JACKSONVILLE – We're back from Lincoln, Nebraska, site of the University of Nebraska and Randy Gregory's Pro Day Thursday. As it turns out, it's cold in Lincoln in early March. It's windy, too.
It's good to be home.
Free agency looms, and beginning Tuesday at 4 p.m. teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents. Expect that to be a busy, hectic time. Teams can begin negotiating with free agents on Saturday. That's today, and you can expect that to be a chaotic, speculation-filled time, too.
That will be a topic, for sure, but for Sunday morning – in recognition of former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew's retirement announcement Thursday -- we want to try to go all-Jones-Drew-all-time. Or we'll go close. Send your MoJo memories, and those will dominate the O-Zone Sunday.
We'll answer the necessary free-agency questions, but it will be mostly MJD.
We'll get back to free-agency and the looming chaos on Monday. There's more than enough time for that.
Let's get to it … Gary from Wesley Chape:
Hey John, I am hoping that you will dedicate a day of O-Zone to Maurice Jones-Drew. He was one of the best players in Jaguars history. He was a player who carried himself like a champion on and off the field. From his first preseason game you could tell that if we had 53 players like him on the roster the Jaguars would be champions. You always knew what you were going to get every Sunday - every ounce of heart and soul and energy in him; 1,606 yards when every defense was stacked to stop the run, and everyone in the stadium knew what was coming! I would love to have seen him playing in his prime with what is being built here by Dave and Gus. Thanks MJD for showing what Jaguars Football is all about.
John: A day of the O-Zone dedicated to MJD? Hey, good idea!
Cameron from Jacksonville:
John, I'm getting kind of nervous about all of these reports of teams being interested in big-name players, especially the Colts. Hardy and Suh most likely going to the Colts???? I'm getting so nervous. Why am I not hearing any Jags news regarding them going after big-name targets??? Clear my conscious, O-Man.
John: I get a feeling there are going to be a lot of nerves and uneasy conscious-es in the coming days. As for calming nerves … well, let's just say free agency hardly is a time for peaceful, easy feelings, but you know I won't let you down. Look, the Jaguars aren't going to sign every big-name free agent. Contrary to some speculation, reports and fan desire, no team – not the Jaguars, not the Oakland Raiders and not even the Colts – can pursue every free agent. It's just not doable. But I do wonder what reports you're reading or hearing. From where I sit, there's no shortage of players connected to the Jaguars. I'd go to the other way, and say it's actually gotten to the point where it's hard to keep up. Unless you don't consider Randall Cobb a big name. Or Ndamakong Suh. Or Brian Orakpo. Or DeMarco Murray. Or Julius Thomas. Or …
Fuad from Jacksonville:
Will the Jaguars' sacks leader in 2015 be a new off-season acquisition or an existing member of the 2014 squad?
Greg from Boise, ID:
I believe Mr. Caldwell will attempt to sign some high-profile players in free agency, but I think some/most fans will be disappointed. I don't think the Jags will spend recklessly and other teams will offer more to high-profile targets such as Suh. I believe Mr. Caldwell will indeed sign some free-agent talent, but I don't think he will sign the players the fans are screaming for because other teams will spend recklessly to get a coveted player. I have always been one to temper my expectations. I know you don't have a magic crystal ball, but does what I think sound about right or am I way off?
John: I think the Jaguars will be more aggressive with high-profile players than you're anticipating, though I've said often I don't think one of those players will be Suh. Fans are screaming now and some almost certainly will scream next week because there's no way the Jaguars pursue every player they want. And that's a good thing, because while the Jaguars indeed should spend they also must do so with at least some measure of caution and wisdom. Just because a player is well-known doesn't make him the right fit, and doesn't mean he can automatically help the Jaguars. I believe the Jaguars will be a better team with more "known" players by the end of next week. I also believe that the largest gains will come from – and the most important part of the building process remains – the young players currently on the roster who are forming the bulk of the core of the team.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Why do I get the feeling Caldwell knew this year in particular could be a defining free agent offseason? Of course he doesn't know for sure who will be and will not be available, but to see the names of players whose contracts expire and the state of that franchise it doesn't take a rocket scientist. He's waited and waited and now it's his turn to grab some of these pretty good players who are now free agents. "Shad, let me get my QB and I have this feeling about the free agent class in Year Three that will make you grin!"
John: That's certainly the plan and the hope.
Christopher from Richmond, VA:
Needless to say, there will be a strong bidding war for the top free agents. We will get to see how good Caldwell and Bradley are at selling this three-win team. I'm betting this will be a time when everyone will take notice of the Jaguars for something positive besides video boards and swimming pools.
John: That's certainly the plan and the hope.
Manuel from Jacksonville:
I believe that the risk/reward of signing FAs is not worth it. Why would you sign and pay more to a FA who has played for 2-4 years with a team if that team who knows him better than any other team feels that the risk/reward of resigning him – for less money – is not worth it. I know there may be exceptions, but in general my statement should be valid. What say you big O?
John: I believe generally speaking you're correct, and that's why draft and develop is the best approach. The Jaguars are in a unique position in which they do need to spend sometime over the next two offseasons, and they don't really have any players on the roster on which they can do that yet. In a year or so, that will be different, but that's the situation now. So, the Jaguars will spend in free agency with the idea of getting core players who fit into what they're building. As David Caldwell said earlier this week, the hope in the process is to get "blue-chip" players. That's difficult to do in free agency, and it's what makes Caldwell's job and the decisions he makes in the coming days and weeks critical.
Ben from Jacksonville:
Random question about free agency. Why are some veterans like Darnell Dockett and Keith Rivers able to visit with and sign with teams prior to the start of free agency?
John: Players who are released by teams following a season can sign with teams immediately because they are free agents upon their release. This was the case with Red Bryant and Chris Clemons last offseason, remember. They were released by Seattle and signed with Jacksonville before the start of free agency. Players who are scheduled to become free agents have played out their contracts, but cannot sign with other teams until those contracts expire at the start of the new league year. That's March 10 this year.
Martin from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Every year as the draft approaches, general managers around the league are known to engage in various levels of smoke-screening and outright deception with regard to their draft plans. Is that a part of the lead up to free agency as well? Or are teams better served by making their intentions well known?
John: Different general managers take different approaches to this. Some play it close to vest and others care less who knows what they're doing in free agency. The reality is most of the information (and misinformation) out there in free agency comes from agents rather than team personnel. For example, it just might behoove an agent for a top free agent to whisper to media members that a team with a lot of cap space is interested in his player because that just might help drive the market up for that player. And that might be why teams with a ton of cap space get mentioned with every free agent from here to Timbuktu. Just maybe.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
And can I ask a stupid question? What makes senior writers so stupid?
John: I don't know … ask their wives. They usually have a lot of answers. A lot of answers.