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O-Zone: Cutie pies

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF. If I remember right, the same team played the first half of the season and the second half of the season. The first half we were great, the general manager was great, the head coach was great, all was great. The second half we sucked, the general manager sucked, the head coach sucked, everything sucked. The same players, the same general manager and the same head coach were there the whole time. I don't think the general manager sucks, the head coach sucks or the players suck. I think we just need to have better luck with key players staying healthy and to improve our depth. Am I close?

There's a longstanding saying in the NFL that things are never as good as they look when you win and never as bad as they look when you lose. This is true because it's a game of moments, big plays and matchups in which a few small things can make a big difference. This applies overall to the Jaguars' 2023 season, too. The Jaguars weren't great when they were starting 8-3, but they were good enough to win those eight games and they looked like a team that could win clutch games late in the season. The Jaguars weren't an awful team when they were losing five of their last six games – though they played awfully at times, specifically in losses to Tampa Bay and Tennessee. The Jaguars had weaknesses in 2023, particularly on the interior of the offensive line and particularly against the run late in the season. But most teams, even good ones, have weaknesses. Bottom line? The Jaguars probably would have made the playoffs with a 10-7 or 11-6 record if not for injuries to quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Christian Kirk late in the season. If they had, they still would have had the same weaknesses. Would there be as much panic and anger right now among Jaguars fans and observers? Probably not.      

Arthur from Glassboro, NJ

What is your opinion on the front office not beginning contract negotiations with Josh Allen yet? He's a player who performed about as good as he could have, a guy who does everything right off the field and embraces the city and being a Jag. Now reports are that his camp is unhappy that Trent talked to the media about him before talking to him. What message does that send to the locker room?

Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke's stance long has been that he doesn't negotiate extensions during the season. There also are six weeks remaining until Allen is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2024 NFL League Year. So it's not necessarily a crisis that these negotiations haven't started. There indeed was a report last week that Allen's "camp" was unhappy that Baalke spoke to the media before speaking to them on this issue. Since Baalke's comments were in a press conference. it's not as if he went out of his way to speak to the media about this or "negotiate through the press." So I would be surprised if that issue can't be overcome. As far as the "message to the locker room" … that matters to some extent. But the bigger issue is ensuring Allen remains with the Jaguars in a manner that makes sense. My thought is it should be with a long-term deal. Whether that thought comes to fruition remains to be seen.

Mike from Orange Park, FL

You picked the Chiefs and 49ers. As you would say, "Good eye."

I am the king of all funk.

Don from Marshall NC

I just don't understand why the Jaguars have to start this back and forth with a star player. Star players get signed to fair contracts without any grief. Star players are rare and should receive the respect they deserve. Just pay Josh Allen. You cannot avoid it anyway. Besides he is just getting started in his career. Go Jaguars!

When it comes to re-signing Allen, Don – quite understandably – remains "all in."

Eric from Jacksonville Beach

I'm not an overwhelming Baalke supporter but also think he gets a lot more hate than he deserves. The guy still brought in great free agents that have shaped this team (Kirk, tight end Evan Engram, wide receiver Zay Jones, inside linebacker Foye Oluokun) and it's not like he's whiffed totally in the draft. All GMs are going to have picks that don't work and he's netted up Trevor (granted, that's a gimme pick) but also running back Travis Etienne Jr., cornerback Tyson Campbell, safety Andre Cisco, offensive tackle Walker Little, right tackle Anton Harrison and outside linebacker Travon Walker that are all proving to be foundational pieces for us. Inside linebacker Devin Lloyd, cornerback Greg Junior, cornerback Montaric Brown, wide receiver Parker Washington and safety Antonio Johnson all flashed real potential already. I think it's still too early to know what tight end Brenton Strange, running back Tank Bigsby, inside linebacker Ventrell Miller and the rest of last year are going to be, but I'm willing to bet they show even more in 2024 to add value. Again, not a Baalke apologist, but that seems like a pretty good haul in a few years from my seat. Am I looking at this through rose-colored glasses?

No. You're being objective. It's understandable you're uncomfortable. It's a rare trait these days and often met with ridicule.

Crash from Glen Saint Mary

Obi Wan! Two winning seasons in a row. The Kid almost put us into the playoffs with a sneak. While I'm -disappointed, this long-suffering Jaguar fan sees a bright future.

Go Jaguars.

GP from Savannah

Ranked 31st in running and unable to protect the quarterback falls on the offensive line. Prior to the season Baalke, et al – including you – all claimed the offensive line was not a problem. Big miss by the GM.

The Jaguars trusted that Ben Bartch returning at left guard after missing much of the 2023 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Luke Fortner improving in his second season at center and Brandon Scherff returning to health at right guard would solidify the interior of the line. It didn't happen. Sometimes you kill the bear. Sometimes the bear kills you.

Keith from Miami, FL

Do you get the sense that the Jaguars will be more active in free agency this year, besides just re-signing their own guys? Do you envision a big splash or two, particularly if a top defensive or offensive lineman or wide receiver are available?

I sense the Jaguars will be more active in free agency in 2024 than they were in 2023. This sense comes mainly from Baalke saying for a year leading into the 2023 offseason that they would not be active in 2023 and not saying that leading into 2024.

Big Jags Fan from Jacksonville

Trent stating Josh Allen will be a Jaguar next year isn't earth-shaking, right? The franchise tag can come into play if the sides are too far apart. Josh can't say no to $22 million next year, can he?

Baalke on Thursday indeed said Allen will be with the Jaguars next season. It was news because he hadn't really said it before, but you're right that the Jaguars have the option of the franchise tag. Allen would have the option of not playing on the tag. But that's risky. The NFL is a relatively short-term profession. If you sit out a season, it's a season of earning you can't get back.

Jason from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

If we choose to let Ridley walk in free agency, would we potentially get a third- or a fourth-round compensatory pick next year?

If wide receiver Calvin Ridley signs elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Jaguars will be eligible for a compensatory selection in 2025. It would be reasonable to think it could be a third- or fourth-rounder.

Dave from Jacksonville

Things I've learned from reading the O-Zone: 1. The coaching staff is never to blame for any losses or failures of the organization, and every coach should be welcome to stay in their position for as long as they want. 2. The players are solely responsible for all loses and failures of the team, but interestingly, the people in charge of player acquisition (GM and Personnel staff) again are blameless for any failures and should be welcome to stay in their roles indefinitely. 3. Fans, while passionate and sometimes cute in their obsession over their team, are generally pretty dumb.

Thoughts on your learning: 1. Coaches shouldn't stay as long as they want, though I do believe coaches get far too much blame and far too much credit for what players do on the field. 2. No one is solely responsible for anything in the NFL – and while people in charge of player acquisition must be held as accountable as anyone, I've never met a player acquirer who hasn't "missed" on free agents or draft selections. 3. I damned sure never said fans were cute.