Top Free Agent Landing Spots For WR/KR Jamal Agnew

Ordinarily I wouldn’t do a landing spots article for a 29-year-old wideout who hasn’t even cracked 1,000 yards receiving for his career. But Agnew is actually an interesting player to talk about because of how the NFL has revamped the kickoff play. The change is expected to result in over 1,000 more kickoff returns in 2024, and that makes high-level return specialists like Agnew potentially key figures in the upcoming season. 

Jamal Agnew

First a quick recap — changes to the kickoff to reduce injury risk have neutered the play over the past several years and put it at risk of going away entirely. Nearly 80 percent of kickoffs in 2023 were touchbacks.

As a last-ditch effort to save the play, the league’s special teams coordinators borrowed from the XFL to create a kickoff play that incentivized returns while preserving the progress made on the injury rate. ESPN has a full explainer of the rule that’s worth reading, but the summary is:

  • The kicker will stay at the 35-yard line but both lines will move to within five yards of each other, the kicking team on the opposing 40 and the return team on the 35. 
  • The ball must be kicked into the landing zone between the 20 and the goal line, with a touchback bringing the ball out to the 30 instead of the 25. 
  • The return team can have two returners in the landing zone who can move freely. The kicker can’t cross the 50 until the ball hits the ground or is caught. The front line players can’t move until the ball hits the ground in the landing zone or is caught. 

This is expected to dramatically increase the rate of kickoff returns from 20 percent to 50 or 60 percent. As a result, specialists like Agnew should see a significant bump in value because not only will they have an opportunity for more touches, but those touches should have a bigger chance to be impactful. 

Agnew is a skilled return specialist who has four career punt return touchdowns and two career kickoff scores, in addition to an ability to be a gadget player on offense who can contribute as both a receiver and rusher. Urban Meyer may have been a disaster as the head coach of the Jaguars, but his best move by far was the three-year, $21 million deal he gave Agnew as a free agent. It was ridiculed at the time — including by me — but that investment paid off. Agnew made the Pro Bowl in 2022 and scored seven touchdowns as a Jaguar, including a 102-yard kickoff return in 2021. 

Unfortunately a broken leg near the end of the season led the Jaguars not to renew his contract, which could explain why Agnew remains unsigned. Once he’s fully healthy, I would expect him to latch on with a team and quickly become an important contributor under the new kickoff rules. 

Agnew, 29, is a former fifth-round pick of the Lions back in 2017. He played out his four-year, $2.65 million rookie contract and made a base salary of $645,000 in 2020.

Agnew was testing the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time when he signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Jaguars. 

He played out that contract and became an unrestricted free agent again in 2024. 

In 2023, Agnew appeared in 11 games for the Jaguars, compiling 14 catches on 21 targets for 225 yards and a touchdown. He also returned 14 punts for 144 yards and 15 kickoffs for 391 yards. 

We have him included in our Top 100 Available NFL Free Agents list. 


There are a lot of options for Agnew, but I think the Chargers stand head and shoulders above all the other possible landing spots. Agnew is from San Diego and went to college at the University of San Diego before being drafted by the Lions in 2017. There aren’t many Toreros in the NFL, but one of them is current Chargers HC Jim Harbaugh who was the head coach at San Diego for a couple of years in the early 2000s.

Agnew obviously didn’t overlap with Harbaugh but it’s another layer on top of the obvious home-town connection. Current Chargers WR coach Sanjay Lal was also Agnew’s position coach in Jacksonville in 2021. Connections like these are what grease the wheels of a lot of NFL moves as teams put a premium on players they’re familiar with. 

As far as Agnew’s fit on the roster, the Chargers already have a strong starting returner in 2023 fourth-round WR Derius Davis. He was drafted primarily for his return chops and backed it up as a rookie. Davis led the NFL in punt return average with 16 yards per clip and took 24 returns back for 385 yards and a touchdown. However, the new kickoff will likely prompt teams to field two returners in order to ensure the ball is corraled, as there’s likely to be less hang time. There aren’t many other obvious returner candidates on the Chargers’ roster outside of Davis. 

Adding Agnew would give the Chargers two capable returners and also another player who could fortify the back end of their receiver depth chart. Combined with the hometown and coaching staff connections, it almost makes too much sense. 


If you put together a list of all the return options for all 32 teams — which I did as a part of researching this article — Washington stands out with a glaring lack of options for the role. None of their primary kickoff returners from last year are still on the roster and reports out of OTAs have a litany of guys taking reps at the spot, including WRs Jamison Crowder, Dax Milne and Kazmeir Allen, RBs Brian Robinson and Austin Ekeler and CB Emmanuel Forbes. Some other options could include WR Damiere Byrd, RB Chris Rodriguez, RB Jeremy McNichols or WR Olamide Zaccheaus

You know how the saying goes: if you have 12 kickoff returners, you have none. Agnew stands out as an option for Washington to upgrade this part of their roster. There are also some interesting under-the-radar connections to Agnew on staff. Commanders assistant GM Lance Newmark was with the Lions for 26 years, including Agnew’s entire Detroit tenure, and assistant QB coach David Blough played with Agnew for two years. 


A big reason Agnew cashed in on such a big contract in free agency in 2021 with the Jaguars despite being mostly anonymous to most fans and media is the advocacy of Darrell Bevell, who was on the coaching staff in Detroit and joined the Jaguars that offseason on Meyer’s staff. Bevell left after just one season and joined the Dolphins staff, which means Miami has to be mentioned as a potential landing spot for Agnew. 

The Dolphins aren’t short on players who could potentially thrive on the new kickoff play. They have the fastest skill position group in football with WR Tyreek Hill, WR Jaylen Waddle, RB Raheem Mostert, RB De’Von Achane and fourth-round RB Jaylen Wright. Even back-of-the-roster guys like RB Salvon Ahmed and WR Anthony Schwartz can fly. But none of those guys returned kicks for Miami last season — that job fell to WR Braxton Berrios who “only” runs a 4.44 40-yard dash as opposed to the 4.3s and 4.2s put up by seemingly everyone else. 

Perhaps the Dolphins will use kickoffs as another way to feed touches to their speedy skill players, but if they’re looking for another alternative to Berrios or someone to work with him since teams will likely use two returners on kickoffs, Agnew becomes a compelling option due to his track record and history with Bevell. 


Last year the Titans had RB Tyjae Spears handle kickoff returns and that wasn’t a part of his game that he excelled at as a rookie. The new kickoff is a lot different, however, and is more analogous to a running play. New Titans RB Tony Pollard is also an option, as he took 17 kickoffs back for 489 yards (28.8 average) and a touchdown in 2021 with the Cowboys, plus scored seven kickoff return touchdowns in college at Memphis. With the new format, teams might be more willing to use starters on kickoff returns as another chance to impact the game. 

However, if the Titans want to be more careful with their two starting running backs, their other options are somewhat limited. Former first-round WR Treylon Burks, sixth-round WR Jha’Quan Jackson, WR Kyle Phillips, WR Mason Kinsey and CB Eric Garror have all gotten work with returns during OTAs. Jackson returned kickoffs at Tulane and Burks is good with the ball in his hands, but Agnew is much more accomplished as a returner than any of them. 

New Titans HC Brian Callahan was the QB coach for the Lions in Agnew’s rookie season in 2017 when he was named an All-Pro as a return specialist. If the Titans decide they need help on special teams, Agnew would seem to be a likely first call. 


Carolina might be set at kickoff returner already with RB Raheem Blackshear and WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette the two players most likely to reprise their roles from last year. Guys like RB Chuba Hubbard, RB Rashaad Penny and RB Mike Boone all have past experience doing kickoff returns, and first-round WR Xavier Legette is someone who becomes an interesting option under the new kickoff format as another way to get the ball in his hands. 

But if no one in that crowd distinguishes themselves early in training camp, Agnew is an option worth watching. Panthers RB coach Bernie Parmalee was with Agnew the past three years in Jacksonville and QB coach Will Harriger also overlapped with Agnew for a year in 2021. 


The Cowboys are bringing back WR KaVontae Turpin and RB Rico Dowdle who led the team in kickoff returns last year. Turpin was a Pro Bowl returner in 2022 and quickly earned the respect of special teams coordinators around the league who tried to kick away from him in 2023. 

However, if the Cowboys want to add a second returner to make teams pay for kicking away from Turpin, Agnew is someone to pay attention to. He’s a quality return specialist in his own right and there are some connections on the Cowboys’ coaching staff. Cowboys OC Brian Schottenheimer was the passing game coordinator in 2021 in Jacksonville and WR coach Robert Prince held the same role in Detroit for all four years Agnew was there. 


Indianapolis’ primary kickoff returner last year was Isaiah McKenzie and he’s now in New York with the Giants. Colts WR Josh Downs and CB Dallis Flowers had three returns between them, and the team also added fifth-round WR Anthony Gould who earned All-American honors in college at Oregon State as a punt returner. If the team felt like they needed an upgrade, however, they’re familiar with Agnew from watching him in the AFC South for the past three years. Colts OC Jim Bob Cooter also held the same role with the Lions for the first two years of Agnew’s career.

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