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O-Zone: Hang up the phone

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Steve from Nashville, TN

Understanding there are many gallons to go under that bridge, but when Travis Etienne missed his rookie season due to injury, does that exclude him from the higher fifth-year option (top 10 average) amount next spring?

You're asking about Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. and the fifth-year option the Jaguars will have on his contract. Teams may exercise a fifth-year option for first-round selections and must do so in the offseason following the player's third NFL season. That means the Jaguars must decide on fifth-year options for their two first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft – Etienne and quarterback Trevor Lawrence – in the 2024 offseason. Under the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, four tiers determine the fifth-year salary of a player playing under the option. If a player makes two or three Pro Bowls on the original ballot, the fifth-year option salary will equal to the position's franchise-tag number. If a player makes one Pro Bowl on the original ballot, the fifth-year option salary will equal the position's transition-tag amount. If a player meets one of several playing time requirements – 75 percent or greater in two of their first three seasons, an average of 75 percent or greater over all three seasons or 50 percent or greater in all three seasons – the fifth-year option salary will equal the average of the position's third-to-20th-highest salaries. If a player meets none of those levels, he can earn an average of the position's third-to-25th salaries. Etienne therefore has a chance at the latter three tiers – one Pro Bowl, playing time or nothing – but could not earn the highest tier because he can't make two Pro Bowls before the 2024 offseason.

Mike from Azores

Come on, John. I've heard you repeatedly defend the Jags' selection of Walker as they believed he was the best player available! Actually, they drafted the best athlete, the physical freak, someone projected to be special. And to top it off, they drafted him to play a position he didn't even play in his college career! Now our Coach admits that edge rusher is our No. 1 need! I highly doubt that would be the case if they had just drafted the actual projected No. 1 edge rusher last year, Aidan Hutchinson! Let's just admit the mistake that was made and move on! This year, let's just take the actual best "player" and not another projected position fit based on freakish athletic traits!

What Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said at the recent 2023 NFL Annual Meeting was that the area the defense most needs to improve in 2023 is pass rush, He didn't call edge rusher a need, though he did discuss the need for Travon Walker and Josh Allen to improve. There's a difference there. I don't have a feel for whether Walker was a better or worse selection than Hutchinson at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft – and despite many jumping to quick-trigger conclusions based on a rookie season, the truth is no one knows which player will be better than the other.  There's no reason Walker can't be a great selection, just as last offseason there was no reason Lawrence – the No. 1 selection in the draft the season before Walker was the No. 1 selection – couldn't be a great selection after he struggled at times as a rookie. I expect to get a better feel for this topic in the players' second seasons, just as you get a better feel for the true level of most NFL players in their second seasons.

Michael from ountain

Not so much a question, but I am calling it: Joey Porter Jr will get lost in the picks and end up sliding to the Jags. So let it be written, so let it be done.


Dave from Section 103

Hey, Zone. I'm the disappointed 27-year season-ticket holder who pointed out last year that the Jags have only drafted one player in the first round from the Big Ten, yet have drafted six Gators. When you said a couple days ago that you were leaning toward drafting a guard from Florida, I spit up in my mouth a little bit. If that was the goal, mission accomplished. Really, a guard over cornerback in the first round?

When I said recently that I would lean toward selecting Florida offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence, it was because of his position – and because of the thoughts of many draft analysts. I didn't give the first thought to how many players from the University of Florida the Jaguars have selected in their history. How many players a team previously has selected from a school is so unimportant and off topic that I just don't consider it when analyzing the draft. Nor do NFL franchises. Nor should they.

Ray from Vernon

Having read "Don from Marshall" saying Travon Walker will be this year what was expected from a No. 1 -drafted player, in your opinion, Mr. O, do you think in year two, can Walker realistically become a big-sack number linebacker or his disruption ability continue to be his strength? Thanks, always enjoy your read every morning.

I don't yet know what specific role will be best for Walker, though I think his best role eventually might be similar to that of former Jaguars defensive end/lineman Calais Campbell. I expect there's a chance Walker could play that role more moving forward than he did as a rookie. I expect Walker can increase his sacks total and I also think he can dramatically increase his impact on the game in his second season – and I think he can help the Jaguars be a more effective pass rush. I suspect the comparison to Campbell might bring a chorus of, "See! The Jaguars made a mistake drafting him!" I also suspect very few teams would have regretted it had they selected Campbell No. 1 overall.

Steve from Wallingford, CT

I have to agree with Greg from section 122. Every time we nailed our draft pick recently, it was the consensus pick. Jalen Ramsey, Josh Allen, Lawrence. It seems every time we get smart and try to outsmart everyone else, we get burned.

Selecting Walker wasn't about "outsmarting" anyone. It was about taking the player the Jaguars thought was the best player in the draft. And pretty clearly so.

Johnny from Westside via section 408

I know it is just a rehash of old points, but here's my two cents: Draft the best player, or the opponent gets him. Either pick him - even if to trade - or get compensated. After all, we didn't need Jon Ogden, HOF'er because we had Big Bo. alas for needs-drafting.


John from The Land of Indian river

Good morning, Zone. I rewatched Coach's interview at the owners meeting and I agree with you the pass rush needs to improve from within. In the draft, if an offensive lineman that Doug touts is there it'll be the choice. At the same point if a tight end that can block and catch is available, he'll go that direction. Coach talked about building the team now knowing Trevor is going to get paid. So, if the guard from Florida and the tight end from Georgia are both available which player does GM Zone take?

Your confidence is impressive – and perhaps you're right. Or perhaps you're wrong. I don't sense Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke or Pederson are locked in on a particular position at No. 24 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. I expect Baalke has multiple players there he likes, and that he has contingencies if players he likes best are gone. I probably would lean toward Torrance in your scenario because I tend to lean offensive linemen early in a class that's considered deep at cornerback and tight end.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, are you trying to tell us that you aren't Zonestradamus?

I am the king of all funk.

Unhipcat from b bar h, ca

Hi, John. I was eating cereal this morning and two cheerios on a strawberry slice made it look like a face. My question is, do the Jags include you in the original determination of their Big Board, or do they shoot it over to you later and ask for your input?

This reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke: "I never want to join a club that would want me as a member." If the Jaguars are involving me at any level or at any stage of the draft process something has gone awry. Horribly.

David from Chuluota, FL

Hello GM Oehser, this is your good friend Scott Fitterer GM of the Carolina Panthers. I want to trade you for Trevor Lawrence, but before you hang up, consider that I will give you our No. 1 pick for the next 5 years, which includes the first pick in this year's draft. Do we have a deal?

No. No. No.