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O-Zone: Better than nothing

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zach from Wiscompton

The salary cap is to keep money in the owners' pockets? I always thought that the hard cap was to maintain as much parity as possible in the league, making it so you'd have less bottom dwellers and elite teams. To me, that's the main reason the NFL is superior to all the other professional sports leagues.

The NFL's salary cap has a few objectives, one of which is to ensure the league's big-market teams don't have the enormous advantage that big-market teams in sports such as baseball possess. Another objective indeed is to protect owners from themselves by making it impossible for, say, Jerry Jones, to drive salaries up so high that a smaller market team couldn't dream of being able to match the offer – as is the case in, say, Premier League Football. That in turn helps each owner's revenue situation. But yes … while NFL teams are indeed able to work around the salary cap in the short term, the overall effect of the league's "hard cap" is to keep teams evenly matched enough that there is more hope for parity in the NFL than in any other North American major professional sports league.

Eric from Jacksonville Beach

Hi John, I remember hearing that Gardner was planning on transferring to Alabama to play with the side goal of watching Coach Nick Saban in hopes of developing into a coach down the line. Just curious, did you see that out of him on the sidelines, or with younger players like Jake Luton, last year? Not sure if he's the direction we'll go as a veteran to help back up Lawrence or not, but I like the thought that a player who is interested in being a coach could help in mentoring a new rookie. Any thoughts on that?

Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II is very capable of being a coach. He understands the game, scheme and concepts – and when he chooses to go that route, I have no doubt he will excel. I didn't necessarily see him "mentoring" or "working" with rookie quarterback Jake Luton last season – but that's neither unusual or disturbing; young NFL quarterbacks are concerned about playing as opposed to coaching. Their job therefore is not to mentor young players. Minshew is at the point of his career he should want to start and play. That doesn't mean he's sabotaging other quarterbacks, but his priority is on his own career more than those around him.

Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX

KOAF: Which group is performing better in their respective category: O-Line or O-Zone?

The offensive line. That group has been better than many observers believe. The O-Zone has been precisely what observers believe. Unfortunately.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

The offensive line is flat-out average. The new quarterback will help. Another weapon or two would help, but unless the Jags can contain the run it will be hard to win eight games.


Aqeel from Toronto, Canada

Mr. O, heard you and the reporters discuss best FA class in Jags history. I know you were discussing multiple players. However, I was surprised nobody brought up Jimmy. In an age where coaches simply lined the best pass rusher against the best blocker, no two Jags gave opposing defensive coordinators more stress than Jimmy and Fred [who of course was drafted]. When you also factor in length of time, stats overall impact on own and other teams ... Jimmy even as an individual, was a class on his own.

Former Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith usually isn't mentioned in discussions about great free-agent signings in franchise history because he signed as a so-called "street" free agent in January 1995 after having been out of football for a season rather than as an unrestricted free agent around the start of the league year. That's not saying Smith wasn't a great free-agent signing. If you define him as a free agent, he's unquestionably the best free-agent signing in franchise history – and it's not close. But that's why he usually isn't included in that topic.

Charles from Riverside

Hello, John. Until Jim from Neptune Beach posted his remark concerning coaches watching tape to evaluate players, I really hadn't given that enough thought – how extensive player evaluation must really be in the NFL, and the relentless due diligence that goes into that evaluation. In addition to film, what are the other major tools teams use to assess a player's worth? Thanks.

Film study and player evaluation is still the major tool for assessing players. Nothing replaces seeing what a player can do on the field, and on-field player still trumps measurables such as 40 times, height, speed and the like. Analytics also comes into play, as does the position a player plays – i.e., a left tackle may have more value than a right guard and a quarterback has more value than all else. Then, of course, there is simple supply and demand. If a cornerback hits free agency in an offseason in which there are few corners on the market, his price – and therefore his value will be way up. That sometimes feels like false value, but it's value nonetheless.

Ron from Jacksonville, Fl

I know I'm probably in the minority here but maybe the secret to success is doing something different? Maybe we take all this cap space, sign a couple of young, talented players that won't be in their way out before their contract is up, and quit while we're ahead. I want to build something special, not win the offseason by getting a bunch of guys in the name of change. We could go ahead and extend a couple of guys like Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. with deals that front load their cap hits and push the remainder of that massive cap space so we can afford to go poach a couple more high-impact guys every year from here on out. If we lose a few more games because we have some holes to fill? Better draft selections. Lose more free agents than you signed? Compensatory picks. At some point we have to stop acting like the guy that hasn't had a girlfriend in way too long. He just tries too hard and winds up blowing it every time.

I don't expect the Jaguars extend many contracts of non-free agents yet. This is not that players such as wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. won't be deserving of extensions, but those players haven't played for this regime yet. It makes sense for both sides to get a feel for how the player will fit into the Jaguars' system before committing big salary-cap money. As far as the Jaguars' approach to free agency this offseason, I don't expect it to be an intelligent approach with an eye on both the short- and long-term. The Jaguars want to win and compete quickly, but they want to do so with an eye on value and sustainability. Exactly what that will look like, we'll see.

Unhiptcat from Carlsbad CA

Hi, John. Interesting linebacker article, thanks. A statistic stands out to me: "(Myles Jack) registered 118 tackles, 72 for loss …" I didn't think much of until I saw Schobert had "141 tackles, six for loss." Is that a really good stat for Jack? More than 60 percent of his tackles are for a loss? Do you have any idea if that's a good linebacker tackle stat? It sounds like one to me. I did a little research. Most of the sites list much lower TFL figures, e.g. T.J. Watt led NFL in TFL last year with 26. Is the "72" figure correct? How did they arrive at that?

You're referencing a recent story in which Jaguars Media and NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks and I analyzed the Jaguars' linebackers. The 72 tackles for loss was wrong. My mistake. Jack had 72 solo tackles and six tackles for loss. Seventy-two tackles for loss would be a hell of a year, though. Like … epic.

Erich from Treasure Valley

Why is Eric Reid still a free agent? He didn't play in 2020, but the Jaguars need safety help and should sign him. He's only 29!


Corey from Madison, WI

People try to downplay the impact of no state income taxes for drawing free agents to the fact that players still pay taxes in games that are played in other states. I guess that makes sense, but wouldn't all bonus money be taxed/not taxed locally as well? Since free agency is known for overpaying players (largely with signing bonuses) it seems to me that signing that new big contract in a state with no income tax would be a big draw due to no taxes on the bonuses alone right?

Yes – and remember. Teams that play in states with no state taxes are typically ensured of at least eight game tax with no state tax deducted. That may not be the same as 16 games with no state tax deducted, but it's better than zero.