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O-Zone: Ah, youth

INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it... James from Section 236 and Fleming Island, FL:
General managers recently put the player interviews second to only the medical exams as the most important part of the combine. Who does the interviews, David Caldwell or Gus Bradley? Do they grade the interviews on some sort of scale?
John: Caldwell and Bradley are in the interviews, as are appropriate position coaches and coordinators. Caldwell said this week the Jaguars take interviews seriously, catering questions to specific prospects. In other words, there would be some prospects the Jaguars question about character while some would be asked more about football-related matters, etc. There's no real "grade" involved with the interview process. The idea is to get to know the player, have a chance to look him in the eye and get a feel for him as a person.
Nick from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Why is nobody talking about how three out of our four best defensive players were brought in through free agency? I'm not saying go out and fill every position with a free agent, but you can't deny that sometimes free agents work, no matter if they get signed the first three days of free agency, the "second wave," right before training camp, or even 12 weeks into the season. If a player comes available that fits and can become an integral part of your team, you need to look at him.
John: Yes, you do – and without question there will be instances when Caldwell uses free agency. That time will probably be more in the future. People need to step back from this issue and look at the big picture. Last year was rock bottom. If it wasn't, I don't want to see what's worse. Shad Khan has talked about needing to rebuild with an eye toward steady, long-term improvement. Bradley has talked about competition and continued improvement being the goal. Caldwell has talked about being able to draft with a clean slate and build with rookies and free agents. The idea is to build this thing for the long haul and do it largely with a roster of players drafted and signed out of college by the Jaguars. The idea is to be competitive for years. Ideally, that would begin next year, but the playoffs may not be realistic next season. There's no desire right now to sign a stop-gap veteran at the expense of a rookie who will be around for the extended future. This is the building stage, the time to set the foundation. The time for filling in holes with players ready to excel immediately is yet to come.
Jeff from Clearwater, FL:
Would it be a bad idea to draft Luke Joeckel and have him compete with Eugene Monroe? Eugene should really be coming into his prime now, but I feel like having the two on our offensive line would really give Blaine a chance.
John: That's not a bad idea, and it's one that easily could play out. Most people considering this scenario assume it would involve drafting Joeckel and moving Monroe to right tackle. Just as likely might be drafting Joeckel and putting him at right tackle and leaving Monroe at left tackle. Monroe is entering the final year of his contract, and this would create a situation in which both he and Joeckel were part of the equation moving forward or one where the Jaguars had a solution if Monroe chose to move on. This is similar to what the Ravens did with Jonathan Ogden in 1996. It's a scenario with an eye on the long-term, so it would fit with the overall approach.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Your body is a wonderland....oh wait, wrong John.
John: You need to rethink a lot of things.
Beau from Mountain Home, ID:
I'm sure the bulk of the player interview process is reserved for players worthy of a draft selection, but how much of the process is used on potential undrafted players. Could you give a little insight on that?
John: It's really a pretty wide mix. The interview process is to answer questions, not necessarily to serve as a master list of players the Jaguars absolutely will draft. The Jaguars are going to be very active in collegiate free agency, and they hope to sign a lot of players after the draft who will be on the final roster. It stands to reason the interview process will be used to get to know and recruit those players.
Christian from Orlando, FL:
When teams release players in the offseason, do those players become unrestricted free agents, or is there a waiver process? Also, is there a date that players must be released prior to in order for their contracts to come off the books? An unlikely example; the Jaguars add a cheaper safety than Dawan Landry and then cut him.
John: There are a lot of details involved, and they sometimes change from player to player. Yes, players released in the offseason are free agents. If a player is released now, before the start of the league year, the team isn't responsible for paying any unguaranteed salary next offseason. In the case of a veteran player who received a large signing bonus, the team would absorb an immediate cap hit for the bonus in proportion to the remaining years on the contract. For example, a player who signed a five-year deal with a $10 million bonus released after two years has $6 million of "cap hit" remaining. So long as he is on the roster, that cap hit is $2 million a year. If he is released, all $6 million rolls into the current year.
Anthony from Madison, WI:
Explain to me how not signing a single free agent regardless of who comes out is a reasonable way to build a team? Successful teams take free agents, too; you guys know that, right?
John: I believe it has been explained quite a bit on this site. Either that, or I've been writing for some weird, alternate universe-oriented site the last few days. And let's clarify: It's not that the Jaguars aren't going to sign any free agents. They might, but they likely will be very late in the process and they likely won't be names that have the fan base doing cartwheels. For this year, the Jaguars aren't going to dirty up their salary structure with stop-gap veterans at the expense of having a young player with potential to grow.
Timothy from Jacksonville:
Even though Chance Warmack is a guard, Mike Mayock believes he is the best player in the draft. If another Top 5-ranked offensive tackle is there should the Jaguars draft the more premium player even though Chance Warmack is the better overall player?
John: Yes. That's my belief, though I can't say for sure if Caldwell would agree. There are four or five positions that are generally agreed to be both critical and difficult to fill with elite players. Quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher, cornerback, defensive tackle. Guard, while important, is not considered in this group – primarily because the belief is you can cover for an average guard if you're solid at center and tackle. The question is how much even the best guard helps you in comparison to a very, very good player at one of the elite positions.
Franklyn from Orange Park, FL:
Out of the Jags' contingent present at the combine, who do you think you could beat in a 40-yard dash?
John: All of them. While I lack the ability to grasp reality, I am deceptively quick, steeped in bravado-based delusion and most importantly, willing to do anything to win. Anything.
Chris from Palm Beach, FL:
Especially after a budget for the rookie salaries, the cap room across the league appears to be quite small to sign veteran free agents. Do you believe there will be some "bargains" later in this free agency period?
John: Yes, and from the Jaguars' perspective, that may be what enables them to sign some quality players in the third or fourth wave. Usually, that doesn't happen, but with the flatter cap and the salary cap not increasing, that could be the case this offseason.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
I have to disagree on the reason for GM Gene's demise. Yes, the failure of Blaine Gabbert to develop fast enough hurt, but I believe Gene was also hurt just as much by the two-year rash of injuries the team has endured and the lack of productivity by his "body of work" - his draft picks over the last four years. Too many are either not on the roster or haven't turned out to be productive. Am I off the mark?
John: The injuries and lack of production didn't help, but if the Jaguars had a franchise quarterback playing at that level they wouldn't be 2-14, and the other stuff would be periphery issues.
Randy from Jacksonville:
If you could give me $2 million dollars and a time machine, I'd play for the '76 Bucs or the 0-16 Lions. Babin came here from the "Dream Team" and he said I love the fact Florida has no state tax.
John: If you gave me $2 million and a time machine, I'd go back and be what I was in my youth – a suntanned, golden-haired god on a beach in the South Seas, skin glistening...Oh, wait, that still wasn't me.

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