JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Red from the O-Zone Comments Section
John, why does General Manager Dave Caldwell continue to ignore the tight end group? There's a total of four tight ends on the Jaguars' roster and half of them are recovering from season-ending injuries. The others are relative unknowns - one was on the Jags' practice squad last season and the other I've never heard of. Are the Jaguars planning to draft one or two tight ends next month or do we look forward to another year of little – if any – contribution from the position?
Fair question – and a good one. The Jaguars clearly need more production at tight end next season – and in an ideal world, the team might have addressed the position early in free agency. Or, in that ideal world, it might spend an early selection on a tight end in next month's 2020 NFL Draft. But the world isn't ideal, and the reality was the Jaguars' salary cap wasn't going to allow them to set the tight-end market in free agency this offseason, which meant there weren't going to be any high-profile, move-the-needle signings there. The reality also is this year's draft isn't a great one for tight ends, so the Jaguars won't likely address the position early in the draft. So, what's the approach? Several-fold – and none of those folds will be particularly satisfying to fans. One is that the Jaguars will hope for a Year Two leap in production from 2019 third-round tight end Josh Oliver, who despite missing much of his rookie season with injuries did show potential in the offseason program last year. Another is that the Jaguars will hope veteran James O'Shaughnessy can return from a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament and match the career-best production he had in the first five weeks of last season. I also expect the team to add at least one veteran tight end or contributing-level rookie at the position – maybe two. Some positions are trouble spots for certain organizations, and tight end has been a trouble spot for this team for a long time. The position promised to be particularly tricky for the Jaguars this offseason. Consider those promises kept.
Sascha from Cologne, Germany
Hey John, why is everybody so upset? We have some young core players (i.e. wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr., defensive end Josh Allen, right tackle Jawaan Taylor, linebacker Myles Jack, quarterback Gardner Minshew, etc.) and we already have 11 picks in 2020 with two first-round picks in 2021, why not looking forward?
John from Cape May Court House
Here's a way to stop the run better; build an offense capable of taking the lead. Teams are less likely to run when they are losing. Build an offense to get a lead, so then our defense can do what it does best; pressure the quarterback.
Agreed. But when you struggle against the run to the degree the Jaguars struggled last season, it's tough to get leads. Yes, it's good to get leads. And yes … leads can keep teams from running as much. But you still must be able to stop the run in the NFL better than the Jaguars did last season.
Bryan from Egg Harbor, NJ
O-man: With it now being draft season, don't the Jaguars need an answer on Telvin Smith soon? I know he is likely done in Duval, but doesn't the team need to plan for cap purposes?
Former Jaguars weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith has a dead cap hit of $5.6 million for 2020. That's the number the Jaguars will use for salary-cap purposes.
Andy from Jacksonville
While I understand the business reasons behind it, I think trading defensive end Calais Campbell is going to have the same negative impact on the team as Poz retiring. I know veteran presence and leadership may be overrated (according to some writers), but I think Poz being gone is when we saw Telvin Smith's troubles start to show …
I don't disagree. The Jaguars skewed too young and inexperienced in 2013-2014 when Caldwell first took over as general manager. This offseason feels similar to '13 on many fronts, though this roster isn't nearly as deficient as that one. Winning teams almost always need veterans to play at a high level and be leaders. The Jaguars have a few players – center Brandon Linder, maybe Jack – who theoretically can do that; they are talented enough and they are experienced enough. They just need to do it. Focus will be on those sorts of players next season.
John from Jacksonville
How come I have not heard about the Jaguars signing any XFL free agents?
Because they haven't signed any XFL free agents.
Mac from Jacksonville Beach, FL
I'm torn. On one hand, I fear Yannick may be a locker-room cancer right now with how vocal he's being on social media (regarding his disgruntlement with contract negotiations). On the other hand, especially after cornerback Jalen Ramsey, I fear trading him sets a precedent to the rest of the team (and even the league) that any time a player isn't totally satisfied with how things are working out for him, he can just whine his way onto a different team. The Jags really do have the leverage here with the franchise tag. Unless they have reason to believe he'll hold out, or that he'll be too much of a distraction in the locker room, I think they should keep him. It truly amazes me how someone could throw such a tantrum after getting offered $19M for one year of work.
Don't worry about Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue being a locker-room cancer. He's not that guy. If he's in Jacksonville, he will work hard and be a good teammate. That's what he did last season and he was already upset about his contract. Now, will he report to the Jaguars and play on the franchise tag this season? Despite all logic and financial incentives that say he would, that's a legitimate question. Ngakoue is a very difficult case to predict. As for Ngakoue "throwing a tantrum…" let's keep that in perspective. People are typically creatures of their environment and the environment in the NFL is many players get upset if they don't get paid what they're seeking – particularly when it comes to their critical first contract. He's far from unusual on that front, and it's not shocking that Ngakoue is emotional. Can those emotions ease enough for him to sign with the Jaguars, or to play this season on the franchise tag? I don't know the answer to that. I don't know that many people do.
Sean from Jacksonville
It is a little bit fun to watch what the Los Angeles Rams are doing to fix their high-priced contracts. I wonder what a former No. 20 is thinking?
Probably about how much he loves his teammates. Start there. Always.
Brian from Jacksonville
"More pertinent was that Jack did struggle at times when trying to make up for rookie weak-side linebacker Quincy Williams." Come on O. Jack played poorly last year without any help from his friends. That's enough.
You're right. You know more than me – about Jack, and about all things Jaguars. I'll stop talking to people with knowledge of things and just depend on the readers' opinions. That will benefit everyone.
Ryan from Detroit, MI
Zone: Simple question, if New England called offering its first-round pick in this year's draft for Gardner Minshew II - would you take that deal?
I would be tempted, but no … I wouldn't.
John from Jacksonville
Since Quincy Williams played safety in college why are the Jags using him as a weak-side linebacker?
That was where the Jaguars projected him being the best fit in their defense based on his skill set.
Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA
Hi John, how does the limited cap room the Jags have affect them having two first-round picks this year and next? Does it create problems in the short term? Long term?
Not many. While a first-round selection certainly makes more – and consumes more cap space – than a later-round selection, it's still a relatively controllable cost compared to a high-priced free agent signing. It conceivably could cause a problem in four-to-six seasons, though. The Jaguars have six first- and second-round selections in the next two drafts. If all those players become elite, there will be the expected difficulty or re-signing all or most of the players. Oh, to have such woes.
Mark from Archer, FL
John, I hope you and your family are staying healthy and safe during this pandemic. Also, thank you for keeping your column going to help give us all something to distract us from the craziness in the world right now.
The Oehser family is healthy and happy – as happy as you can be living with me. As for this column, I will write it until I'm told not to – or at least told with more conviction than previously has been the case.