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O-Zone: Beware the locust

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Rob from The duuuuuuu

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa makes an average of $34 million per year. Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett makes an average of $25 million on an older contract. Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen got 17.5 sacks this past season, tied for second in the league  – and more than both those players. We foolishly denied his fifth-year option and he balled out at his turn to get paid. Is $30 million per year crazy? I feel like that's what it will take: five years, $150 million, $100 million guaranteed averaging $30 million per year. He is Top 5 at his position and projected to remain there or get better. I feel like the Jags will low ball, but I hope they give him what he deserves.

A few thoughts on your thoughts. One is that it's a bit unfair to say the Jaguars were foolish the past two offseasons in their handling of Allen. While I consider Allen a very good player – the Jaguars' best defensive player for the past three or four seasons – it would have been very difficult to sign him to a megadeal following the 2021 or 2022 seasons. He had 7.5 and 7.0 sacks, respectively, in those two seasons and entering the 2023 season he had not shown himself to be a Top 5 player at his position. It was reasonable for the Jaguars to wait to sign him to an extension and it was reasonable for Allen to want to wait. Also: The Jaguars never denied his fifth-year option; they simply didn't sign him to a long-term contract before this offseason because it was difficult to determine his market value based on performance. As for what will happen this offseason, I think the Jaguars should sign Allen to a long-term contract. I think he's the sort of player you want to re-sign – on and off the field – and I think he is very good even when he's not getting great pass rush. In that sense, he's a comparatively "safe" free-agent re-signing. Will the Jaguars re-sign him? The numbers you cite make sense. I don't have a feel for how the Jaguars will approach it. That's why we watch.

Chris from San Diego, CA

This is going to be unpopular, but I think the Jags should let Allen, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and quarterback Trevor Lawrence walk. Allen had a monster year, but it's a huge risk that he'll ever come close to this level of performance again – especially if money was a motivating factor last season. Trevor may become elite one day but maybe not, and in my opinion, it's not worth risking the salary cap to find out what his ceiling is. Is he good? Sure. But former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles put together a stellar season in 2017 and we all thought he was the answer, too. As for Ridley, let him move on and collect the compensatory pick. Then start drafting well and see where the chips fall two or three seasons from now.

I imagine the Jaguars taking this approach indeed would be unpopular; it's also unrealistic and not particularly prudent. It seems you want guarantees – that Allen will again register the 17.5 sacks he reached this past season, that Lawrence will meet and/or exceed the level he reached late in the 2022 season and that Ridley will exceed his 1,000-yard/eight-touchdown level reached this past season. Guarantees don't exist in the NFL. You must project and hope the projections are right. We don't yet know if Ridley will return next season, but we do know that Allen and Lawrence will be with the Jaguars at least through next season. I expect both will be with the franchise far longer than that. At some point, you must select a direction and build toward it.

Matt from Jacksonville

Not a question, just an observation. One thing I've noticed over the years is that everyone's job is easy as long as you aren't the one who has to do it. This seems to especially apply to NFL coaches and general managers.

True that.

Josiah from Plymouth

It's agreed. We need to get offensive line in the first round?

I expect the Jaguars to address the interior of the offensive line this offseason. Whether that will mean selecting an offensive lineman in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, I do not know.

Dave from Los Angeles, CA

The Jags should become the first team with two head coaches. Double the wisdom, half the blame. This is a slam dunk.

Shad Khan … hire this man!

Marcus from Jax

Since the owner can't circumvent the salary cap (and break the law) by paying players under the table, what is stopping a team from renegotiating a player's contract every year to convert salary into a signing bonus? What would stop the Jags from signing Josh Allen to a four-year, $120 million contract with a $30 million signing bonus and $30 million salary in Years 2-4. Then, before next year, restructure again to be a three-year with a $30 million signing bonus…you get the idea. Ultimately it's the same amount of money for the player, right? Is that against the rules? Or is the problem that once you get to Year 3 or 4. The market will have increased and that player may use the arrangement as a bargaining chip to get more money?

NFL teams can and do renegotiate contracts in multiple consecutive offseasons. There are multiple ways teams can re-negotiate contracts and multiple reasons teams do so. The primary reason is to create salary cap space for that specific season. The primary reason teams don't do this every season is the result usually is pushing the salary cap hit into future seasons. That's not ideal. Think of it as continually putting purchases on a credit card. You can do it for a while. Someday, the bill comes due.

Scott from Aruba

I see what you did there. Can we look forward to any other Swift comments over the next week?

Probably not. I already rolled out Shake it Off. That's pretty much list of references.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL

So, former Jaguars quarterback and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was considered a top head coaching option and then he just falls off the face of the earth? The year-to-year coaching carousel is ridiculous.

You're not wrong. One reason for this at the head-coaching level is that coordinators often become "top" options based on how their respective offenses or defenses fared in a particular season. While coordinators of successful offenses or defenses certainly can be successful head coaches, the reality is the skill set needed to be a successful head coach has little or nothing to do with having been a successful offensive or defensive play-caller. One role is largely about leadership, tone-setting and being a guiding hand; the other is about game-planning and calling plays. Being good at one does not mean being good at the other.

Anthony from Richmond

I totally understand the want for an upgrade on the offensive line. It's obviously need (especially at center), but why is everyone writing off Walker Little? Wasn't he supposed to be the left tackle of the future? Wasn't he supposed to be a huge upgrade at guard? I understand he had an injury-laden season, but is this another wasted second round pick?

Not necessarily. Little, a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, very well could start at tackle next season if the Jaguars don't retain left tackle Cam Robinson. He could be a guard or a valuable swing tackle otherwise. Either way, I expect him to matter very much on the Jaguars' offensive line next season.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, I think letting Jawaan Taylor go was a mistake. Why do you think the Jaguars did this?

The Jaguars allowed right tackle Jawaan Taylor to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs as an unrestricted free agent in the 2023 offseason because they didn't believe re-signing him would make sense under their salary cap. They selected Anton Harrison, who played well as a rookie at right tackle.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

I read General Manager Trent Baalke's statement that said getting a mediocre team to a good team is easy but getting a good team to be a championship team is hard. Totally agree. If you had only one draft pick, what position would you pick?

Who's the player?

Sam from Orlando, FL

It can always get worse? We lost five of six, the only game we won was with the backup quarterback and quarterback Trevor Lawrence led the league in turnovers, what could have been worse in that situation?

They could have lost all six. Players could have sustained long-term injuries. They could have gotten blown out in every game. Locusts and sandstorms could have consumed us all. Strings could have been out of Bullet Bob. Believe me, Sam … things can always get worse.