The Jacksonville Jaguars acquired offensive guard Ezra Cleveland from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2024 sixth-round pick on Tuesday. We covered the news here and asked how you would grade the trade here.
I would give the Jaguars a B+ for their second deadline deal in two years. “A” grades are reserved for more impactful trades in my book, and this is a Day 3 pick for a player with an expiring contract. My grade could turn into an A+++ in hindsight if Cleveland starts for Jacksonville past this season, but nevertheless, snagging a ”starter-type guard” for a pick originally acquired via Laviska Shenault Jr. is a good process. There’s no doubt that Cleveland makes the team better, and helping out Trevor Lawrence is never a bad idea.
Here’s what 10 national media outlets had to say.
From Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report: A
The Jacksonville Jaguars reinforced their offensive line with a young guard who can upgrade their interior pass protection and run blocking ... If Cleveland starts and plays well in Jacksonville, the team could offer him an extension before he hits free agency in 2024. The Jaguars potentially acquired a long-term piece for their offensive line, which would benefit franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Brent Sobleski noted in a different piece for Bleacher Report: “Any time a team improves its offensive line, its quarterback benefits ... Lawrence has been sacked 19 times, which is tied for the ninth-most in the league.”
From Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports: A-
Cleveland was arguably the top guard on the “trade market,” and he aids Jacksonville’s goal of keeping Trevor Lawrence upright. The former second-round pick has played both left and right guard, and figures to fit in on the interior down south as well. However, some believe Cleveland could be a tackle, which is a decision Jacksonville will have to make in the future. Either way, the Jaguars land a legitimate starter on the offensive line that possesses versatility for at least this season.
From Seth Walder of ESPN: A-
Offensive line has been a critical weakness for the Jaguars. The team’s 45% pass block win rate is third worst in the NFL ... One particular weak point has been the left guard spot, where Tyler Shatley’s 82% pass block win rate ranks 63rd out of 65 qualifiers. He would rank in the bottom 15 in run block win rate if he qualified, too. Ben Bartch, who started at left guard before Shatley took over, was only slightly better in each category. Enter Cleveland, an apparent rental who looks like he will be an upgrade. In Minnesota this season, Cleveland’s 92% pass block win rate ranked 31st out of 65 guards, and his run block win rate ranked 18th. For Jacksonville, this move makes sense. This team is trying to contend right now, has a clear shot at the AFC South and can fill in a weakness for relatively cheap.
Dan Graziano noted in a different piece for ESPN, “I low-key love the Ezra Cleveland move for Jacksonville, which addresses maybe its one weakness.”
From Kevin Patra of NFL.com: B
The Jags sought to bolster the interior offensive line, a spot of weakness through eight weeks. They did so by swiping Cleveland from Minnesota for a Day 3 pick. When healthy, Cleveland is a plus run blocker, and he’s improved his pass protection this season, allowing just one sack and three QB hits in six games, per PFF. His ability to play both left and right guard could come in handy, and he played tackle in college ... No club can have enough capable offensive linemen, but that’s particularly true of those with designs on competing deep into January. Given the low cost, it was a no-brainer for Jacksonville.
Judy Battista noted in a different piece for NFL.com, “The Vikings traded Ezra Cleveland, one of the best young guards in the league, to Jacksonville for just a sixth-round pick. That’s a great pickup for the Jaguars, whose top priority has to be the protection of Trevor Lawrence.”
From Brad Spielberger of PFF: “Good”
Many expected the Jaguars to add pass-rush help, but this is a sharp move in the meantime ... Cleveland is earning a career-high 72.3 pass-blocking grade so far in 2023 but has yet to hit a 55.0 mark for a full season, which is the reason this trade compensation is so little despite his solid grading profile this year. Cleveland has four straight seasons of earning run-blocking grades of 67.5 or better and over 3,000 snaps of experience on his rookie contract. The former second-round pick is a great depth piece for Jacksonville going forward.
From Adam Beasley of Pro Football Network: A-
Ezra Cleveland may not be a household name, but he’s been a solid guard over four seasons in the NFL ... The Jaguars only gave up a sixth-round pick to get Cleveland. That’s a more-than-fair price, especially if Cleveland plays significant snaps.
From Mark Schofield of SB Nation: B
For the Jaguars, this is all about protecting Trevor Lawrence. Both Walker Little and Brandon Scherff have dealt with injuries, so if nothing else Jacksonville adds depth along the offensive line. Cleveland also has played tackle, most notably in college, so he could be used there, although it is more likely that Little would kick outside if needed. Getting their best five options in front of Lawrence from week-to-week — or even drive-to-drive — is paramount and this gives the Jaguars another option.
From Jacob Camenker of Sporting News: A
The Jaguars have one standout guard on the roster in former All-Pro Brandon Scherff. Now, they are adding another on the left side in Cleveland to help protect Trevor Lawrence ... He figures to be a long-term starter for the Jaguars who should fortify the line alongside Luke Fortner and Scherff.
From Dan Wilkins of The Score: A
The Jaguars had to get better up front if the passing game was going to reach its full potential, and they did exactly that with this deal. Cleveland should slide in at left guard before long, allowing Walker Little to operate as a swing tackle behind starters Cam Robinson and Anton Harrison. This may be a rental, with Cleveland heading for free agency at season’s end, but a sixth-round pick is a small price to pay for a quality starter on the offensive line.
From Walter Cherepinsky of Walter Football: A+
The Jaguars were able to obtain a much-needed offensive line boost for pennies on the dollar. Ezra Cleveland is a talented blocker. He excels in both pass protection and run blocking. He’s also just 25, so there’s a lot of room for growth. Getting him for just a sixth-round pick to boost Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne’s blocking was a major steal. The Jaguars won this trade by a mile.
Here’s how the Vikings were graded:
- Bleacher Report: C-
- CBS Sports: C
- ESPN: B
- NFL.com: C
- PFF: “Below average” (D)
- Pro Football Network: C+
- SB Nation: B-
- Sporting News: C
- The Score: C-
- Walter Football: D
GPA: 1.94 (C-)
And a recap of the Jaguars’ grades:
- Bleacher Report: A
- CBS Sports: A-
- ESPN: A-
- NFL.com: B
- PFF: “Good” (B)
- Pro Football Network: A-
- SB Nation: B
- Sporting News: A
- The Score: A
- Walter Football: A+
GPA: 3.64 (B+)
Jaguars fans -- whether in the comments below, or this week’s survey, let us know what grade you would assign for the Ezra Cleveland deal!