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O-Zone: Good problem

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Mike from Cartersville (AKA Trevortown), GA

If Calvin Ridley plays like he did, wouldn't wide receiver Christian Kirk (aside from quarterback Trevor Lawrence, obviously) be the biggest winner? He drew the most attention from opposing secondaries this year, right? With him getting consistently in one-on-one matchups I can see him having a very big statistical year from the slot. That's what they would do with him, correct – mostly line him up in the slot?

There is understandably fascination about this topic. Ridley, a wide receiver expected to play for the Jaguars next season after being acquired in a trade this past season from the Atlanta Falcons, should help multiple Jaguars players in multiple ways – assuming he reaches the form he showed when he last played early in the 2021 season. The entire offense will benefit from Ridley's ability to get open consistently on all routes, including deep routes. That should open opportunities for all wide receivers and for tight end Evan Engram – who we're assuming for the sake of this discussion will re-sign with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent. But yes … if you're choosing who might benefit most, Kirk is a good choice. He caught 84 passes for 1,108 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season in Head Coach Doug Pederson's offense – and he showed nice ability to handle double teams and defenses taking him away at times. While all receivers in Pederson's offense play multiple roles, Ridley's presence should indeed enable Kirk to operate against more single coverage and against more nickel corners. That should be advantage Jaguars, and advantage Kirk.

Leon from Austin, TX

Zone: When it comes to officiating and all the controversy calls, why not add several more officials to have more eyes on plays?

I suppose the "why not?" here is the same as when I am asked why the league doesn't expand replay to make more calls reviewable or add more layers to the replay system … how many more stoppages of play do we need? How many more plays do we need reviewed? How long do we want the average game to last? At what point is enough enough?

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Winning was cool. I liked it.


Daniel from Fort Collins, CO

When can we expect moves to start being made with our pending free agents?

The Jaguars have until the March 15 start of the League Year to re-sign players such as Engram, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and other players scheduled to become free agents. I wouldn't expect much before the Super Bowl February 12, with the NFL Scouting Combine in late February and early March the time when these conversations typically intensify. But deadlines have a way of making things happen, so don't panic when February turns to March.

Scott from Jacksonville

Hi O-Man! I like the college replay system. Technically, every play is reviewed, but they don't make an event out of every "challenge" like we do in the NFL. Because of that, they actually seem to spend a lot less time stopping the game for replay reviews. Don't get me started on the college overtime rules, though: that system is awful.

I don't hate the college-replay system, and it indeed doesn't seem to be as intrusive. I admit I'm not educated enough on the details of the college system to know if NFL types would embrace it. As for the college overtime rules … I couldn't agree more. And I can't see the NFL ever moving in that direction.

Dan from Munich, Germany

Zone, do you think that the league created this "games are rigged" belief by the fans with their greed and allowing the TV stations to actually do everything with the product on the field? They can have footage of every play from various angles but are showing it after the next play occurs (the non-catch in Philadelphia Eagles-San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship Game, for example). My point is if I as a fan don't see all these replays and don't have to listen to the commentators insisting that the officials missed a call, I'll be enjoying the games better.

I don't know that having multiple camera angles is "greed" as much as it's maybe "letting the fans see the game better." Either way … I don't sense we're going to go backward in terms of technology, and I can't see commentators saying less about missed calls.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

I know the Jags are not going to be big players in free agency, but doesn't Chauncey Gardner-Johnson check a lot of boxes?

Gardner-Johnson is a safety for the Eagles who was acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints before the 2022 season. He played mostly nickel corner in his first three NFL seasons – all with New Orleans – and nickel indeed seems to be a position of need for the Jaguars. Gardner-Johnson has played at a high level. He would help a lot of teams.


Really enjoy your work. Who might be a salary-cap casualty this offseason?

Cornerback Shaq Griffin will be a $13 million cap saving for the Jaguars if he is released before March 15, so it would be surprising if that doesn't happen. Players such as defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris and safety Rayshawn Jenkins also have high cap numbers with big potential savings if they are released. Remember, though: These players also can renegotiate and extend the contract by turning salary into signing bonus, prorating the money over multiple years and reducing the cap hit. A potential "cap casualty" doesn't always mean a player is released.

Marc from Oceanway

All Knowing Zone, can you offer an explanation or even just a guess on how Devin Lloyd could go from looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate early in the season to losing his starting job? I know it is a steep learning curve in the NFL, but by that logic he should not have been able to start so hot. The only thing I can think of would be other team's offenses found a weakness in his game, or maybe it is just a fluke. Any ideas? From what you have seen and know about him, do you expect a jump next season?

Jaguars rookie inside linebacker Devin Lloyd was the 2022 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September – and he indeed earned that award. He did so by making multiple plays when he was around the ball, and that playmaking is his strength. He later in the season struggled with recognition and the complexity of the game, with the Jaguars replacing him in the lineup with fellow rookie Chad Muma for two games. The reality was Lloyd had some of the same issues during the time he was making the plays early in the season, and he was making some athletic/special plays even when he struggled later. Bottom line: The Jaguars like Lloyd very much and believe he has a bright future. Struggling in the areas in which he struggled isn't uncommon for rookie linebackers and it doesn't mean he won't have a very good career. And yeah … I think it's fair to expect a Year 2 jump from Lloyd.

JR from The Squatchlands

Can you explain to us lay folk what an Exclusive Rights Free Agent is?

An exclusive rights free agent is any NFL player with fewer than three accrued season whose contract has expired. If this player's original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum, the player cannot sign with another team. It's sort of the closest thing to not being a free agent a player can be and still be a free agent. In fact, it's sort of like not being a free agent at all.

Kevin from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Hi, John. What are your thoughts on how the value of being selected to the Pro Bowl has diminished from years past? It used to be the best playing against the best from each conference in a semi-real football game. Now, it's nothing more than a skills challenge. Why would I pay to fly to Las Vegas to watch flag football when I can drive around the corner to my local park and watch pee-wee flag football? I do miss old-school football sometimes.

The Pro Bowl increasingly has been a dilemma for the NFL in recent seasons, with players quite understandably very reluctant to give anything close to all-out effort – or initiate anything close to high-level contact – in what is by any definition a meaningless game. Why in the world would they risk injury in that situation? The game therefore increasingly became less like real football and less enjoyable. The league, looking for a solution, this season implemented the current system – with 7-on-7 games and skills challenges. Is it ideal? No. But there isn't an ideal here, and guess what? It's an All-Star event. If the league's biggest issue is how to fix the Pro Bowl, it's in pretty decent shape.