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O-Zone: Getting up there

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tom from Charleston, SC:
There has been plenty written about cornerback Aaron Colvin and – to a lesser amount wide receiver Allen Robinson – and their lack of loyalty, bailing on the team for not much more than they were offered to stay. The same can be said about the way the Jaguars let wide receiver Blake Bortles go. It was classless in that they waited until the free-agent signing period had basically passed; if they had released Hurns a few weeks ago (when everyone knew he was on the way out), he would have had the opportunity to sign a contract that would have been better for him. I've lost a lot of respect for the organization. I know it is a business, but a little class can go a long way.
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One, I can't control what gets written or said elsewhere, but I haven't seen much written or said about Colvin or Robinson being disloyal. I darned sure haven't written or said it – and I actually would question whether or not anyone who would say such a thing remotely understands anything about the NFL. Colvin and Robinson, like any NFL player who hits free agency, has every right – and indeed an obligation to himself – to secure the best financial deal possible; free agency is a rare chance at life-changing money and long-term financial security and anyone with that opportunity absolutely should take full advantage of it. NFL careers are short and the risk for career-threatening injury exists on every play; Robinson and Colvin both have sustained torn anterior cruciate ligaments, so they certainly understand that. As far as how the Jaguars handled the release of both wide receiver Allen Hurns and tight end Marcedes Lewis Tuesday … I agree with you – and many fans – that I wish it hadn't played out as it did. Both Hurns and Lewis are class guys and it would have been nice if it would have been handled differently. As far as the Jaguars being classless … all I can do is explain why the team handled the situation as it did: the Jaguars entered free agency last week uncertain at both positions. They knew they wanted to make moves at tight end and wide receiver, but they also knew they weren't going to go full-bore at either position in the sense of throwing top-tier money at players. When you're in that situation, you set price ceilings on your targets and you must be prepared to walk away from negotiations if they get too expensive. If they had been forced to walk away from the negotiations for either tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins or wide receiver Donte Moncrief last week, they needed to have backup plans. Those backup plans were Hurns and Lewis – and can you imagine the outcry from fans and critics had they released Hurns and/or Lewis before free agency then NOT signed their free-agent targets? No, in this case the Jaguars felt they needed to protect themselves by keeping Hurns and Lewis under contract through this week—though an argument can be made that the players could have been released late last week. Either way … was it fair for the players? No, but as you said: it is in the end a business.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
Tough day, but understandable. I am much more surprised by the Lewis release. He is a classy guy and will miss seeing him in teal. Any favorite Marcedes Lewis story?
John: No single Lewis story stands out. What does stand out about both he and Hurns was the way they consistently carried themselves with professionalism and class. They will be missed.
Geralt from Rivia:
I know you'll spin it some way, but I think the handling of Lewis this offseason is completely classless.
John: My, my, my: aren't we just full of knowledge today – and that's an awesome thing for you. Here are a couple of things you apparently don't know: One, how I'll answer questions; two, how to ask questions in a way that makes me feel compelled to answer them.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, as many have predicted, the Jags released Hurns. I guess leading the team in receptions and receiving yards in the franchise's biggest game in two decades wasn't sufficient reason not to get fired. Here's hoping a classy, productive, tough dude lands on his feet. Some team is going to be happy to get him, maybe someday I'll get it.
John: Hurns' release – and that of Lewis – understandably elicited emotions from fans. That's understandable, but it's really fairly easy to understand why the team made the moves – particularly the release of Hurns. He clearly wasn't in the team's plans as a starter and with the improvement last season of Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook it was difficult to foresee his role. That makes it difficult to keep a player, particularly at a $7 million salary. I do believe he will land with another team, though – and I believe Lewis will, too.
Joey from Athens, GA:
Does releasing Hurns save space in the cap to potentially make other moves this offseason? What is our receiving corps looking like now with Hurns gone?
John: The Jaguars saved roughly $7 million in cap room for 2018 by releasing Hurns and about $3.5 million by releasing Lewis. That space can theoretically be used this year but more likely will be rolled over to 2019. The Jaguars' wide receiver corps now looks like: Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Jaydon Mickens, Jaelen Strong, Rashad Greene Sr., Shane Wynn, Tevaun Smith and Lamar Atkins.
Mark from High Springs, FL:
I think I can successfully make the argument that Marcedes Lewis was the Most Valuable Player on offense in 2017. Aside from his red-zone threat, his mismatch ability, and his excellent blocking, the man was never hurt. He deserved another year, or at least more respect than he reports to have received.
John: I liked Lewis very much and wished he hadn't been released. I also wished the situation could have been handled differently. I can't make an argument that he was the Jaguars' offensive most valuable player in 2017.
KC from Lawrenceburg, IN:
Say it ain't so O! First A-Rob leaves in free agency, then Poz retires, then we cut Hurns, and now we cut Marcedes Lewis. I don't know if I can take much more heartbreak. At the end of the day I realize it's a business and our front office is gonna do what it thinks is best, but I wish Lewis could've gone out on his own terms. Lewis being cut is going to hurt just as much as Poz retiring. One fer Lewis.
John: Hey … one fer Lewis!
Michael from Middleburg, FL:
It's going to hurt a little bit seeing them line up without No. 89 next year. Class act, and represented Duval well. One fer Marcedes. Actually, a bunch fer him.
John: Actually … a bunch for Lewis!!
Ric from Jacksonville:
With Poz, Marcedes, Aaron Colvin, Robinson, and Hurns leaving ... Well, I thought we would have a couple of more years of success before some of the big names would start leaving. It happened a lot faster than I expected. I realize that it makes the team better. And of course, that's the most important thing. But, still ... I'm a big fan of these guys and I am going to miss watching them play.
John: You are not alone in your feelings, but the release of Lewis and Hurns and the decisions to allow Colvin and Robinson to sign elsewhere were made to ensure long-term viability, not prevent it.
Brett from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Well, John: in one offseason we lost our third- and fourth-leading receivers of all time at the position. Both under 26 years old. After years of searching for receivers to hit 1,000 yards, we finally get them and just let them go.
John: Yes, and that's the entire story. No nuances. No reason for what they did. No other circumstances such as spot on the player's spot on the depth chart, salary cap or injury.
Bob from Jacksonville:
Do you think the Jags tried to trade Allen Hurns or just let him go? It seems that a sixth- or seventh-round pick would be better than just letting him leave!
John: Of course the Jaguars would have been interested in trading Hurns rather than releasing him. While Hurns had 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving in 2015, he missed 11 games over the last two seasons and his production and durability had dropped since that season. It's reasonable to think the trade market was minimal at best.
Jim from Section 114 and Jacksonville:
I know changeover is the way of the NFL, but losing Allen Hurns and Marcedes Lewis in one day – right after middle linebacker Paul Posluszny retires – hurts a lot. Lewis and Posluszny were longtime Jaguars who suffered through those losing seasons with the rest of us. They will always be Jaguars. With their departures, who are the longest-tenured Jaguars on the roster?
John: Abry Jones and Carson Tinker. I kid you not.

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