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O-Zone: Big biscuits

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Kermit from Orlando, FL:
Assuming the Jags are able to upgrade their roster through free agency and the draft, which players do you feel face make-or-break seasons this upcoming season? I imagine Zane Beadles, Johnathan Cyprien and Luke Joeckel make the list. Are there others you feel may be on the radar, but aren't mentioned as frequently? Marqise Lee has had difficulty staying healthy and is competing for the No. 3 receiver position. Would you put him on that list as well?
John: The reality these days is every season is close to make-or-break for most NFL players, but yeah – your list is pretty good. There's little question Cyprien's future with the team likely depends on how he plays next season. The circumstances are different for Joeckel: the Jaguars must decide in the coming months whether or not to pick up an option on his contract for 2017; if they do, he likely will be here for 2016 and 2017. Beadles likely will compete with A.J. Cann or someone else for a starting position entering next season; if he doesn't win it, his salary dictates that he'll likely either take a paycut or be released. As far as Lee, he's under his rookie contract for two more seasons, so while this season is important for him I doubt he would be released if he doesn't have a breakout season; there's little risk to keeping him through the end of his contract and little to be gained with his release.
Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach and Section 215:
Thanks to Rashean Mathis for a stellar career and especially for sticking it to the hated Steelers.
John: Another for Rashean!
DaMillion from the Mean Streets of St. Johns:
Do you think Rashean would be "Pride Worthy?" All-time leader in interceptions for the Jags and he's from Jacksonville. He had some huge plays for this franchise, especially against the Steelers!
John: I do think Mathis is worthy of being in the Pride of the Jaguars. They keep me far, far away from the "Pride Process," but that's what I think.
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
At what point to do NFL scouts start looking at college players: senior year, junior year, or before that? I assume they aren't looking at peewee players like some colleges do.
John: NFL teams have area scouts whose job it is to know players at every school in their area. Though scouts focus mostly on players eligible for the following offseason's draft, scouts are well aware of the underclassmen at their schools.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, when I was a kid I obsessively collected football cards. Back in the day, I never saw a football card of a player who weighed more than 295 pounds. I can't believe players like John Matuszak and Bubba Smith weren't over 300 pounds?! On the current Jaguars roster, we have 19 players over 300 pounds. Were they fudging numbers or are players really that much bigger today?
John: Players are that much bigger today.
Steve from Jacksonville:
With the Jags having over $75 million in cap space going into free agency, who are some candidates that would make sense for the Jags to lock up long-term during this offseason? Not sure how they can realistically spend $75 million in one offseason even with leaving some for the rookies.
John: The Jaguars aren't looking to spend so much this offseason that they enter the season slammed up against the salary cap. That's a good way to get into cap trouble in the future. Either way, they'll be able to spend enough to improve the roster and still have flexibility moving forward. As for who they will lock up, they can't work on extensions for players such as Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Telvin Smith until after the season. They can negotiate a long-term deal with Allen Hurns, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen.
Jerry from Riverview, FL:
If teams aren't allowed to contact free agents or their agents until the start of free agency, how is it that so many high-profile players seem to be signed so quickly?
John: There is a negotiating window that opens two days before free agency. With free agency opening March 9 this year, the window opens March 7. Teams can speak with agents during that time, but cannot finalize deals until free agency opens. Now, how did deals get done so quickly before the league installed this negotiating window in 2013? Hmmmm…
Maurice from Potomac MD:
If the Jaguars land a free safety such as Eric Weddle or Tashaun Gipson, do you think that would tempt them to opt for a pass rusher over Jalen Ramsey? Safety seems to be deep in this year's draft. Or are you more for the idea of playing Ramsey at corner for a couple of years, then eventually switching him over if we were to sign a guy like Weddle? If Ramsey is off the board and Spence proves he has grown up I would take him. Thoughts?
John: So many weeks until the draft, so many scenarios. I think the most likely scenario is the Jaguars signing both a pass rusher and safety in free agency, which would leave them more freedom to take the best available player at No. 5. I don't think the depth of the safety position will have much impact on their thinking at No. 5. Realistically, it's going to be hard to find a player on the level of Ramsey outside the first round. As far as Spence, he's not going to be able to prove he has grown up between now and the draft. Any team taking him must do so trusting that he has done so and that his missteps are behind him.
Garrett from Jacksonville:
John, with Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns all having had breakout seasons, who do you think will have a breakout year with the acquisition of a few players in the offseason?
John: I think T.J. Yeldon, James Sample and Dante Fowler Jr. are a few possibilities.
Bryan from Amelia Island, FL:
I think a lot of people have reservations about drafting players from the University of Florida because they have a terrible track record of producing NFL talent. Derrick Harvey and Dante Fowler aren't even close to being similar in playing style, but I can probably count on one hand how many Florida players have done well in the NFL. Emmitt Smith, Freddy Taylor, Jevon Kearse, Joe Haden, Lito Sheppard, and maybe the Pouncey twins. That's just not good with the amount of players that have been drafted coming out of that program. Your thoughts, O-Man?
John: I think how other players from a school fare in the NFL offers no indication of a player will fare in the NFL, but Percy Harvin, Janoris Jenkins, Ike Hilliard, Wilber Marshall, Trace Armstrong, Lomas Brown, James Jones, Neal Armstrong, Ricky Nattiel, Reggie Nelson, Jack Youngblood, Cris Collinsworth, Mike Peterson, Kevin Carter, Nat Moore, Wes Chandler …
Julian from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Do you think that Dave Caldwell will be able to draft the highest-rated player on his board?
John: Why wouldn't he?
Stephen from Jacksonville:
For the record, I thought and hoped 16 years ago R. Jay Soward would be as good as Keyshawn Johnson because they were both wide receivers from USC. I don't know if it has anything to do with the Dante Fowler Jr.-Derrick Harvey comparisons but it does show that nine-year olds are naïve. I missed on that one, John.
John: Yes, and for what it's worth it's a good thing the Jaguars didn't base that Blake Bortles selection on all of the other former NFL quarterbacks out of Central Florida. And you're not alone: Tom Coughlin missed on Soward, too.
Bill from Jacksonville:
It's true that assuming players that play the same position and went to the same school will have the same NFL career is far-fetched. But, it has also been noted by many writers close to the Texans organization that they didn't draft Derek Carr because they just couldn't sell the fan base on "draft bust" David Carr's brother being their QB of the future. I know the situations aren't the same, but they're not THAT different, are they? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: I don't know how the same or different they are. I do know I haven't the foggiest idea what that has to do with anything to do with the Jaguars.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
John, I'm confused by something I read today. It has really clouded my expectations of Fowler this season. As you know, he went to the same college as Derrick Harvey, so obviously he has a propensity to be a draft bust. But, I also read that Fowler once ate at the same Wendy's in Blue Ridge, Georgia, as J.J. Watt. Their meals were seven years apart, but it was the same Wendy's! So, which close connection trumps the other? Will he be a bust like Harvey or a perennial All-Pro like Watt?
John: I'm tempted to say Wendy's will have the biggest influence. Then again, rumor had it that Emmitt Smith and I both ate a Skeeter's Big Biscuit on the same night in the fall of '87, and that didn't do me much good …

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