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O-Zone: Beware, fools

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Fred from Naples, FL:
Can you tell us your thoughts on the Uche Nwaneri release Tuesday? I am scratching my head on this one as he is a very durable player. Obviously, he was better at run-blocking than pass-blocking as evidenced by us allowing over 50 sacks last year, but don't we have more pressing needs? Is this a salary-cap hit situation?
John: When teams release familiar names, it confuses people. That's because people confuse familiarity with production. Nwaneri was very productive for a long time, and he should be remembered as such by Jaguars fans and those within the organization. But the Jaguars obviously felt they could improve at the position – yes, even if that means replacing three interior line positions rather than one or two. Usually, the answer to the question, "Why did a team release a player?" is, "Because the team believes it can better at that position."
Chris from Daytona Beach, FL:
What is a transition tag? Will Mack be allowed to sign with another team this offseason?
John: The transition tag used by the Cleveland Browns on center Alex Mack is a little-used roster mechanism, but it was used twice Monday – once by Cleveland and once by Pittsburgh on linebacker Jason Worilds. A player who gets the transition tag can sign with another team, but the player's current team has the option of matching the offer. It essentially ensures the existing team can retain the player whole allowing another team to set the market for the player. Unlike the franchise tag, a team that loses a transitioned player receives no compensation from the signing team.
Kristian from Dublin:
So, now that Mack is transition tagged, is he still a target? All it would take is a large contract, which he probably would've commanded in any case... (Insert boot-licking comment of your choice to assure that the question will be posted)
John: The transition tag could lessen the likelihood of the Jaguars targeting him, because when you sign a transition-tagged player you're often negotiating for another team. You don't lose money doing this, but you do lose time, which in the free-agency period can prove costly. (Good strategy, by the way)
Scott from Tampa (via Duval):
Do you think the release of Uche Nwaneri has anything to do with loading up a contract for Alex Mack? It puzzles me that we would cut a starting guard, since it is an area of need. Thoughts, O-Man?
John: My thoughts are that the release of Uche Nwaneri has to do with the Jaguars believing they need to reload the interior of the offensive line and get younger and better there. I don't think it has anything to do with Mack, specifically. If they liked Nwaneri they wouldn't release him to pursue a player they're in no way assured of signing.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
While the release of Uche Nwaneri comes as a surprise, in due time it could be seen as a savvy move by Dave Caldwell. What was going to be Uche's cap hit for this year? Does any significant signing bonus money get pulled into 2014 with his release? I think Dave sees in Uche as a player who has reached his ceiling and will soon be in decline. Better to cut ties and pursue younger, lower-cost talent that can be developed.
John: The Jaguars will save about $3.7 million in cap space with Nwaneri's release, but don't get too caught up in cap space as reasons for roster moves right now. The Jaguars have enough cap space to allow these moves to be made based on football decisions.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
I am going to feel sorry for you in the coming weeks. Your inbox will be angry about all the "non-sexy" offensive linemen we will load up on in the draft. They may be young, but they will be hungry! But you know no one is ever impressed with the footings when you build a house. What are your thoughts?
John: My first thought is there's no reason to feel sorry for me. Even when the inbox is angry, I manage to pull through OK. As far as fans being upset about "non-sexy" offensive lineman selected in the draft, yes, that's to be expected. The odds are very good that the Jaguars will draft offensive linemen people haven't heard of, but people haven't heard of most offensive lineman, anyway.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Please help me understand something. You've said in the past one of the goals of the draft is to get guys that turn out good enough to warrant a second contract. Now, you've said that Eugene Monroe is a top 5-to-10 left tackle in the NFL. I understand Monroe was drafted by the previous regime, but if you have a guy like that on your roster, who has played well enough to earn a second contract, isn't drafting his replacement essentially wasting a draft pick? I know they're saving a bunch of money by having a younger guy play the position, but if Monroe is as good as you say he is, they could have used that #2 pick last year for a pass rusher and been set at two positions instead of just one. Is there something more that I'm missing? Is Joeckel projected to be better than Monroe? Is LT no longer a position worth spending a lot of money on? Help me, John!
John: What I said was Eugene Monroe was one of the top 5-to-10 players in free agency. He's probably one of the Top 10 left tackles in the NFL, but the Jaguars didn't foresee wanting to pay him what he likely will command on the open market.
Scott from Aurora:
Now that Tampa Bay's new uniforms have been revealed, I've seen a lot of comments saying "at least they aren't the Creamsicle" jerseys. Can I get a one fer old uniform designs, in particular the Creamsicles? Those jerseys rocked.
John: Yes, one fer the old unis – especially the Creamsicles. I liked them, too.
Trent from Fernandina Beach, FL:
One scenario I have considered is picking up Michael Vick to maximize our quarterback play for now, and then drafting a quarterback in the second round to develop as a later franchise quarterback. People often forget that the majority of today's elite quarterbacks had no hype coming out of college, referencing the second round. Didn't Vick play at a good level before getting injured?
John: Yes, Vick was good. Yes, we can all consider a lot of scenarios for this offseason and I hear more than a few readers who think one of those scenarios should involve the Jaguars signing Vick. Barring something dramatically unforeseen, that's not going to happen. I don't see Vick signing somewhere where he doesn't have a legitimate chance to start for a season or two, and there probably will be other scenarios where that's more of a possibility. I also think the Jaguars want to re-sign Chad Henne, and that he will be the quarterback who serves as a bridge to whatever the future holds at the position.
Mick from New Castle, IN:
Buyer BEWARE!...The Dion Jordan situation reminds me a little of the Trent Richardson trade the Browns and Colts made last season.
John: Yes, there are similarities.
Malosi from Santa Clarita, CA:
When does a player get his yearly check for his prorated signing bonus? Or do they actually get the whole signing bonus up front and the prorated number is purely for salary cap purposes?
John: This is a good question because some find it confusing. The answer is the latter. Although you often hear talk of prorated signing bonuses, the proration means how the contract is used for salary cap purposes. Most signing bonuses in the NFL are paid up front.
James from Socorro, NM:
The Jaguars should sign overpriced free agent. Quality players can be found, like Hugh Douglas, Bryce Paup, Jerry Porter and Laurent Robinson.
John: Your point is a good one, though it should be noted that quality players indeed can be found in free agency. The names you mention are cautionary tales that all problems can't be solved by signing just any free agent. As with any other method of player acquisition, the key in free agency is making the best decision possible on a case-by-case basis and looking at reality rather than name recognition.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
Sometimes I see a very coy look on the face of Clowney. A wry grin that some might translate as him knowing what he's going to show the NFL when given the opportunity. I think he's going to blast fools and I think he thinks he knows it.
John: I see that wry grin, too, and I have no doubt that Clowney's confident. Here's the thing: no matter how confident and athletic and gifted and special Clowney may be – and there's no doubt he is – he is going to have to learn how to play a difficult position in the NFL. If he's going to "blast fools" on anything close to the level he did early in his career at South Carolina, then that needs to come first.

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