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O-Zone: Dramatic improvement

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Ricky from Lynchburg, VA:
With all of the roster cuts we've made, do you think it makes the Jaguars a more favorable destination for undrafted free agents? The thought that I'd be going to a team with no starters locked in seems it would be much more enticing to me if I were a player trying to make it in the NFL after not being drafted. A team such as the Jaguars would seem to offer a better chance of making it.
John: There absolutely is no question the Jaguars will be a favorable destination for undrafted free agents in late April – maybe the most favorable such destination in the NFL this offseason. That's no accident, and it's not insignificant. Not only will the Jaguars be perceived as a place where, say, the top undrafted corner can make the team and play significant snaps, but the Jaguars have the cap space to pay the best signing bonuses to those players. Not all undrafted free agents are created equal and the Jaguars figure to bring in a lot of the best. That doesn't mean all of those guys are going to be Hall of Famers, but it stands to reason there will be some good players in that group.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
I saw that the Chiefs had a huge spike in ticket sales due to their recent signings. Do you think it makes the new regime re-think any of the strategy they've come up with?
John: Good gracious, I certainly hope not.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
Caldwell: "No changes coming that are financial." John: "Cox wants more than the Jaguars are willing to pay." Me: I'd rather have a good corner and draft another, than draft one and plug in a guy." But, as neither Caldwell's explanation or yours seem to make any sense to me, I'm just going to give up trying to make sense of the Cox situation.
John: This is actually pretty clearcut and I probably should have explained better. When general managers talk about "financial moves," they typically mean releasing players – i.e., Aaron Ross and Dawan Landry. Cox being an unrestricted free agent, he is not being "let go:" rather, a decision must be made about whether to re-sign him. To put it most simply, if Cox and Smith were under contract they likely wouldn't be released. Since they are not under contract, the team must determine where they should fit in the salary structure.
Bird from Golden Lake:
Do general managers around the league communicate with each other about future prospects – talk like, "what do you think about this guy or that guy?" You know, In their own little GM world?
John: Yes. General managers – like most people except me – have many friends. Friends talk about things that interest them, and often that includes work.
Holger from London, UK:
When I read about creating competition, for me it translates to collect a bunch of mediocre players and see who screws it up the least. Good teams don't have competition. When a position is fixed with a great player there is no competition. Creating competition or competing for a spot means the players are not good enough to be clear cut-solutions.
John: Have you read about the Seattle Seahawks the last few years?
Dave from Kingsland, GA:
John, it isn't the strategy we have a problem with. It's replacing NFL starters (Ross, Smith, Cox) with guys who aren't even good enough to be drafted (college free agents) that is making us scratch our heads. Yes, we need to get younger, and if money isn't the issue great, but with this many spots to fill and only seven picks and barely using free agency, we will "not" be better. I just fear that after what a great job the FANS did last year in filling the stadium we will lose all that momentum and the blackouts will return. I know this is a long-term strategy, but why release all these players – some who will not be replaced with a better player – all at the same time?
John: I take issue with the word in quotes. You say the Jaguars won't be better? I say I'd be stunned if that's not true. Part of getting a franchise going in the right direction in the NFL these days is establishing a proper salary structure. You don't do that by retaining unproductive players (Ross), re-signing aging veterans at non-premium positions (4-3 outside linebacker) or by paying cornerstone money to players who haven't been healthy or consistent enough to know you can count on them for a full season (Knighton, Cox). This is not saying anything bad about these players as people, but simply saying this – these roster moves that people are so up in arms about? This not mad-scientist, off-the-wall stuff. They're sound decisions that just about every general manager coming into this situation would make when trying to get an organization moving in the right direction.
Douglas from Section 241:
Since we're cutting and not renewing established starters, why not just offer up any of our starters for a third-round pick? MJD, third-round pick! Poz, third-round pick! Monroe, third-round pick! Nwaneri, third-round pick! Then we can still be 2-14 and alienate the fan base further. This team does not look like it will challenge for playoffs for a long time and most likely will be worse than last year. Thankfully, I love the tailgating and stadium experience but I would really like the chance to buy playoff tickets before I retire!
John: The ledge is very crowded today.
Paul from Jacksonville:
December: "This team stinks! They should cut everybody!!!" March: "Why are they cutting __?!?"
John: The following November: "Oh, I get it." The following offseason: "Maybe we're onto something."
Chris from Columbus, GA:
There is a difference between finding players to put on the roster and finding players that can compete. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which we will be competitive this year with so much turnover. I have faith in the new regime, but this is a very hard pill to swallow.
John: I'm not sure why this is surprising, but I guess it is. David Caldwell has identified a few free agents that he didn't want to re-sign, and a few veterans on the roster that he wanted to release. The reality is that he hasn't made any drastic moves. Any general manager would pause before paying Cox or Smith – Cox because of his injury history and Smith because of his position and age. He also is trying to retain Meester and Jones. No other player whose future is in question has played well enough to warrant this end-of-days attitude everyone seems to have right now. I'm rarely amazed at the inbox, but this weekend I have truly been amazed.
Steven from Fernandina Beach, FL:
WOW!! The new brain trust has decided that we are better off signing up free-agent rookies, than keeping high paid veterans with declining skills. Not that I think they are wrong. The bad news is, the fan base must be satisfied with seeing a team get better slowly, day by day (as Coach Gus preaches). The good news is this time next year we will be welcoming Jadeveon Clowney into the fold!! Yes, I can get on that bandwagon!
John: If you're implying that the Jaguars will have the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft next season, I'll be very surprised if that happens. As far as getting better slowly, day by day, in the NFL – unless you strike gold by finding a franchise, immediate-impact quarterback – there's really no other way.
Tim from St. Pete, FL:
I understand your reasoning for gutting and rebuilding our roster. Two years ago it was said that the Colts had a horrible roster had to gut it and wouldn't be competitive for years to come. Did the Colts have more talent that we thought, play a weak schedule or is Luck that good?
John: All of the above.
Dave from Jacksonville:
I mean, seriously, they didn't bring Caldwell in to stay status quo, did they? What happened to all the ding dongs saying to blow the whole thing up? We let a few players go and now they act like these guys were All-World. Obviously, we haven't lost a game in a few weeks huh?
John: We have a winner.
Genesis from Jacksonville:
Any chance for two or three O-Zones a day? If the Jaguars are going to continue to make very questionable moves, we need an insider to explain it more clearly to us. None of these moves makes much sense to me. They played well and were already on the roster. Who's next? Poz? Is MJD going to get cut? They should cut Blackmon and sign nobody! Hey let's make our team worse so in four years we may have a shot at getting better!! Maybe I just don't get it. I know it's not your fault. Why not let these guys on the bubble, under contract compete for their job with all the rookie free agents they plan to bring in?
John: After this weekend, I find myself truly amazed at how good last year's roster got since the end of last season.

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