How Dylan Moses Became a Jaguar; What’s Next For The Undrafted LB
As Alabama Crimson Tide and NFL Draft fans know all too well, linebacker Dylan Moses went undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent.
While Moses is certainly no stranger to national attention, after all he was heavily recruited while in middle school and featured on ESPN The Magazine at 15 years old, his national trend on Twitter during the third and final day of the NFL Draft was born of sympathy. A 5-star linebacker out of IMG Academy by way of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Moses quickly made an impact on the Crimson Tide offense, becoming a full time starter in 2018 as a sophomore but was unable to translate that recognition into becoming another Nick Saban coached draft pick last weekend.
His efficient 2018 campaign led to him getting involved in first round discussions for the 2020 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, a season-ending ACL tear in training camp derailed the certainty of being called on day one and, after some controversy and tough decision making, Moses returned for his senior year in 2020. He led an explosive Crimson Tide defense in the season opener against Missouri, but early in the season Moses tore his meniscus, adding another worrisome knee injury to his draft profile. Moses played on through the injury, though the injury itself wasn't revealed until a press conference before Alabama's first pro day.
While Moses's stock took a serious hit, no one expected him to go undrafted, even if a handful of teams insinuated he was removed from their boards.
Though unconfirmed in Moses's case, it's likely that sometime during the seventh round Moses was contacted about signing as an undrafted free agent. Considering he once was viewed as a first round prospect, it would come as no surprise that many teams would contact the linebacker about such an opportunity. During these types of situations, players often choose to go undrafted in order to choose where they will play, as factors such as playing time, coaches and schemes and even state taxes can play to any one player's advantage.
Regardless, Moses signed with the Jaguars Saturday for a mere $70,000, $50,000 of which is base salary. Luckily, Moses was able to take out a $12 million "loss of value" insurance policy, an issue that played a major role in his return to Tuscaloosa.
Still, Moses will start his career on the NFL's non-football injury (NFI) list, which is a designation for an injured player who sustained said injury away from the franchise that employs him. The NFI list protects the Jaguars against the $70,000 contract he's owed if he isn't able to play in 2021. That may be a moot point, however, as Moses is fully expected to be healthy for training camp.
That's a drastic turn from where Moses felt mentally and physically in January, when he revealed he nearly left football altogether in an Instagram post that has since been deleted:
“From not knowing whether or not we’d have a season, fighting through pain every single game due to not being fully recovered from the knee injury I went through last year, to losing my grandmother to COVID-19... All of this has only made me stronger and I’m happy I was able to be there day in and day out with my teammates no matter what I was going through. Truth be told they were the only motivation aside from my family that helped me keep going. It’s been times I wanted to quit and times I wanted to walk away from my dreams.
“And if you know me, you know it takes a lot for me to give up on something I truly want. God has tested my Faith on numerous occasions, but I kept moving forward. He’s showed me strengths in myself that I didn’t even know was there until this past year. Ultimately, I’m saying all this to say no matter what you’re going through, continue to push forward. It’s not over, you’re stronger than you think. Everything you’re going through is preparing you for what’s to come and to help build you into who you’re meant to be. Life is like a dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place. Don’t give up.”
Truly, he never gave up, because regardless of the journey, Dylan Moses is a Jacksonville Jaguar.
Moses joins a Joe Cullen coached defense in Jacksonville under new head coach Urban Meyer. It isn't clear what type of scheme Cullen will bring to Jacksonville, though the past five years he's coached the defensive line of the Baltimore Ravens, which traditionally run a 3-4 scheme similar to Nick Saban's Alabama defense. On the other hand, the Jaguars have run a 4-3 scheme for quite some time and its best players fit that scheme very well. It's been suggested the team may switch between schemes in certain situations.
Though the squad isn't without its own questions coming off a 1-15 season, the linebacking corp in Duval is one of the strengths of the team, led by veteran starters Joe Schobert at middle linebacker and Myles Jack at weak outside linebacker, both roles Moses would fit best. The backups at both positions are Shaquille Quarterman, a 2020 4th-round pick, and Quincy Williams, a 2019 3rd-round pick and brother of Alabama alumni Quinnen Williams.
Once healthy, there should be ample opportunity for Moses to carve out a role on the defense as a reserve or rotational linebacker. Cracking the starting lineup may be a difficult road, however, as Jack and Schobert are two of the four highest paid players on the Jaguars roster. Jack is under contract until 2025 and Schobert until 2024.
More in favor of Moses's situation however, is the Jaguars history of finding productive undrafted rookies. Just last year, the Jaguars' leading rusher was James Robinson, who had for over 1,400 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns as an undrafted free agent rookie. In the past, the team has signed the likes of Tashaun Gipson, AJ Bouye, Malik Jackson, Paul Posluszny, Keenan McCardell, Calias Campbell, and arguably its greatest player in franchise history, wide receiver Jimmy Smith, as undrafted free agents.
Even under new leadership in Urban Meyer, the Jaguars are in a position to likely add another star name to the list in Moses.