O-Zone: Crying a river

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Eric from Columbus, IN

It sure feels like this has become the organization people want out of. If we do trade Yann, our two best draft picks in a decade demanded trades … wow. How do you see this playing out?

We'll start here because there's no place else to start this morning, and I do imagine this O-Zone will be close to all-Yann-all-the-time. That's because Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue began the week on Monday morning by tweeting that he isn't interested in signing a long-term deal with the Jaguars. There was more to his tweet – including a message to fans – but that was the gist. This came in the wake of a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Jaguars likely will apply the franchise tag to Ngakoue, thereby limiting the veteran pass rusher's options in unrestricted free agency this offseason. The news understandably rattled many Jaguars fans and has caused many – again – to question the direction/motives of the organization's decision-makers. It also has caused many fans to jump to far-reaching conclusions about this possibly being a franchise-defining or franchise-altering moment. We'll get into a lot of these questions/issues later in this O-Zone, but for now we'll address your question. How do I see it playing out? I expect the Jaguars indeed will place the franchise tag on Ngakoue and I expect he won't like it much. I don't expect the Jaguars to trade Ngakoue and I expect he will play for the Jaguars next season because the tag says he will play for the Jaguars or nowhere – and because sitting out the season will cost him nearly $20 million. That's not an ideal situation for either party, but this has been a difficult negotiation from the beginning. "Ideal" left the station a while back.

David from Maplewood, NJ

John, well … that could have gone better. I know it ain't over till it's over, but the wording of that tweet sure seems like it's close to being over. What say you? Is there still a chance we keep Yan or is that it?

The wording of the tweet left little doubt that Ngakoue doesn't want to play in Jacksonville anymore. Money has a way of changing feelings in these things, so perhaps there's a chance the team could make him feel differently.

Craig from San Diego, CA

I hope you weren't already running out of ways to explain why it's not as simple as "Pay Yann."

There aren't really that many ways to explain it, but I suspect I'll be explaining it a lot in the coming days and weeks. To review: The Jaguars want to pay Ngakoue and believe he should be highly-paid. They like him a lot and believe he's very good. That doesn't mean they want or should simply pay him whatever he demands. That's why it's not so simple as screaming, "Pay Yann." That could mean the Jaguars eventually lose Ngakoue. I can tell you this: This would have been much easier had Ngakoue been a truly elite, franchise-level defensive end; in that scenario, I have no doubt that these negotiations would have been easier – and completed by now to all parties' satisfaction. Because he hasn't been quite at that level and apparently wants to be paid like it, it became much tougher – tough enough that we have reached this point.

Bob from Sumter, SC

I'm sure there will be much angst and blame leveled at General Manager David Caldwell for Ngakoue's decision. But you know what? Not every player for every NFL team is always happy or gets what they think they're worth. That's why there's a franchise tag. If he's not happy playing for the $19 million or so a year that was/is on the table I wish him all the best.

OK.

Travis from North Dakota

Now that Yannick isn't willing to sign a long-term deal here what's the best we should expect to get out of him in a trade? Do you think we could get a first for him?

I imagine the Jaguars could get a second-round selection for Ngakoue. I don't know that they could get a first-round selection for him in part because I don't know that the perception of Ngakoue around the NFL quite matches the perception among Jaguars fans.

Ken from Jacksonville

John, in a recent reply you said Jaguar management is pretty honest when discussing the team during the offseason. Personally, I'd prefer them to be lying through their teeth. Sure, the fans want to know what's happening with the team, but I'd rather we distract and confuse other teams regarding our players.

Fair.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. Here we go. Four-year veteran. Single-digit sack guy. Liability against the run. One Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. Second-best player on the team at his own position. Any thoughts on what this fan base would say if the Jags front office signed that free agent to a $22 million a year contact? (This is probably gonna be a topic for a while, huh?)

You don't reach the stage that the Ngakoue/Jaguars situation has reached without some tricky circumstances, and your email touches on a lot of those circumstances. Ngakoue consistently has shown the ability to register eight-plus sacks a season and he is a high-intensity, reliable player; he absolutely is a very important and good player who is valuable to the franchise. The Jaguars need good players – and after losing cornerback Jalen Ramsey last offseason, they sure don't want to let another homegrown front-line player get away. Those are all reasons why the Jaguars should sign Ngakoue. At the same time, he reportedly wants to be paid in the highest tier of pass rushers and there is plenty to indicate he's not quite in that group. He has registered double-digit sacks in one of his four NFL seasons, has led his team in sacks once – and he never has been the best player at his position on his own team. I wrote this recently, but it bears repeating: If the Jaguars paid Ngakoue what he's seeking and he put up the numbers seasons in 2020/2021 that he has put up the past two seasons, he would be considered a disappointment and observers would criticize the team for re-signing him. That doesn't mean Ngakoue is a bad player or that he shouldn't be paid well. It is to say that perhaps the team has legitimate reasons for not simply ceding to his contract demands.

James from Socorro, NM

Do successful teams trade away Pro Bowl talent, like the Jaguars have done with cornerback Jalen Ramsey and will do with Ngakoue after placing the franchise tag on him (according to his Twitter, he has no interest in signing a long-term deal with the Jaguars)? I can't remember multiple star players coming off rookie deals not wanting to play with the team that drafted them.

What has happened with Ramsey and Ngakoue isn't a good look. I wouldn't be quite so sure that the Jaguars will automatically trade Ngakoue after franchising him, but no … it's not a good look.

James from Jacksonville

With Yann demanding to leave Jacksonville is there any viable way to save the Jaguars? With impact players refusing to play for the team, something is broken. It seems something drastic has to be done to save the franchise if the PA and players suggest not playing for the team. What happened? And how do we dig our way out?

The sky is not falling, and Ngakoue tweeting that he wants to leave because contract negotiations aren't going well does not equate to them being unsavable. How do the Jaguars dig their way out of their situation? Win.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. With the talk about a possible move by linebacker Myles Jack from MIKE, most of the conversation seems to lean toward WILL. Why does SAM not seem to be in the conversation? I think Jack's coverage ability was one of the qualities that made him so valuable before the draft. Why not line him over and have him cover tight ends? What am I missing?

The Sam – or strong-side – linebacker typically comes off the field in passing situations, which means he's only playing 30-to-35 percent of the snaps. You want a player as good as Jack playing more than that. The "Mike" and "Will" typically stay on the field in nickel situations, so it makes sense to have Myles Jack at one of those positions.

William from Savannah, GA

John, I truly want to apologize to you for my rant concerning Culture Club. It didn't occur to me at the time, but . . . Anyway, the first step to addressing a problem is to admit that you have a problem. Now all you have to do is ask for help, and attend CCA meetings. Having been through the 12-step program, and then supporting my best friend through it, I can tell you that you may not find rainbows and unicorns, but you will be better for it. Good luck! And if you need a sponsor . . .

Don't put your head on my shoulder. Sink me in a river of tears.

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