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O-Zone: Great escape

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Kyle from Ohio :
So, I think it is safe to say the next couple of free-agency periods will be pretty boring considering we are at the point of fighting to keep our own players.
John: You absolutely hope that's the case if you're a Jaguars fan, because it would mean outstanding things are happening for the franchise. I won't beat my fist on my desk shouting "Free Agency is Evil!!!," because although part of me feels that way, the last few offseasons have taught me that in some situations it's OK to partake. But for the most part – for the overwhelming part – it's better to stay away from free agency than to dive in feet first. It's a dangerous, expensive way to build a roster and you're usually getting players who were released for a reason. It appears the Jaguars may have put themselves in position to be exceptions to this rule; if so, credit Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell for taking as measured an approach to free agency as was possible under the circumstances. But in the ideal world – and Caldwell believes this as well – unrestricted free agency indeed is very, very boring. That's because in the ideal world teams mainly re-sign their own free agents well in advance of free agency and put the "Closed" sign on the door once free agency begins. That's boring in the sense that you're not in the headlines during March. But it's usually counterbalanced by winning during the regular season, which some people find curiously exciting.
Darrick from Jacksonville:
An offseason with almost no mention of the quarterback has got to be a good thing. Right?
John: We've talked about Blake Bortles a lot this offseason, and for a lot of fans that has been a good thing.
Royce from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, do you see Dan Skuta having a reduced role on defense?
John: I see Dan Skuta starting at Otto and pass rushing a lot in pass-rushing situations. That's an expanded role from the one he played last season. There has been speculation about a reduced role, or even his release. I'll be shocked if that happens.
Brandon from Atlanta, GA:
It's hard to say what Dave's strategy will be with the upcoming signings for our productive draftees but the fact that Hurns received what many think is a generous contract means Dave likes him some pass catchers. He likely will pay Robinson in the next year or two; at that point, the Jags will be heavily invested at the position. Would you agree most teams are leaning toward this mindset?
John: I think teams generally will lead toward paying core players at core positions who merit being paid. Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, centers, tackles and pass-rushing defensive ends typically rank high on these lists.
Bill from Orlando, FL:
John: My son (16) is a big Jaguars fan and he recently had his second heart procedure in Orlando. Can you please give Antonio a big Jaguar shout out?
John: Absolutely … ANTONIO!!!! What up?
Bryant from White Plains, NY:
In today's era of football, do you foresee teams trying to lock down quarterbacks to an even longer contract than what we have seen so far? With the way Bortles and Derek Carr have been playing so far, do you think that the Jags and Raiders may push a few more years on their contracts?
John: I doubt it. Elite quarterbacks don't leave franchises except in the rarest of circumstances, and second contracts for the elite guys typically take them into the double-digit phase of their career. That's about the right time for franchises to reconsider whether that player will receive a third contract.
Rob from the Duuu:
Haven't heard much about Myles Jack lately. Is he still not allowed to practice? When do they finish finals out there in California? Need more Jack in my life, Zone.
John: Myles Jack is expected to participate in mandatory minicamp next week. From that point on, you as a Jaguars fan likely will get plenty of Jack in your life. And all indications are that will be a good thing. Maybe the best thing.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-man, if we're in a position where we have to let good players go because we have too many good players then by all means, let them go!
John: The only alternative to never letting good players go in free agency is never having very many good players at all. Most teams choose the former over the latter.
Austin from Jacksonville:
Years from now, after Allen Hurns is retired, do you think we/he will look back at the 2015 game against the Chargers when he sustained a concussion? That injury, when it happened, appeared much worse than a concussion. From that moment to where we are today is an amazing swing for Hurns. Quite inspiring and a true testament of Hurns toughness, wouldn't you say?
John: When considering Hurns' career, it appears as of right now that he/we won't look back at that '15 game against San Diego. That's because Hurns returned from that game and appeared to have no aftereffects. That's a good thing, because at the time it was indeed frightening.
Colton from St. Augustine, FL:
With Hurns getting $10 million a year, how much will Allen Robinson be looking at when the time comes?
John: More.
Andrew from Sampson, FL:
Even though it is early in the underwear practices could you give your insight regarding Bortles against the improved-on-paper defense – specifically with regard to interceptions or near interceptions? Also going forward, Bortles' possible improvement in being able to anticipate a defensive player jumping on wide receiver or running back pass route for an interception. Surely a quicker and improved defense should help mature Bortles.
John: Bortles for the most part has looked improved during OTAs; while he has thrown some interceptions and errant passes, he overall has looked vastly better than last offseason. It's unfair and unrepresentative to gauge a quarterback or even an entire offense on every play of the offseason; the team is practicing plays and there is no expectation that either side will be functioning at a regular-season level. I have been particularly impressed with how quickly Bortles seems to be reading the defense at the line of scrimmage at times and he seems to be developing rapport with not only Julius Thomas, but Rashad Greene and Marqise Lee. There seems to be little doubt that the improved defense will test Bortles and the offense in practice. As for how much that will help the offense next season, we'll see … but a better defense sure can't hurt matters.
Eddy from Miami, FL:
I understand everyone's concern about Hurns' salary. This is a salary cap league and they are scared about not being able to re-sign everyone. But the only one who truly matters is Blake Bortles. You see teams like New England, Green Bay, the Colts back in the day – even Steelers and Ravens – and you see them always in the hunt and always relevant because of their quarterback. Besides the quarterback, they are all replaceable (even though I would love to keep them all) … Losing Telvin Smith would suck, but at the end of the day he is a good linebacker. You can find good linebackers in all rounds of the draft. Pay Elite Quarterbacks and Elite Pass Rushers and the rest will fall into place.
John: It's not completely accurate to say nothing else matters beside the quarterback. You have to put good parts around even the most elite quarterback. But absolutely, positively for sure yes … if you have an elite quarterback, it sure makes finding those supplemental players a lot easier and it makes those supplemental players' jobs a whole lot easier once you get them.
Kyle from Ohio:
Do we really need to waste a roster spot on a long snapper? Couldn't your regular center snap the ball?
John: A center theoretically can long snap and in some cases centers do long snap. But it's a significantly different skill than regular snapping. Its importance is probably best described this way: it doesn't seem very important until you find yourself with a guy who has trouble doing it. Then it suddenly has a way of seeming a lot more important.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
Will there ever come a time that the Construction Cam tab will not be needed on this website? Seems like a perpetual renovation project at EverBank.
John: I think for the foreseeable future you will see a fairly steady need for the Construction Cam on jaguars.com. The Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville are renovating and modernizing EverBank Field on the fly, and some people think that's pretty cool. A lot of people like it.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
This is in no way meant as critical towards readers, but how often do you read questions and wonder what their lives are like?
John: I find myself quite often wondering about my readers' lives. I like doing this and actually find it welcome relief from the reality of my own.

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