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O-Zone: Awesome deal

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steve from Hudson, FL:
In your opinion, what seems to be a better free-agent signing: an ascending 26-year old or a proven 32-year old? Or would the position we are trying to fill be a bigger factor?
John: This answer depends not only on position, but what you expect from the player. If you're trying to add a core player who will help you for the long term and you're paying that player a lot of guaranteed money for more than two years, then you want the 26-year-old ascending player. That's where free agency gets tricky, because 26-year-old ascending free agents usually are expensive in terms of cash and salary cap space. Because their own teams also covet ascending players, you also must ask yourself, "If this player is so 'ascending,' then why isn't he being re-signed by his own team?" That's the ultimate question in free agency and it must be answered honestly. The answer changes if you're expecting a player who can help you for a season or two. In that scenario, it's OK to sign a 32-year-old player because it's conceivable that player can be productive for the short-term on a shorter contract. This answer also varies a bit based on position. A 26-year-old running back, for example, is different than a 26-year-old left tackle because the back might have a year or so left in his prime years while a tackle might have four or five. But for the most part, the NFL ideal free-agency equation is to sign 26- or 27-year-old ascending players who are potential core players and who finishing their rookie contracts. Those players are entering their primes and theoretically have three or four good seasons left in those primes. If you can find such players in free agency and you truly believed they are elite, then sign them. Good luck. It's easier said than done.
Bruce from Gotham:
Mr. O, I don't understand fans who are upset with Julius Thomas. Yes, he didn't put up numbers, but it is not exactly like the Jags had an offense that highlighted the tight end. When he signed, we heard from the offensive coordinator at the time about all these great two tight-end sets and how both would be heavily used in the passing game. That never happened and in reality, the coaching staff never really took advantage of the mismatch that he creates with linebackers. Do you feel Thomas could have done much better considering the offensive-coordinator turnover and other circumstances? Also, if he is released we all know he will end up a Patriot, where he can replace the most likely departing Martellus Bennett, right? Him with Tom Brady would be scary.
John: Thomas actually is a difficult free-agent signing to assess. While he certainly hasn't been as productive in the last two seasons as the team hoped, it wasn't as if he was completely unproductive. He did catch nine touchdown passes over 21 games, which would be considered pretty good if he hadn't signed a huge contract in the 2015 offseason – and if he hadn't caught 24 touchdown passes over the previous two seasons with Denver. It's hard to say how much of Thomas' issue has been that he was used incorrectly, or if his style just didn't mesh with Bortles' strengths or if injuries just kept him from being as productive as otherwise would have been the case. My sense is it's some combination of all three and then some.
Hippy from Fleming Island:
Freddy T had the stats, the comeback from early injuries, the freakish strength/speed combo and character of a Hall of Famer. How does the Jaguar moniker factor into this ridiculous travesty?
John: I don't think it's as much the "Jaguar" moniker as the fact that Taylor never won a rushing title, never played in a Super Bowl, never made the Associated Press All-Pro team and only made one Pro Bowl. He also during his career never for a single season was considered the best running back in the NFL. Some may argue that the "Jaguar moniker" played into how people perceived him, but my thought always has been that Taylor's lack of recognition had more to do with the presence of players such as Edgerrin James, Ladainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Priest Holmes and so on. Of that group I'd only consider Tomlinson a better player than Taylor, but other backs for short periods had a higher profile than Taylor. That doesn't make Taylor inferior, but it has prevented him getting what I consider his due recognition as one of the best running backs of the last two decades. The lack of that due recognition will make it difficult for Taylor to get into the Hall conversation, even though many who really study his statistics and on-field performance often believe he deserves consideration.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
If there is no upgrade available in free agency, and you aren't going to draft a tight end early, and you know you probably won't get an immediate contributor as a pass-catcher in the later rounds, why would you let Julius Thomas walk? You would be knowingly downgrading your roster. I'm not following the logic. If you can upgrade, by all means go ahead, but it doesn't sound like a better option will be available. I don't think I see the cost-benefit analysis on that unless they think very poorly of Thomas who has 33 touchdowns in his career. He's an asset in the red zone and on third downs.
John: I tend to agree. The only reason to let Julius Thomas go is if the Jaguars' decision-makers are convinced that he cannot help the team win. That may be the case, or it may not. There have been few hints, official or otherwise, on this front. Stay tuned.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Jared Odrick averages five sacks a season and Tyson Alualu averages 2.5 sacks a season. The Jaguars need to put more pressure on the quarterback. Do you think that Tom Coughlin will try to convince Todd Wash to use a more traditional 4-3 big end with more pass-rush potential (e.g. Jason Pierre-Paul) and perhaps a rookie protégé (e.g.Tanoh Kpassagnon)?
John: I think if there's a pass rusher available that can help the Jaguars better pressure the quarterback the Jaguars will pursue him. If that player is a bigger end, fine.
Rob from Jacksonville:
How many years later and you torment me with your callous disregard for the Oxford comma. You're not even saving ink anymore, John. At least your journalistic integrity is unquestionable. Keep up the good work, but take some time off.
John: Nah.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
How do you feel about Myles Garrett pleading for the Cowboys to trade up and draft him? Would this give you reason to pause thinking he might take his first opportunity to leave or is this no big deal?
John: It sort of defines "no big deal."
Kyan from Le Mars:
Free-agency focus for the Jaguars should be Eric Berry and T.J. Lang. Both could still sign with their current teams, but I have read that it looks like both might not get signed. If they don't, and the Jags get their hands on them, that would be huge! What do you think the chances that they don't sign with their current teams and the Jags sign them instead?
John: My thoughts on free agency are as follows and rarely change: I always assume really good players will re-sign with their former teams until someone credible says that absolutely won't be the case – and even then I sort of expect really good players to re-sign with their former teams. That's because teams generally value really good players and figure out ways to keep them. That's even more true if you're discussing franchise-shaping, difference-making really good players. For that reason, I assume the Chiefs will figure out a way to keep Eric Berry, who is one of the best safeties in the NFL. T.J. Lang is an interior lineman for Green Bay. Because Green Bay has a history of letting good players hit free agency, I figure there's a better chance of Lang being available. I do expect the Jaguars to heavily pursue an offensive guard, whether that's Lang or Kevin Zeitler of Cincinnati or Larry Warford of Detroit. It's one of the deeper groups in free agency, and it looks as if those players will hit the market. It's also a position of need for the Jaguars … so there you have it.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
Our best chance to win the division next year is to sign Jay Cutler to a one-year deal with a team option for four more years. Bortles is still in his rookie deal, so we can afford to pay starting-quarterback money. Blake starts, but is on a short leash. We not only ensure we have a franchise quarterback for the next three-to-four years and get the huge bonus of Houston not signing Cutler. Win/win/win!!
John: Wow, that sounds like an awesome deal. I'm sure Cutler would be all over it.

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