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O-Zone: Contract talk

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Rick from Calloway, FL:
I read that an unnamed coach relates injuries to new practice rules. What is your take? (By the way, the league disagrees).
John: Most players and ex-players with whom you speak will tell you that, generally speaking, fewer full-contact practice hours means less wear and tear on the body. Logic would tell you that, too. It's possible, I suppose, that not practicing as much could make the body unprepared for the trauma of a game, but I don't know that anyone knows for sure. There do seem to have been more injuries this season, but it's difficult to get hard, statistical data because every injury is different. And even if we did have hard, statistical data, one season is not a statistical trend. If certain injuries are still regularly up in a few years then that could tell us a bit more.
Manuel from Jacksonville:
For those fans annoyed when Andre Branch dances after a good play, tell them to try watching the ROAR dances instead – even if they are not dancing at that moment. In fact, I've never seen Andre Branch dancing.
John: #Standunited
Bobby from Bellingham, WA:
I'm confused about the "franchise tag." In the case of Browns center Alex Mack, if he is a free agent, doesn't that qualify him as completing his contract and give him the right to go to any team he chooses? If so, how can a team "franchise tag" him and keep him on the team one more year if the contract is up? I thought the "franchise tag" could only be used on unrestricted free agents. What, then, if Cleveland "franchise tags" Mack and he chooses not to sign due to contract being fulfilled? What would be the ramifications?
John: Wow. You're confused enough that now I'm also confused. It works like this. A player becomes an unrestricted free agent when he reaches the end of his contract. A team can franchise a player twice to prevent him from signing elsewhere. Teams are allowed to do this and players must abide by the system because the league and the players union collectively bargained the rule into effect. If the player chooses not to play, he will not gain a year toward free agency, which is why franchised players usually end up playing despite many being unhappy with their contracts.
Greg from Jacksonville:
We know the Jags' needs list has quarterback and defensive end at the top, but where does running back fit? Maurice Jones-Drew may or may not be resigned, but even if he is, it's a young man's position, right?
John: It is indeed a young man's position, but I don't see the Jaguars drafting the position on the first day or two this season. There are still needs such as offensive line and perhaps outside linebacker, wide receiver and defensive front that can be addressed with early draft choices. That's not to say the Jaguars absolutely won't draft a running back early. If the right player is available, it could happen. But generally speaking there are other positions considered more premium in the draft.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
Rumor has it Gus and Co., are in the running to coach the Senior Bowl. I would love to see them coach a team that is more or less as talented as the squad across from them. It also has to be one of the best ways to scout the incoming class.
John: I wouldn't put much stock in the Senior Bowl game as a way to judge Bradley's coaching staff. You're talking about an All-Star game of college players, after all. But in terms of scouting seniors, yes, that is the reason teams like their staffs to coach there. It gives the team an up-close look at a lot of draftable guys – particularly mid-to-late round guys – and certainly gives a team a better feel about the prospect as a person.
Justin from Jacksonville:
I seem to remember some rather confusing verbiage surrounding the Salary Cap "floor" when the new CBA was signed a few years ago. Isn't there a minimum number the Jags have to spend this offseason to reach a certain percentage of the salary cap maximum before opening day 2014? Or, simpler question, do you know what that percentage is?
John: The entire rule is a bit too complicated to completely regurgitate here. Essentially, there is no one-year salary cap floor. Teams must spend to within 89 percent of the cap over a pair of four-year periods – 2013-2016 and 2017-2020.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars have difficulty finding a trade partner, what are the odds Gabbert restructures his deal to stay on as a backup? I know it's early in his career to fully accept that he won't/can't be a starter, but maybe he's a realist...
John: The odds are pretty close to zero. Gabbert's salary for 2014 is guaranteed. As for his future, I don't know that Gabbert won't be a starter somewhere else. I actually believe he could be in a different situation. But it's not going to be in Jacksonville, and if that's the case, it's almost certainly time to move on.
Krimma from Duval:
I believe BG11 will be back in 2014 and Henne will not. The reason is simply about money and upside. In all fairness, Blaine didn't play much this season. As we've witnessed with Chad, the entire offense grew as the season progressed. That said, I still think they bring in a rookie or veteran quarterback. I'm not saying they believe Blaine is the man, but he still has more upside than Chad. Yes, I still believe that, even after three tumultuous seasons and even though I'm probably wrong.
John: We shall see.
Randy from Jacksonville:
Sometimes it amazes me how well you're able to keep your cool when answering certain questions; you do a great job with that - usually. Although I'll agree the team is very transparent, there are (and should be) certain limits. In a recent answer to John from Jacksonville regarding the transparency of the Jaguars, you could have pointed to the best reason for the Jags to hold their cards somewhat close to the chest regarding free agency: The Jags have 31 competitors who would benefit by knowing such plans in advance. Why would we want to give them such an advantage?
John: Hey! Professional advice! How awesome for me!
Carl from Jacksonville and Orlando:
Good call, O-man. I suggested the Franchise Tag for Marks a couple of weeks ago thinking that Marks knew he had a chance to sign with a good team for good money. You said a deal before then was more likely. Guess you kinda know what you're talking about. Happy Holidays!
John: I can't take credit for that. Gene Frenette knew way before me.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
Using your crystal ball, what do you think Peyton will do in the playoffs this season? Also, why is his record so much worse in the postseason? In watching him over the years a few of my friends and I think he prepares so much that when things go wrong against great teams he simply doesn't have the mental capacity to ad lib as well as others - that his prep work actually overlooks an important aspect: winging it. However, you would be the guy to know if we're just plain full of it.
John: I don't buy the "mental capacity" thing. Manning ad libs at the line of scrimmage as well as any quarterback in NFL history. And I'm not one to judge quarterbacks solely on postseason success, though there are those who do. I want a quarterback who can get my team to the postseason every season and give me a chance to win it. Then, when the matchups and injuries favor my team, I'll have a good chance of winning the whole thing. I also think quarterbacks get way too much blame for postseason losses. For those who anoint Tom Brady the best of his generation because of Super Bowl rings, how do they explain that he hasn't won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season? Was John Elway markedly better after winning Super Bowls following his final two seasons than he was when he spent most of his career "just" leading his team to the postseason? Manning has lost a lot of playoff games. With rare exceptions – last year with the Broncos and 2005 with the Colts – he didn't have the best team. There's more to it than that, but if you're looking for a general explanation, that's a factor. Now, as for my crystal ball: I have no idea what the Broncos will do in the playoffs, but Denver should be favored this season, so this is one of those rare seasons when Manning enters on the best team.
Lavender from Jacksonville Beach and Section 432:
Now that Marks has gotten a contract extension, which current Jaguar should also be rewarded with an extension?
John: (…raises hand)

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