Andrew Norwell picked the right time to show he is one of the most dominant offensive linemen in the NFL. His All-Pro season with the Carolina Panthers coincided with a contract year, and the Jacksonville Jaguars made Norwell the highest-paid offensive guard in the NFL during free agency.
Even at such a high price, it looks to be money well spent for the Jags – Norwell was the No. 1-rated left guard in the NFL last season, according to STATS’ metrics.
In a series of short articles, which started with a look at Albert Wilson, STATS will highlight some free agent signings that didn’t blow the top off the industry — ones that are a tad under-the-radar involving underrated players that have performed well in STATS-unique metrics.
Norwell doesn’t exactly fit that description having been named First-Team All-Pro in 2017, even though the skill positions often receive more attention than the big bodies blocking for them. A majority of teams this offseason would have loved to have Norwell come on board. That wasn’t the case when Norwell came out of Ohio State after the 2014 season, though, as he went undrafted and signed with the Panthers as a free agent. For that reason, we’ll classify him as an honorary under-the-radar player.
Besides, his numbers this season were too good not to highlight. Not only did Norwell not give up a single sack in 2017, he allowed only 12 pressures in 349 pass protection opportunities. His pressure percentage of 3.4 was nearly twice as low as the pressure expected for his position (6.5 percent).
He did all that with incredible durability as well, not missing a single offensive snap the entire year.
It wasn’t just his pass protection that got him paid, however. Norwell was also the No. 2 STATS-rated left guard in terms of run blocking in 2017. Now, Norwell will join a Jacksonville offensive line that touts three other top-15 run blocking linemen – No. 14 center Brandon Linder, No. 13 right guard A.J. Cann, and No. 5 right tackle Jermey Parnell. That bodes well for Jacksonville, which is one of the few teams in the NFL that runs the ball as much as it throws.
Signing Norwell made a team that played in the AFC Championship a year ago even better. That should sound alarms in the facilities of every other team not just in the AFC, but across the entire NFL.