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O-Zone: Get really good

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Howard from Homestead, FL

These restructured contracts with voidable years make me nervous. I'm old enough to remember a great Jaguars team decimated and its run cut short by the cap. Is it a coincidence that the Jaguars became good again when the "dead money" disappeared? Are we not going back to dead money with these contracts? What makes this situation different than the Jaguars of the late 1990s?

The Jaguars indeed mismanaged the salary cap in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and that indeed contributed heavily to a very good Jaguars run from 1996-2000 crashing to a sudden end. But those teams were at an extreme end of pushing money forward into future salary-cap seasons. Had the organization been a bit less aggressive in free agency at some non-elite positions, their cap problems at the time wouldn't have become so severe – and perhaps their crash wouldn't have been so disastrous. Also, remember: The NFL has changed a bit in 20 years. The salary cap typically goes up fairly steadily and significantly each year, which allows teams to push money into future years and mortgage the future without disastrous consequences. The cap is still real. You eventually must put dollars on your cap books, and you can't keep all coveted players forever. That usually means a year somewhere that you lose a few players and have to reset the cap. But all teams that contend and retain key players these days have to push at least some money forward. It's up to Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and the staff to determine how best to navigate the timing. It's understandable that this makes Jaguars fans nervous considering the past. But that nervousness comes along with competing these days.

Fred from Naples, FL

The Jags have made a flurry of moves recently – re-signing quarterback C.J. Beathard, linebacker Foye Oluokun and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris; all three moves to free up cap space. The obvious move would be to cut cornerback Shaquill Griffin. In your opinion, why haven't they done that yet? Could it be that they are negotiating with him to restructure his contract?

Nothing's unusual when it comes to cap machinations leading to the League Year. There's no reason to cut or release any player until shortly before the deadline.

Marc from Oceanway

How much will Jim Bob Cooter being hired as offensive coordinator for the Colts be a disadvantage for us when we play the Colts? Will they be able to use his knowledge of our offense against us?

I wouldn't expect former Jaguars passing-game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's role with the Colts to have any effect on anything when the teams play.

P Funk from Murray Hill

Free agents sign with teams for (obviously) money and also a desire to win. I was wondering about coaches making lateral moves in the offseason. Would a coach take a job with a team that is struggling to help turn things around, boosting their resume or want the success of being a part of an established winning franchise more?

Coaches take jobs for myriad reasons – job security, pay, a chance for eventual promotion and a chance to win chief among them. Lateral moves are sometimes tricky to make, because head coaches don't have to let assistants out of their contracts for such moves. Coaches usually don't choose to go to struggling teams, per se. But if they see a team that has been struggling that has a good chance to win because of, say, a quarterback, then that could be attractive. Coaches typically lean toward the positions that give them the best chance to win. That leads to security, better pay and the opportunity for advancement more than being with a team that's losing.

Rob from Jacksonville

I was trying to remember the last non-top 5, top 10 elite-ish, franchise-y type quarterback to play in the Super Bowl. I could only come up with Trent Dilfer. You have any? Find the quarterback, pay the quarterback. It's the way.

Quarterback Trent Dilfer won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens following the 2000 season. There have been non-Top Five quarterbacks in Super Bowls since. Rex Grossman with the Chicago Bears following the 2006 season comes to mind. Maybe Matt Stafford and Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams in recent seasons. But the best path to consistently contending is to have a franchise-type guy at quarterback. The Jaguars appear to have found that guy in Trevor Lawrence. They will have their first chance to pay him next offseason. I have no doubt they will.

Catch from Fleming Island, FL

Are the players allowed to use the weight room/workout facilities at the stadium in the offseason, or do they have to get a membership to a local gym if they want to workout?

Players can work out at their team's facility on a year-round basis. They can work with the team's strength-and-conditioning staff on a year-round basis. They can only engage in football activities, meetings of football-oriented discussions during designated times. These times begin in mid-April and end in mid-June. They resume in late July for training camp and end following the season.

Tom from Keystone Heights

I don't believe that there's a conspiracy with officials or with the NFL, but we all have our favorite teams. What is to stop an official from throwing a flag to help out a team that They like better? (#Refs should take lie detection test.).

As hard as this may be to believe, not everyone has "their favorite teams." Coaches and personnel officials, in fact, define their favorite team as the one for which they work at that moment. Their rooting interest in other teams has nothing to do with a "favorite" and only to do with whether it will help their own team. As for officials, it's not beyond reason at all to think they have no rooting interest when officiating a game. I have written often that I was a huge fan of what is now known as the Washington Football Team until my mid-20s or so. When I began covering the NFL for a living – and seeing how the "sausage is made" – I very quickly lost any rooting interest. This wasn't difficult and it happened very naturally. Officials see the game the same way. They have a job. They love that job. I understand that most fans can't imagine not having a "favorite" team. But I can't imagine an official remotely caring which team wins. I can imagine them wanting to do the best job they can each week, just like most people approach their professions. That's their world and perspective, despite what fans may believe.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. If I'm not mistaken, I believe it was Howard Cosell who said, "Of all my impressive traits and characteristics, I believe humility is my greatest." I think he's the one who said it.

I recall this – or something similar – attributed to Cosell, though the interweb isn't a great resource in trying to verify his quotes. He indeed was of a long-gone era. This certainly sounds like Cosell, though. If he didn't say it, perhaps he would have. Or should have.

Ray from Newport News, VA

I think I like the current list of reworked contracts or extensions. It is nice seeing transactions happening.


Bradley from Sparks, NV

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is only the first of a string of young, franchise-level quarterbacks that will be negotiating new contracts or extensions soon and all of them will not only refuse a lesser deal but most likely demand significantly more – and rightly so – than the Cleveland Browns gave a second-tier quarterback with major character issues. Do you see this being a major issue in the coming years and did the NFL have the power to nix that ridiculous deal?

I expect it to be a topic, but I expect deals to get done and reset whatever market may or may not have been established when the Browns signed Deshaun Watson. I suppose the NFL could have prevented the deal. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can typically intervene when something is perceived not in the best interest of the NFL. But it takes something pretty extreme to interfere with team business on that level. A contract, even one as large as that of Watson, wouldn't normally merit such interference.

Mike from Omaha, NE

For the foreseeable future, making it to the Super Bowl runs through Kansas City. How much does building a team that matches up well against the Chiefs play into personnel and other decisions? Thanks.

Perhaps very little. I've never been big on building a team to match up against other teams in a conference or a division. What I mean by that is this: What if the Jaguars build to beat the Kansas City Chiefs, then get to the AFC Championship Game and find that the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Chiefs in the divisional playoff? That would be a fine cup of tea, wouldn't it? Build your roster to be great and let other teams worry about beating you.