The overhauling of one of the NFL’s shakiest offensive lines continued Tuesday with the announcement that the Jacksonville Jaguars had released Uche Nwaneri, who started all 16 games for them last season at right guard.
The move comes a week before teams can begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents. The Jaguars already had an estimated $50 million in available cap space, and Nwaneri’s release will add around another $3.7 million to that figure.
Nwaneri, who turns 30 later this month, and center Brad Meester were the only constants on a line which lost its two starting opening day tackles before Week 6 and went through several starters at left guard. The Jaguars ranked next-to-last in both yards per rushing attempt (3.3) and pass protection (50 sacks allowed).
Meester retired at the end of the season after 14 years with the Jaguars, and multiple reports have suggested they will actively pursue Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack beginning next week. The departure of Nwaneri increases the likelihood of general manager Dave Caldwell going after Geoff Schwartz or Jon Asamoah, both of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Browns designated Mack on Monday as their transition player, meaning if the Jaguars should sign the Pro Bowl center, Cleveland will have five days to match the offer.
Nwaneri was a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Purdue and the last player from that draft still with the Jaguars in 2013. He started in 92 of 104 games for them, making the shift from left guard to right guard after the 2008 season, and was projected to make $5.9 million next season. The Jaguars will take a $2.2 million cap hit with his release.
The move also means that defensive end Tyson Alualu is the only member of the Jaguars remaining to be drafted within a four-year stretch from 2007 to 2010.