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O-Zone: Darts at a board

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Michael from Orange Park, FL

It seems a given now that the Jaguars will keep Ridley. I don't get it. He was good with us. Not great. Explain this.

First, I don't know that it's a given the Jaguars retain wide receiver Calvin Ridley, although I think they will – and should. Still, for a pending unrestricted free agent such as Ridley, nothing is certain as the start of a league year approaches – until the player signs a contract extension or has the franchise/transition tag placed upon him. Now, if your question is why should the Jaguars retain Ridley, the reasons would be multi-fold. One would be that he had more than 1,000 yards receiving with eight touchdowns last season. Another is that he drew multiple crucial penalties last season, so his impact was greater than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Another is that there's a good chance he will improve in 2024 considering he played the 2023 season after missing nearly two full seasons. Another is that his chemistry with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his knowledge of the Jaguars' offense should improve in the duo's second season working together. Still another is that Ridley still appears durable and in his prime physically after not missing a game this past season. None of this is to say that Ridley was without flaws in 2023. But replacing those traits he brings – and replacing his production – isn't a given. And if he leaves, the Jaguars would need to replace that production very quickly.

Richard from Jacksonville

The NFL just issued a get of jail free card for Allen's franchise tag with the salary cap. Do they tag him and sign Ridley?

The NFL indeed on Friday announced that the salary cap will rise to $255.4 million, a record increase of $30.6 million over last season's figure of $224.8 per team. This means the cap will be about $15 million(ish) more than many teams were projecting, and that "extra" cap space indeed should help the Jaguars – and many teams – as they work to prepare their caps for the 2024 League Year that begins March 13. While all teams receiving more cap space means the increase may not benefit particular teams, one area where the increase is expected to have immediate and obvious effect is how teams handle the franchise tag. With more cap room, more teams are expected to use the tag because more teams have more room to absorb the one-year guaranteed salary that comes with the tag. This doesn't guarantee that the Jaguars will use the $24 million outside linebacker franchise tag on outside linebacker Josh Allen. There's still time to negotiate a long-term deal before the March 5 tag deadline – and a long-term deal benefits both sides financially so long as the Jaguars want to sign Allen to such a deal. But if the Jaguars do opt to use the tag on Allen, the cap unquestionably makes that a more palpable option. As for how it will affect re-signing Ridley – that still depends on how Ridley and his representatives see the potential market versus how the Jaguars see it. An increase in cap doesn't change that dynamic much.

Richard from Lincoln, RI

I was listening to Boston sports radio and these guys put Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Trevor Lawrence as failed top draft picks in the last few drafts. What are your thoughts on this?

I think I wonder realistically how often those guys watch Lawrence play, and I think I don't care all that much where they put him.

Greg from Jacksonville Beach

I'll say it. Others say what you will not say. T-Baalke is the problem. Not that you will admit this.

I'm proud of you for saying what you think. But while Jaguars General Manager Baalke falls short of perfection the way essentially all NFL general managers do, calling him a problem is way extreme. The Jaguars have had winning records the past two seasons and are a victory from having won back-to-back AFC South titles. These two seasons followed 1-15 and 3-14 seasons the year before Baalke became general manager and in his first season. He has overseen a deficient roster improving dramatically. Is Baalke the right general manager to take the Jaguars to the top of the conference? Or to the Super Bowl. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Time will tell. But to not acknowledge that Baalke has at least helped improve the Jaguars from one of the worst teams to a perennial competitive one is to skew in an unreasonable direction. I understand that many fans do not share that view, but that doesn't make it a reasonable one.

Michael from Fruit Cove, FL

How much of the increase in the cap was expected? Everyone knew it was going up. Did they just not expect it to go up this much? Or were teams already planning to get an increase of about this size?

Teams expected about half of this cap increase.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

Are any teams well known for being highly committed to a BAP (Best Available Player) philosophy when it comes to the draft regardless of positional needs? I'm curious how those franchises have fared long term?

All NFL teams want to commit to a BAP approach when it comes to the draft. The reality is no team sticks to the philosophy in a pure form because you can't realistically take, say, five quarterbacks and two wide receivers in every draft even if those players were the best available player when that team was drafting. Franchise such as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers from this view have stayed close to a "pure" BAP approach better than a lot of teams, and my belief is that's one reason those teams have been among the league's most consistent teams. It takes some ability to ignore criticism to stay with a BAP philosophy because it usually means getting criticized after the draft for not addressing "needs" as established by observers/fans. The Jaguars, remember, made a pretty obvious BAP selection with linebacker Chad Muma in Round 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft two rounds after selecting linebacker Devin Lloyd. The Jaguars took Muma because they thought him clearly the best available player when selecting him. The selection was roundly questioned for not addressing "needs."

Don from Marshall, NC

Maybe the Jaguars need to go back to the high school field for training camp? The new dance hall did not work for the girls! Go Jaguars!

When it comes to the state-of-the-art and less-than-a-year-old Miller Electric Center, Don is not "all in."

Bradley from Sparks, NV

Do you think Jim Harbaugh going to the Los Angeles Chargers will benefit the talented quarterback they have and turn them into contenders?

The Chargers during quarterback Justin Herbert's career have made the playoffs once (2022) and missed it narrowly the season before that. Will Harbaugh going to the Chargers benefit Herbert? History suggests that could happen. Harbaugh has won a lot more than he has lost in the NFL and in college.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, I have researched and having run the jewels rather the analytics, I have found that not too many folks outside KC would crown Patrich Mahomes, Goatly Charmichael in such a run on sentence as this. But just because Patrick is yet to surpase TB Goatly, doesn't mean he ain't. The numbers are these: SB Wins, SB MVP's, MVP's, ALL-PRO's, Game Winning Drives, Game Winning Post-Season Drives. Equals? Bueller? Out of all NFL QB's, one stands alone. Apart from the Rodgers, Rothlethsberger, Peyton, Brees, Favre, Montana's of the world. Tom Brady. Compaing TB 12's first six seasons to Patrick Mahomes' they are nearly idenditcal favoring Patrick "The Ten Ring Man" Mahomes. I think ten rings will do. We are witnessing the best to ever do it, right now, again. Pretty cool.

OK, I think.

Steve from Nashville, TN

New Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen's style of defense has been described as aggressive in almost every article on him. This makes most other NFL Team's DC's style passive by definition. What are the risks associated with an "aggressive" style of defense that causes other NFL Teams to not deploy that strategy?

I never have met or covered a defensive coordinator who does not say he employs an "aggressive" style of defense. Nielsen's approach, to him tell it during his introductory press conference, is about playing "downhill" and breaking on the ball aggressively. It also employs a lot of press coverage with shell over the top. The risk here would be giving up plays if cornerbacks don't cover well and safeties aren't effective defending deep passes.

Dan from Jax

You talk about the NFL figuring compensatory selections based on a formula … could it be in reality, a dartboard?

I've heard the occasional general manager grumble something to this effect, but the reality is teams understand the compensatory formula enough to have a decent idea what to expect.