O-Zone: Five times a charm

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Hulk from Las Vegas, NV

So, word on the street is Yann is going to the Buffalo Bills. Did I miss something? Has it been determined that we (Tom Coughlin) have ruined our pockets to such a degree that keeping Yann is just a fantasy? Has Yann made it public he wants out? Are we dumb enough to let yet another vital star leave because of feeling underappreciated? Or is this just off-season ramblings? I don't know that we could recover as a team and public perception-wise if we stupidly lose another cornerstone of the team.

Whoa, Hulk: Whoa, whoa, whoa! (Did I say, "Whoa?") I was curious enough about this "word on the street" that I researched it thoroughly. What google revealed was this: Pro Football Focus had predicted in a recent story that Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue would sign as a free agent this offseason with the Bills. While this indeed passes for "word on the street," I would read little into this story beyond that. Ngakoue is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 18, but that in no way assures that he will sign with anyone else – including Buffalo. And while Pro Football Focus is a reputable website, this story was a prediction and nothing more. Remember: The sides can still agree to a deal, and the Jaguars still have the franchise tag available to them if a deal can't be reached. What's the end game for this Ngakoue story? It's difficult to predict, but for all the posturing and words from either side, this will come down to money and worth. Ngakoue is a very good player and deserves to be paid as such. What's his perception of his worth? Is that perception reasonable? Will the Jaguars agree with that perception? Can they afford to pay him that worth? Those questions must be the Jaguars' focus, not public perception or whether fans believe their decision is dumb. Remember this, too: The Jaguars like Ngakoue. They value him. They don't want to lose him. But there must be a limit to what teams will pay and a player's demands must be at least remotely reasonable. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes, they are not. But it's not always as easy as just paying a player what the player believes he's worth.

Josh from Fernandina Beach, FL

What's up with the streak, Zone?

Ongoing.

Seamus from Vancouver, BC

Why do you suppose free agency comes before the draft? It seems more sensible to bring in young talent, *then* make decisions on team personnel changes.

Free agency has come before the draft since the current version of NFL free agency began in the early 1990s. It's that way because the NFL League Year begins in March, and contracts expire at end of league years – and players become free agents when contract expire. That timing allows free agents who sign during the first few days/weeks of free agency to be with new teams during the offseason program with plenty of time before training camp and the regular season; if they moved free agency back until after the draft in late April, veterans would have far less time with new teams before camp. The league theoretically could move the draft early in the offseason, but the Scouting Combine is in late February with Pro Days in March, so it would be difficult to hold the draft much earlier. You theoretically could eliminate the combine and Pro Days and hold the draft in February, but I can't see the league changing an offseason schedule that keeps the league in the news pretty much 12 months a year.

Rob from Jacksonville

If the league moves to 17 games does the cap and salaries get adjusted to reflect the extra work?

Yes. The proposed new CBA has multiple provisions for increasing players' salaries and team cap space. There are many scenarios covered and many are complex, but one provision is a bonus of up to one-seventeenth of a player's salary up to $250,000 for a player whose contract runs through a season in which 17 games are played.

Don from Marshall, NC

Everyone loves Yannick as a Jaguar, but signing him is not going to improve the run defense. Keeping defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and adding another like him would be better. You could possibly trade him for at least a first-round pick. It's a lot of money for someone who gets pushed out of the running plays pretty often. Great player, great pass rusher, so-so run defender! Go Jaguars!

OK.

Adam from St. Johns, FL

You can't convince me this is about winning. Why should I buy tickets to watch a team making decisions with winning not being first and foremost? Playing 10 road games is not trying to win. I don't understand how you can't see that. It is a disadvantage. So, we're supposed to believe we're doing this to win one day?

I'm fully aware I can't convince you, Alan; I'd be dim if I didn't realize that by now. What I can do is continue writing and saying why the Jaguars are doing what they're doing. What's they're doing is trying to win and make the franchise work in Jacksonville; if the team is going to be here for the long term, it must work financially. The market is tricky; it's smaller and not nearly as affluent as many NFL cities. No matter how many people want to ignore this or simply not believe it, that is a factor that any owner of the Jaguars would have to address. Many owners would address it by moving the franchise. Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to address it in a different way, and the home games in London currently are his way. His long-term way involves developing the area around downtown with the "Lot J" and "Shipyards" projects. These aren't conventional ideas, but this isn't a conventional situation. Either way, to try to understand the Jaguars' actions and not acknowledge and try to understand the things I've just written is to not really attempt to understand the issue. That's fine. I get that people are going to refuse to accept that this team's market is a challenge. This is a complex, emotional issue. But if you're not going to accept that the market is an issue, you're going to be frustrated and confused by the topic.

Chris from Outer Texas

Hey joe, any NCAA basketball players you'd like to see at the combine running as a tight end?

Hey, Kyle, not particularly.

Robert from Jacksonville

Sometimes you don't answer my questions, and my questions are the best. Then you go and teach me that it's 'shoo-in', not 'shoe-in'...call it even?

No.

John from Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

We are clearly in win-now mode. As such, I understand why many have us taking a defensive tackle with one of our first-round picks; it's a position that can provide an immediate upgrade at an area we massively need it. Many experts (yourself included) are also suggesting the Jags go left tackle in the first. How does this fit in to the win-now mindset? A rookie left tackle does not suggest a team primed for a postseason run. True, there is a need there, but it's hard to see a rookie immediately outperforming Cam Robinson. It actually could be a downgrade until the rookie gets up to speed. For this reason, I think they may well give Cam another season at left tackle and focus on another position that can lead to immediate improvement in Round 1. For the record, I hate this win-now thing; this roster is at a perfect point to slow down and look at the long-term big picture. I hope we don't jeopardize the future of this team.

I don't know for sure that the Jaguars will draft a left tackle, and it wouldn't surprise me if Cam Robinson started there next season. I expect him to start for a long time in the NFL, and he in no way has shown himself to be a bad left tackle. But if you're looking for a way to improve the Jaguars' offensive line, drafting a front-line left tackle would make sense. It's not beyond possibility that a rookie can play at a high level there; offensive linemen – particularly really good ones – often have perfectly good rookie seasons. Jawaan Taylor had a good rookie season at right tackle for the Jaguars last season, with the exception of struggling at times with holding penalties. Whether the Jaguars go this route remains to be seen. It's best described as a possibility. There are a ton of such possibilities and questions around this roster right now. It's what makes this offseason so difficult to analyze and so critically important for the franchise.

Gator from Gainesville, FL

I've read the O-Zone about five times over the years and realized you weren't a nice person.

Sounds right.

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