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O-Zone: All good

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steve from Plano, TX:
I am sure you have already talked about this player, but how did Cam Robinson perform this past season? I thought he did OK-to-pretty well with some games; he played inconsistent at times. But any reports I read regarding Big Cam outside of Jacksonville are that he played very poorly this year. Some even said he is moving inside or to right tackle. I just wanted more clarity on this topic.
John: Robinson in no way played poorly as a rookie last season, though there indeed is a fairly wide difference of opinion among observers regarding him. Some believe he struggled and others believe he showed real promise. The reality is both are true. Robinson did struggle at times as a rookie, particularly late in the season. Rookies often struggle as the season goes on whether it's because they need to work on fundamentals or strength – or because they simply hit the not-so-mythical "rookie wall." Robinson showed a lot of potential last season and the thought around the Jaguars is he will benefit greatly from a year of experience and an offseason in the team's conditioning program. Bottom line: Robinson is the Jaguars' left tackle and there's no reason to think that's going to change any time soon.
Kyle from Muscatine, IA:
I think these free agents will really help us moodachay. #neverforget
John: #neverforget
Mike from Section 238:
I recall that Friday was some sort of deadline for Allen Hurns' contract. Did anything happen? Is he still a Jag? Or a reduced contract?
John: Nothing happened regarding Hurns' contract Friday. The information that there was a $4 million guarantee due Friday – therefore making the day a deadline – was incorrect. Hurns remains with the Jaguars under the same contract.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
How do we not make a play for Honey Badger??? He goes to the Texans on a one-year $7 million deal? My goodness, he easily could have been a long-term secondary starter in the talent group with Jalen Ramsey and wouldn't have cost much more than Gipson? This feels like an opportunity lost that would have solidified the Jags as having the best defense of all time!
John: Tashaun Gipson played at a high enough level last season that Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone publicly said he believed Gipson should have been in the Pro Bowl. Releasing him would have meant $2.4 dead money on the salary cap. It's not that the Jaguars don't think Tyrann Mathieu is a good player as much as they think that Gipson is, too.
Steve from Jacksonville:
When a player is in free agency and travels to meet with a team, does his agent travel with him? Is the deal that he will sign already done before he travels to said team, or is it hacked out during the meeting, etc? A lot of detail is included in these contracts, not just the money the player will be receiving.
John: The great majority of high-profile free-agent contracts are done by phone with no contact between the team and the player. This is because NFL rules mandate that the team can speak only to agents of players during the so-called pre-negotiating period, and that's when most of these deals get done. There are free agents who wait and travel to meet with teams, but those are usually second-level guys who aren't expecting to be in the first, high-profile rush. So, essentially the agents and teams get the vast majority of the contracts negotiated by telephone.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
Our offensive line could be good. Really good.
John: It better be.
Roy from Chagrin Falls, OH:
While competition is good, Blake Bortles seems to be self-motivated. Do the Jaguars really need to spend a high draft choice to get a backup quarterback to push him? It seems to me in the first three rounds it would be wiser to use the choices to get a wide receiver, tight end and a guard or a tackle who are the best-available player in that round. I'm not ignoring the future, but if we are all in to win the Super Bowl this year, I'm not sure a rookie quarterback is the way to go for a backup. Am I way off base with this line of thinking?
John: Bortles this past season showed Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin – and therefore this new regime – that motivation is not an issue. Bortles worked and embraced the role, and his motivation absolutely is not an issue. And you're right that in that sense there is no reason to have another quarterback to "push" him. If the Jaguars select a quarterback early in the draft it would be with the idea of that player having a chance to eventually become a starter – not to be a long-term backup.
Stephen from Glorieta:
O-man, I've been a football fan since I was a kid (a long, long time ago) and remember the game being different and teams having more loyalty. The huge change in salaries, of course, has affected things – as do all the commercials and need of the owners to make the money to pay for quality players and more modern stadiums, some even with pools (ahem). Millions and even billions of dollars are spent on sports gambling. When will it be enough? How much is just too much? It seems like all that money, endorsements and gambling invite corruption in the game, don't you agree?
John: Your question dumps many issues into one pot. That's fine. But while there indeed is more money involved in professional sports than once was the case, I don't know that it's all as connected or as bad as your question indicates. The increase in salaries, commercial money and overall money in general hasn't had as much of an effect on loyalty as free agency and the salary cap; free agency and the cap have worked in unison to make what always has been a business much more obviously so. And I wouldn't necessarily equate better stadiums, pools or even bigger contracts with encouraging corruption. If anything, more money floating around to all parties makes corruption less likely; a well-paid player is less apt to put that salary at risk than a comparatively poorly paid one. Either way, I don't know that I'd spend a lot of energy longing for the less money-oriented days gone by of professional sports. Those days aren't coming back – and believe it or not, the Good Old Days weren't always as good as we remember.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I love how people seem to think we can't win without an elite, Brady-Rodgers-Brees-Manning-level quarterback. We did it last year. And yes, a lot of things went right for us. But the team has finally turned a corner and is doing something different. It used to be we tried to force our game plan no matter what we had on the roster. Now we are designing the game plan around what we have on the roster. You have to effectively use the strengths of your talent and not try to get your talent to do things they are good at. Personally I think that is the huge step the Jags have taken. They know what they are, what they have, and are going to succeed using those strengths.
John: Well said.
Mario from Zapata:
O, can you explain how teams accumulate dead money after cutting a player?
John: Dead money comes about because of the NFL's system for salary-cap accounting. When a team signs a player, they often give the player signing bonuses and guarantees. When a player signs a five-year contract with a $20 million signing bonus, the bonus for salary-cap purpose is spread out over the contract so it counts $4 million each year of the contract. If a team releases a player two years into the contract there would be $12 million of "dead money" on the cap for that year.
KC from Miami, FL:
I know things could change from here until the beginning of the season, but how do you think the wide-receiver depth chart looks right now? Obviously Marqise Lee is the No. 1, but now with Donte Moncrief does this mean less snaps for Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole, who showed a lot of promise last season? What about Allen Hurns?
John: My projection: Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief as the starters with Dede Westbrook in the slot and Keelan Cole and Allen Hurns on the outside and Jaydon Mickens at punt returner. But I wouldn't write any of those things in stone and I wouldn't think of the receiving corps as having roles quite so clear cut as the past. In 2016, for example, Allen Robinson played close to every offensive snap. I would anticipate at least the top four receivers rotating pretty extensively.
Mac from Jacksonville:
I'm worried about the cap. Anything you can tell me to make me worry less would be appreciated.
John: It's all right.

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