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O-Zone: An important day

JACKSONVILLE – Whee! Free agency!

Let's get to it …

Lance from Jacksonville:
Wow, I didn't think Blaine had any trade value. I'm impressed with Dave Caldwell.
John: This was the first email received after the Blaine-Gabbert-to-San-Francisco trade was announced, and I must admit, the inbox that followed wasn't as mean-spirited or explosive as Twitter. The Jaguars on Tuesday traded Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and a possible conditional selection. I, too, was surprised the Jaguars were able to get value, but the fact remains that Gabbert has the physical ability to play quarterback in the NFL. The 49ers apparently wanted Gabbert a great deal, and it remains a possibility that he may find success with a better fit and a better team around him than he had during most of his time in Jacksonville.
Bruce from Gotham:
Wanted to wish Blaine best of luck. Good deal for both sides. Great spot for him to try and turn things around.
John: I was proud of the inbox in the wake of the Gabbert trade for the most part. This email was reflective of the overriding sentiment. Indeed, best of luck to Gabbert. I enjoyed working with Gabbert, and I thought he handled a lot of difficult circumstances pretty well for a player of his age.
James from Columbus, GA:
Well, too bad Gabbert didn't have a fair shake his first couple of seasons here. I still think he has promise, and best wishes to him in San Francisco. Still, it's now a nice breath of fresh air to sweep out old controversies and have a truly clean start this offseason.
John: It was indeed a time for a change. I can't say Gabbert didn't get a fair shake. He had opportunities – a lot more than many NFL quarterbacks get. His situation wasn't ideal, but not all situations are ideal in the NFL.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
Is there any chance we could see Will Blackmon take a turn at FS? He has the wheels and the size for it.
John: Will Blackmon signed a two-year deal Tuesday to remain with the Jaguars. I don't think he'll be playing much free safety. I think he'll be involved a lot as a reserve and nickel corner.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I just don't get the Gerhart signing. In his limit work he has produced, but I feel we could have drafted someone better at the same time.
John: A few thoughts. First, Toby Gerhart – who agreed to terms with the Jaguars late Tuesday – has really produced in his limited work. There's a story somewhere on this site that outlines his production. And he has produced pretty consistently. Second, I don't know that they could have drafted someone better. Gerhart was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2009 and he was a second-round selection in the draft the following season. If he was entering this year's draft, he'd be a pretty desirable player. He also has comparatively little wear and tear compared to other free agent running backs this year. Finally, while the Jaguars could have addressed running back in the draft – and still might – remember: this team has a lot of needs. It's difficult to address all of them in one draft, even a draft in which the team now has 11 selections.
Garrison from Baton Rouge, LA:
I assume Toby Gerhart will be the power and Jordan Todman will be the speed back? With the signing of Zane Beadles I assume we are heading to a run-first team.
John: You assume a lot of things. I try not to do that.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
You don't even have to tell him. He already knows he did a good to open the 2014 season. Good job, Dave Caldwell! Poor, O-man. You were busy today. Good job to you too!
John: Word.
Tucker from New York, NY:
Tom Brady was a 6th round pick, therefore Caldwell may have just traded Gabbert for the next Brady. My logic is undeniable.
John: It's something, all right.
Rob from Pittsburgh, PA:
I've been following this team closely for many years now, and I can honestly say that today the light went on for me. The moves announced by the Jaguars today helped draw a distinct contrast in my mind between how the team is being managed now and how it was in the past. Caldwell has a clear vision of how he wants this team to look, creates realistic goals to achieve that look, and actually takes action to achieve those personnel goals. It's easy to see now that we weren't seeing a coherent strategy from GM's prior; that's not meant as a knock on them, just an observation. I truly do enjoy watching this rebuilding process; couple that with all the renovations and London, and this franchise is on track for some amazing things in the not-so-distant future. Do the Jags offer any discount travel packages for out of town fans?
John: I'm not sure. Where are you trying to go?
Tym from the Southside:
Well, it finally happened, O-Zone. Do we still owe Gabbert the guaranteed money that we would have owed him if he'd been released? Or is San Francisco now fully responsible for his old contract?
John: Teams assume contracts of players for whom they trade, and the 49ers assumed Gabbert's contract. That's a positive for the Jaguars in this.
Joseph from Jacksonville:
How about One Fer Dave on the first day of Free Agency!?? First I was excited about Bryant, then we sign an offensive guard from Denver who looks promising to fill in a role, and then out of the blue I was sucker punched with the Blaine "TRADE"? We got a draft pick for Blaine?? This is pure genius, and then Will Blackmon staying is another plus. Oh wow I cannot wait for the Draft.
John: Hey! One fer Caldwell! But let's make something clear here: Caldwell didn't "sucker" anyone to trade for Gabbert. That's not how the NFL works. San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke likes Gabbert. He wanted Gabbert very much. It's a good move for the Jaguars, but the 49ers believe it could be a good move for them, too.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
So against all odds we actually traded Gabbert to somebody. What will fans complain out now? O-Man I fear your inbox might become a happy place soon. Can you imagine if everyone was enlightened and pleased with the Jags? What ever will you do?
John: Don't lose sleep over this issue. I won't.
Coco from Orlando, FL:
Please sign Demarcus Ware.
John: Your request has been heard, but I doubt that's the direction the Jaguars go the rest of the week.
Craig from Jacksonville:
Does Julius Peppers have enough left in the tank to help the Jaguars for a year or two, or at least warrant a look?
John: OK. We're now getting to the point where we're playing Name That Famous Pass-Rusher – and I get it. It's a fun game. But despite the Jaguars' activity on Tuesday, their plan remains the same: to primarily build through the draft and supplement with free agency. In the big picture, what that means is continuing to sign reasonably priced free agents with the idea of eventually stocking the roster with mostly home-grown players. Toward that end, the team's not going to spend a lot of time pursuing the high, high end of the free agent market. That's particularly true right now, with the building process still very much in the early stages.
Micah from Philly:
Such crap. Why didn't we sign this player I love at this position of need? Look at these stats I googled! Supporting arguments!!!!!!
John: You'd be amazed how few emails along those lines I have received since 4 p.m. Tuesday. I know I was.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
Very impressed with Dave Caldwell's signings on Day One and also surprised at the number of moves made. The best part is he didn't "bet the farm" on just one free agent and didn't chase any big names who are past their prime. I truly believe Jaguar Nation will look back in a year or two and say the Spring of 2014 was when Caldwell made significant strides in crafting the roster of a playoff contending squad.
John: I don't know that Tuesday will stand out from all others when people look back on the building process. It's probably more accurate to say that the day fit well with the Jaguars' approach, which is probably more important. David Caldwell on Tuesday continued to make moves that fit with the philosophy of building primarily through the draft and not making high-risk, high-cost deals in free agency. That's the sustainable model of which Caldwell likes to speak. Perhaps not every move made Tuesday will be genius. That's quite likely the case. But over time, the approach is a prudent one and gives the franchise a chance to grow and develop. In the big picture, for Jaguars fans, that should be exciting.

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