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O-Zone: Encouraging signs

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Chris from Section 437

If wide receiver Calvin Ridley, outside linebacker Josh Allen and quarterback Trevor Lawrence all have All-Pro seasons next year or something close, can the Jags afford to extend all three?

This is a good question that could turn into a pressing, difficult question for the Jaguars in the 2024 offseason if your scenario plays out. They absolutely will extend Lawrence at some point, and I expect that to be in the 2024 offseason. Extending one or both of the others – Ridley and/or Allen – likely will require readjusting the roster, restructuring contracts and releasing some familiar names. The team in that scenario essentially would be resetting on the fly and declaring that Lawrence, Allen and Ridley represent the foundation of the team moving forward. That would be very good because they would have core players at those positions. Re-signing all three would be very difficult, but doable with some painful losses as collateral damage.

Chris from London, UK

Zone, you say Coughlin took the franchise from not existing to four playoff appearances, but Pederson took a team led by Urban Meyer to the postseason!

This continues our recent discussion of former Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the Pride of the Jaguars, and it also continues a weird wrinkle in the discussion. I've received multiple emails comparing Coughlin to current Head Coach Doug Pederson, with one saying the Jaguars should not put Coughlin in the Pride as a way of keeping "a spot" open for Pederson. This isn't how it works and Pederson's success – and potential for more success in the future – isn't really pertinent in the discussion. Coughlin's tenure as the Jaguars' head coach from 1993-2002 included four consecutive postseason appearances and two AFC Championship Games. It included two division titles and a slew of memorable moments. That doesn't mean what Pederson did in his first season with the Jaguars this past season isn't impressive. It's just that one has nothing to do with the other. There are no slots for certain positions. There is no hard, set number on Pride members. If someone is worthy, he or she is worthy. And Coughlin is more than worthy.

Lawrence from Blair, NE

I personally am not a fan of Coughlin, but people can't see the forest for the trees. Yes, he's a curmudgeon, but he also was a winning coach. How can anyone look at the history of this franchise and ignore the winningest coach of the franchise's tenure? Also, let's not forget the Jay Fund. Heck, that alone deserves him a spot in my opinion.


Boxcutter Bill from Mass

Seems like some of your readers are too young to remember our heyday. They seem to only know Coughlin for his last stop, the one that ended tragically. He certainly deserves to be in. The mid-to-late 1990s were some of the best days of my life – and that's sadly my only argument as to why I optimistically followed the Jaguars through the last couple decades. Hopefully our new coach surpasses him with the help of a generational quarterback. Is this a for-sure thing?

If you're asking if Coughlin in the Pride of the Jaguars is a sure thing … I can't imagine it not being. If you're asking if Pederson surpassing Coughlin's success is a sure thing … certainly not. The Jaguars have a chance to be very good under Pederson. All signs point to that. There is plenty of reason for hope. I think they will be very good over the next five-to-10 years. But there are no sure things in the NFL, not even when you have a big-time quarterback and a very good head coach.

Scott from Jacksonville

I kind of wish Coach Coughlin hadn't come back recently. On top of leaving the team in a bit of a bad way after his first stint, he really screwed the pooch with his latest tour, tarnishing his Jax legacy in the process. Let's look from a different perspective: This isn't the Hall of Fame, which he'll probably make based on his Super Bowl victories in New York, so his off-the-field exploits by definition can and should be taken into consideration. Not only did he have great initial success as the Jags coach, he still does a lot for this city and for kids and families. He may have been a crappy Executive Vice President of Football Operations, but he's a great man. I say he should get in the Pride.

And so he certainly shall.

Sean from Jacksonville

All the best to Marvin Jones as he reunites with the Detroit Lions. A class act and clutch receiver.

Former Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. indeed signed with the Detroit Lions as an unrestricted free agent this week. Jones caught 119 passes for 1,361 yards and seven touchdowns in two Jaguars seasons – and missed just one start. He was a class act and a pleasure to know. All the best to him? Absolutely.

Robert from Moorpark, CA

Based on people's evaluation on the talent of Ridley, running back D'Ernest Johnson and offensive tackle Walker Little combined with what we saw from the group last year, how many points per game you think this team is averaging?

I base these things more off what I've seen than what I've yet to see. The Jaguars averaged 23.9 points per game in 2022 after averaging 14.9 in 2021. I expect them to add at least a field goal per game next season based on continuity in Pederson's offense and the improvement of Lawrence. That may sound like a relatively small jump compared to last season's jump, but remember: The Kansas City Chiefs averaged 29.2 points per game and led the NFL. If the Jaguars average 26.9 points per game next season, they're likely in the top four or five scoring teams in the NFL.

Amy from Middleburg, FL

Why did they get rid of Robinson? Is this going to be a bonehead move?

I can only assume your referencing running back James Robinson. The Jaguars traded him last season to the New York Jets because he was going to become a free agent after the season and they weren't going to re-sign him. The Jets didn't re-sign him and he has since signed with the New England Patriots. All evidence to date is the move was fine.

Alon from Malibu, CA

There has been A LOT of restructuring contracts pushing salary to the future. Assuming that we have same roster next year in 2024, plus needing to sign Ridley and Josh Allen plus and extension for Lawrence, are the Jaguars creating a future cap hell?

"Cap hell" is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the O-Zone, and longtime Jaguars observers understandably fear a repeat of the early 2000s. That was when the Jaguars' mismanagement of the cap in the late 1990s and early 2000s forced the Jaguars to dismantle a team that made four consecutive postseason appearances from 1999-2000. Here's the reality: All competitive NFL teams now push some amount of money into the future, and teams relatively routinely balance pushing money into the future with releasing players for salary cap reasons. Remember: Most big NFL long-term free-agent contracts are designed to give teams the option of releasing the player two or three years into the contract. I expect the Jaguars next offseason will release some veterans who signed as unrestricted free agents in the 2021 and 2022 offseasons. When this happens, fans surely will see it as some sort of "cap hell" when in fact it's better described as the nature of managing the salary cap these days. It's just part of doing business.

David from Orlando, FL

KOAF. It has been said that there are only so big, athletic guys in the draft, so you have to take them early. I subscribe to this philosophy, and it would be more gratifying to me if we drafted a 6-feet-8, 350-pound offensive or defensive lineman over a 5-feet-10, 195-pound cornerback or 240-pound tight end which are plentiful in the second and third rounds. That is all.


John from The Land of Indian river

O-Zone. Regarding the recent free-agent signings, are they all deals like former Jaguars outside linebacker Arden Key's one-year deal? The process looks to be playing out according to plan. I have to say it's really nice to see a plan being executed.

Yes. All three players recently signed as unrestricted free agents by the Jaguars – Johnson and defensive lineman Michael Dogbe and Henry Mondeaux – reportedly signed one-year contracts.

Paul from Lake City, FL

We've been hearing "draft and develop" from previous Jaguars regimes for years. It's encouraging to see that Pederson and General Manager Trent Baalke appear to be walking the talk (especially since there seems to be little alternative.) It hasn't made this free-agent period much fun to watch, but if it leads to sustainable winning, I'll take it.

Paul appears "all in."