. Releasing a starter at any position, only to pay him well over half his yearly salary isn't good business. And with the $5.5 million the team would save by releasing Norwell, they wouldn't likely be able to find a suitable replacement in free agency.
Then there's this: Andrew Norwell isn't nearly as bad as you think. During his first year with the Jaguars, Norwell missed five games. But before he hit the IR, Norwell was the 13th best pass-blocking guard in football, according to PFF. In 2019, he dropped down to the 25th ranked guard in pass protection. Fans generally remember the negative plays from offensive lineman, and in Norwell's case, the bad ones have been glaring. But upon further film review, Norwell is usually in the right place at the right time. No, he's not living up to his contract, but he's been an average to above-average starting guard in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars could certainly go the route of drafting a rookie guard, but is a team that needs to win in 2020 ready to say goodbye to a quality starting guard and risk inserting a rookie into the lineup? I'd be all for overhauling the roster in 2020 and going for a complete rebuild. But that would ultimately lead to the firing of Doug Marrone and Dave Caldwell. So, forgive me, but I just can't wrap my head around two men on the hottest of seats letting Andrew Norwell go this offseason.
After 2020? Sure, I could see it. If Norwell doesn't improve upon his level of play from 2019, the Jaguars could release Norwell following the 2020 season. They'd save $9 million against the cap and only be on the hook for $6 million. If he does show some improvement, they could keep him around for one last ride in 2021. Releasing him after the 2021 campaign would save the team $13 million in cap space, and at that point, it'd be hard to make a rational argument for keeping him around.
I understand why fans want to ditch Andrew Norwell so badly. He's the third highest-paid guard in football, but he's much closer to an average guard than he is to a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Still, cutting bait with him this offseason would be a poor decision from both a football and business perspective.
For those that want to compare the Norwell situation to that of AJ Bouye, it's entirely different. The Jaguars were able to acquire draft capital in return for their veteran cornerback AND save a boatload of 2020 cap space. No team is going to trade a mid-round pick for Norwell right now at his price tag; it's just not going to happen.
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