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O-Zone: Groundhog day

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Matt from Jacksonville

Hey, O, how would you grade the Jags so far in this free-agency period? I'm excited so far and give the new regime an "A." Curious on your thoughts.

I like what the Jaguars have done so far in the 2021 NFL League Year. My first thought early in the week, when it became obvious they weren't seeking immediate splash, was that they were setting their own path without regard to public sentiment – and I always like that approach from a team in the offseason because it usually means setting a long-term course rather than seeking immediate satisfaction. As the week continued and the plan became more apparent, I liked the approach even more. The Jaguars' decision-makers clearly set out a plan to improve the overall quality of the roster while also adding a few front-line starters – with the latter group absolutely including defensive tackle Malcom Brown from the New Orleans Saints, cornerback Shaquill Griffin from the Seattle Seahawks. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins from the Los Angeles Chargers and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris from the Chicago Bears fit here, too – and tight end Chris Manhertz from the Carolina Panthers is a high-level blocking tight end, something the Jaguars haven't had since Marcedes Lewis left following the 2017 season. All the transactions make sense – even if they don't happen to excite all fans. I don't know how to "grade" the period beyond saying the Jaguars appear to have filled their needs on defense, and they appear to have gotten done what they wanted to get done offensively – other than signing a receiving tight end. It feels as if they have improved the roster in a way that will allow them to continue improving the roster as merited in the next few offseasons. So … grade? Very good, I would say.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I didn't know that some players' contracts were expiring like DJ Hayden. Who is going to play nickel corner? Sidney Jones?

Sidney Jones IV would seem the most likely option at nickel. Tre Herndon has played there, too. Both recently re-signed as restricted free agents and they give the Jaguars decent depth at a position that felt a lot more uncertain a week ago than it does now.

Jeff from Orange, CA

Remember when we "solved" the tight end problem with Julius Thomas? Man, that was easy? Good times.

I do remember that.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Any thought on why they traded Josh Oliver for about as little compensation as possible – a conditional seventh round pick – instead of waiting until training camp to evaluate him?

Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer didn't get specific when discussing this Friday, saying the personnel department came to him with the trade and he approved it. Oliver, a tight end selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, had missed all but four games over the last two seasons. Neither General Manager Trent Baalke nor Meyer had connection to Oliver – and because of Oliver's injury history, they were in a position where they mentally couldn't count on Oliver next season. Instead, they would have had to take the approach that anything they got from Oliver was a bonus. It's not uncommon in that situation for a team to move on from a player. That's what the Jaguars did. Is there a chance the move could backfire if Oliver develops into a front-line tight end? Sure. But it seems evident the Jaguars don't believe that will happen.

Duke from Jacksonville

I found your response to the Josh Oliver trade interesting. He was traded for a seventh-round pick and even that pick is conditional. You acknowledge that he was a former early third-round pick, might have potential and plays at a position where the Jaguars are in need of an upgrade. I would also add that Oliver was very-salary cap friendly. Your reason for trading him was he is an unknown who has only played in four games. That's a reason to keep him. He's an unknown who has only played four games.

You're right that Oliver is cap-friendly and an unknown. The decision-makers who were here before believed in him enough to select him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Those decision-makers are gone. The people making the decisions now don't believe in him and were willing to let him go for not very much. I don't know that it goes deeper than that.

Andy from St. Augustine, FL

Just to clarify: no one thinks that we should have been able to get more than a seventh-round pick for Josh Oliver. The angst comes from the fact that we traded him at all with tight end being probably the biggest area of need (after free agency) – other than quarterback, which we assume will be taken No. 1 overall. Add in the fact that we only got a conditional seventh-round pick, and it seems like we'd have been better off keeping him and seeing what he looks like in training camp and if he can stay healthy. Now that he's been traded, if Oliver turns out to be bad and doesn't make the Ravens roster - we get nothing. If he turns out to be good and is a productive player for them, we get a late seventh-round draft pick. I'd rather take the chance that he might be a productive player at our biggest area of need - especially when doing so costs us nothing and trading him only nets a conditional seventh-round pick.


Joseph from Acworth, GA

With the reduction in the cap this year, will the contract for the first overall pick also be reduced?

The expectation is that the contract for the first overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft might not go up as much as would have been the case without the reduced cap, but the expectation is not that it will go down from what Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow received last season.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, do you think our quarterback choice in the draft (Trevor), will have a big enough impact to make up for the un-exciting pickups in free agency?

Excitement in free agency is nice, I guess. It makes for fun headlines and Twitter conversations for a few weeks. You know what's better? Building a roster that can be better in 2021 than it was in 2020.

Sean from Jacksonville

I think it will be easier to see former Jaguars on new teams in different uniforms because once you see quarterback Tom Brady in Buccaneers garb anything is possible. I remember running back Fred Taylor being a New England Patriot and quarterback Mark Brunell, I think, being a New Orleans Saint. Do you have any memories of that sort?

It's more unusual in this era for players to spend their entire careers with one team than the alternative. I suppose I would tell fans that if Peyton Manning and Brady can win Super Bowls with teams other than the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, respectively, then any player can theoretically leave a franchise for another. Those players' links with those franchises were as tight as they possibly could be, and the links were eventually broken. It's the modern NFL. It's how it is.

Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX

KOAF: How smug will the fans who didn't burn their defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and running back Carlos Hyde jerseys be after the signings? Any chance the fans should hold onto the quarterback Blake Bortles jersey? Should fans hold onto the wide receiver Justin Blackmon's jersey too?

They made Carlos Hyde Jaguars jerseys?

Pradeep from Bangalore, India

Hi John, isn't it bit shocking to see defensive tackle Abry Jones and wide receiver Keelan Cole hit free agency? I thought they performed well compared to other players present in this team. I think Cole is probably better than new joiners Melvin and Dorsett.

I wasn't shocked. Jones has been a solid contributor for this franchise for eight seasons, but he missed 11 games last season – and it seemed unlikely the new regime would try to re-sign a nine-year veteran from the previous regime. The Cole situation had the same feel. Had he been under his rookie contract for another year or two, it would have made sense to keep him. But the question with Cole this offseason always was going to be whether what he offered you was going to be worth the cost to keep him. I wasn't surprised that the Jaguars let him leave as a free agent.

Fred from Jacksonville

You know what the best thing has been so far about the free agency period? There was finally a reprieve from the question/comment about the offensive line, your assessment of that position group, and then the barrage of comments in that section below. It was Groundhog Day many times over, and it was threatening my sanity.

What's a comments section?