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O-Zone: Beware the 'Tink

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Section 238:
So, when can we sign Chris Long? So, he had an off year. He still could be an ASSET to our front seven. Thoughts.
John: My thought on this topic is I doubt the Jaguars will sign either Chris Long or James Laurinaitis, the defensive end and linebacker released by the Los Angeles Rams, respectively, on Friday. While the inbox throughout Saturday and into the night was floooooooooooded with questions about both players – and while both indeed are prominent, well-known names – Laurinaitis wouldn't necessarily be an upgrade for the Jaguars at linebacker at this stage of his career. Long? He had three sacks last season. Remember, availability in free agency isn't the same as still having a lot of ability. I realize that the release of every player with a big name will spawn such questions, but remember: there's usually a reason players are released, and with rare exceptions released players aren't going to make you markedly better. The Jaguars need impact players in free agency this offseason. It's rare to find them in free agency. It's really rare to find them among players who have been released.
Hobo from Jacksonville:
John, I believe you have Pretendonitis: You pretend to know everything about football (even if you don't).
John: I don't pretend to know everything about football. Now, at one time I did know everything about the casts of Golden Girls and Charles in Charge, but football? Nah, about 78 percent. Or 79.
Joe from Jefferson City and Section 124:
Hey O, how do you think the new emphasis on CTE and brain injuries will affect Hall of Fame voting? It seems like more players are putting their health above the game, and that might result in players retiring earlier. If this is the case, would projections of what a player would have done in a longer career be a factor in Hall of Fame voting? Or do you believe this will not be an issue in the future?
John: This is tough to answer because it's hard to know how extensive the trend of players retiring early will become – if it indeed becomes a trend at all. If in fact you see a slew of great, Hall-bound players retiring suddenly six or seven years into their careers then you may see Hall voters change how they vote; until that happens, it will be case by case. I doubt you'll see enough of a trend to have a dramatic effect on the Hall of Fame, but we'll see.
Trae from Jacksonville:
I personally believe the Chad Henne re-signing was a good decision and inevitable, like most probably do. How long do you see Henne staying in this role here in Jacksonville? Do you think there will be any opportunities for Henne as a starter again in this league?
John: I think Henne will stay in this backup role for the foreseeable future, certainly as long as the Jaguars are in this offense with the current offensive coaches. He's 30, so it's not unreasonable to think he could be a backup for three or four more seasons or more if this regime stays intact. Not only is he familiar with the offense, his presence in the quarterback meeting room with Blake Bortles also is a positive. I think Henne could be a very good coach someday, and there certainly is an element of that role in the backup quarterback position if the backup is a veteran such as Henne. As far as your final question, I doubt there will be teams pursue Henne with the idea of him being a starter, but could he start for a stretch and be effective in the event of an injury to starter? Sure, he's capable of that. The question is if he wants to go elsewhere and pursue a sniff of a starting situation at all costs. I doubt that will be the case. He has a good situation here in Jacksonville, and he seems to have a good grasp of that.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
It seems the Jags have had trouble covering tight ends for the last decade. If Myles Jack is an elite cover talent, would he potentially neutralize some of the matchup nightmares that tight ends create today? Or would Ramsey at free safety have a bigger impact on stopping tight ends?
John: Jack absolutely could potentially neutralize tight ends; he is good enough in coverage that he actually covered slot receivers in college. Ramsey, too, should be effective in that role. Plugging one player into the lineup wouldn't automatically mean a sudden end to the Jaguars' Tight End Issue, but neither one of those players would hurt.
Eric from Gainesville, FL:
Wouldn't having Telvin Smith and Myles Jack on the field together as two undersized linebackers hurt our run defense? Yes, they might be good on passing downs, but then you're using a Top 5 pick on a part-time player. I don't think that's ideal.
John: First off, I don't know that Myles Jack is the Jaguars' top priority at No. 5. In fact, I'd think they are far more apt to take the best defensive lineman on the board at that point unless Ramsey is there. That's my Pre-Combine, No-Crystal-Ball Insight of the Week, but it makes sense. As for having Jack and Smith on the field at the same time … nah, it's probably not ideal, but if a player can improve the Jaguars' pass defense, it's probably not a bad thing. The NFL is situational, and if a player is an elite level talent – as Jack is purported to be – teams have a way of finding a position for him. Jack reportedly is a big time talent who some believe could eventually be a middle linebacker. If he was a passing-down middle linebacker and improved the Jaguars' third-down defense quickly, that would be a good thing.
Tim from Winston Salem, NC:
As players are cut by other teams in cost-cutting moves, are the Jaguars free to negotiate with them or do they have to wait until the free-agent signing period?
John: When a player is released from his contract, he becomes eligible to negotiate with and sign with another team immediately. The reason unrestricted free agents must wait until the beginning of the league year – March 9 this year – is that is the date their contracts with their former teams expire. The Jaguars signed Red Bryant and Chris Clemons in similar fashion in 2014.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Will we have to suffer through the Bold uniforms again this year for our Thursday night game?
John: I hope so. I liked them already, and the thought of people suffering over them is the sort of added bonus that doesn't come along all of the time.
Ed from Jacksonville:
You and others have said left tackle is more of a premium position than some skill position such as wide receiver. How come few teams trade up for those premium positions – except quarterback – but do trade up in the draft for wide receivers and other non-premium positions? People would trade up for RG3 and Tim Tebow, but not Tony Boselli or Orlando Pace? If this year's best left tackle falls to us and our targeted players are off the board, what trade value would we have?
John: Left tackle actually seems to be becoming a bit less premium lately in the sense that you can win with average play there. As for your point that teams are perhaps more apt to trade for a skill player, I don't know that that's always true. Assuming you're correct, the reason quarterbacks and difference-making skill players are tempting is they score points and teams must score points. Premium players at other positions are hard to find, too, but the lure of getting them perhaps isn't strong enough to provoke first-round trades as often. As for your final question, the best left tackle in this year's draft is Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss. Would he draw a lot of trade offers if he fell to No. 5? I don't know, but the Jaguars might not want to trade away a chance to draft him, anyway.
Austin from Athens, GA:
I will attempt to analyze this once and for all. Derrick and Dante both start with the letter D. Derrick Harvey and Dante Fowler Jr. both have 13 letters in their full name. Combine that with the well-documented fact that they both went to the University of Florida, and I can decisively say that Dante Fowler Jr. is not Derrick Harvey.
John: But, but, but??!!!
Chris from Palm Beach, FL:
You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask of the Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with....Tinker? For me, I don't want to mess with that Shadrick dude. One scarrrrry hombre.
John: So much more than you know. And no, you don't mess with a guy like Tinker. I'm just telling you, you don't.

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