JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL
I weary of all the speculation regarding free agents and the draft. I'm not smart enough to know which free agents and draftees provide best value. What I do know is the Jaguars need to build around quarterback Trevor Lawrence by bolstering the receiving corps and the offensive line. The Jaguars need to improve the defensive line and linebackers, especially regarding stopping the run and pressuring opposing quarterbacks. I for one am taking a leap of faith and trusting new Head Coach Doug Pederson to evaluate talent and make the right personnel decisions. Which leads to my question: Will Coach Pederson have the authority and mandate to make those calls?
Your weariness is understandable – and notably rational. While observers and fans obsess each offseason over free-agent speculation and draft projections, the reality is pre-draft and pre-free agency speculation rarely reflects what happens during those periods. Only one team gets the No. 1 free agent – whoever that might be – and getting the No. 1 free agent rarely changes a franchise. Success stories such as the one Jaguars wrote acquiring defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye in back-to-back offseasons are relatively rare. Building a franchise is better done with an eye on the draft and the long-term, with free agency as a supplement. As far as Pederson's authority, he will have say and input into such decisions. As far as who has the much-ballyhooed "final say," we should know much more about these dynamics when the Jaguars hire and announce an executive vice president of football operations. Remember: Draft and free-agent decisions rarely come down to an argument with one person banging the table and overriding everyone else with veto power. It's about long discussions and collaboration. Vehement disagreements and vetoes should be rare. If they're happening all the time, or at all, the organizational disfunction is such that the team probably won't compete anytime soon.
Marty from Jacksonville
Tony Khan, when asked about the EVP search, was quoted saying, "As he gets serious and talks to more people, I'll be meeting with those people..." The clear implication from this is that the EVP search is not happening yet. Is it possible the EVP search is not going on yet?
I watched the interview you reference. I didn't see a clear implication from Tony Khan that the Jaguars' EVP search operations isn't happening yet. I did get a clear implication that Tony Khan met with all Jaguars head coaching candidates this offseason, that he has been involved with the decision to hire an EVP and that he has met/will meet with any EVP candidates. I don't know the details of the EVP search. I do expect an EVP to be hired relatively soon. I don't know exactly how soon is relatively soon.
John from Jacksonville
Is there any kind of "cap" for coaching staff other than the pocketbook of the owner?
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL
John: In follow up of Bradley's question recently about avoiding Alabama linemen, I counter that the school absolutely should be considered. Alabama and other teams have so much talent across the board that it makes some of their players look artificially more talented than they are. Alabama quarterback and running back are almost always at the top of the stats.
Fans and observers are free to take whatever factors they choose into consideration. When teams scout and decide on players, they must do so based on grades and how they rank against other players in the draft. They must trust their scouting in the way they evaluate players, not how fans perceive schools.
Tom from Shanghai
"They have a lot of players in a lot of positions that have played well and are legitimate NFL starters. At some point, they must replace OK with great." - A very wise man. I mostly agree, but we also have players at a lot of positions (wide receiver, tight end, right tackle, defensive end, cornerback, safety) that didn't play that well and don't really look like NFL starters. Maybe we should look to replace them first before replacing one of the OK players like left tackle Cam Robinson.
Jason from Minneapolis, MN
Re-signing Cam Robinson feels like a smart move, except I don't know that it improves our offensive line unless we take a lineman at No. 1 overall. In that scenario, we would be starting either a first-round, second-round pick in Walker Little, or really expensive player in Cam at guard. It seems like letting Cam walk and taking a tackle would allow us to spend money at other positions of need. Do you think whether or not we re-sign Cam tells us exactly what position we will take with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft?
No, because if the Jaguars allow Robinson to sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, they still will have the very viable option of starting Little at left tackle.
Kevin from Jacksonville
Your answer to Steve from Wallingford, CT deserves an applause. I don't understand why so many people don't seem to grasp the concept of positional value, but excellently put.
I asked around about this. You're right: I am "awesome."
Brian from Round Rock, TX
What are the benefits to resigning a proven vet to a second contract? What are the downsides to a rookie? How about the downsides to a free agent?
The benefits to signing a proven veteran to a second contract is he has proven he can play at the NFL level, and that benefit is pronounced if he indeed is good – and if he is a player who already has played on your team. The reason the last part is important is you know the player fits your system and you can feel comparatively confident you will get essentially the same player you had on a rookie deal; that outcome is less certain signing a player from another team into a new environment. The downsides to a rookie are you never know how a player will adjust to professional football – and it often takes young players two seasons (and sometimes more) to reach peak production. The downsides to a free agent are that you usually are overpaying, particularly if you're shopping in the so-called elite market – with the overriding downside that free agents are usually on the market because their former teams didn't want them for some reason. Those reasons often come into clear view upon joining their new team – often very much to the chagrin of that new team.
Bradley from Sparks, NV
You and other experts say best player available concerning the draft. It seems that player is Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. I know defensive backs are not drafted No. 1, but this guy seems like a John Elway or Peyton Manning for his position. Do you think the Jags would even consider this?
I expect the Jaguars will strongly consider all viable options with the No. 1 selection in the '22 draft. I expect positional value will win out and they will select a pass rusher or offensive tackle with the selection because the players there seem to merit the selection. That doesn't mean it will happen. It means that's my expectation now – two months from the draft.
Bill from Pointe Vedra
I read the other day that Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux would "prefer" to play for a big market team I guess like Eli Manning. Maybe also Jalen Ramsey who, in my opinion, considered Jacksonville a backwater, unworthy of his exalted presence. How much weight do you think teams give to player preferences in making draft decisions?
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL
John, in your tenure you have seen multiple changes in coaching and in the front office. Each change brings (at least initially) new hope. New "feel" in the building. Does this current change feel the same? Or is this one somehow different?
This change has a far more professional, experienced feel than either the regime of former Head Coach Urban Meyer or former Head Coach Gus Bradley; Pederson has been an NFL head coach five seasons whereas Meyer never had been in the NFL and Bradley never had been a head coach. It also has a successful feel because of Pederson's three postseason appearances – and a Super Bowl appearance – in five seasons as a head coach. Pederson's background gives him instant credibility. His demeanor and approach inspire confidence. There's a feeling of an experienced driver at the wheel. That doesn't guarantee success; too many factors are involved in the NFL for any one move to guarantee success. But it gives the regime a confident, professional feeling to which I expect players will respond positively. That's a good start.
Jason from Suffolk, VA
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Some, though not as much as you think.