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O-Zone: High hopes

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, is it possible to be any more last-minute than that great signing?

You're referencing the Jaguars signing tight end Evan Engram to a three-year contract, a deal that was agreed upon Sunday and that became official when Engram signed his contract Monday. It indeed was last-minute, with the Jaguars and Engram having until Monday at 4 p.m. to finalize it. If they hadn't gotten the contract signed, Engram would have played for the Jaguars on a one-year deal. In that sense, it wasn't that stressful for the Jaguars or their fans. It absolutely was nerve-wracking for Engram. The positive for him now is he has security in the form of $24 million guaranteed compared to $11.36 million guarantee on the franchise tag. He also has the security of knowing he will play for the Jaguars for at least the next two seasons.

Nikki from East Hampton, CT

I am stoked that we were able to ink a long-term deal with Engram! Where does this put us from a salary cap standpoint for this season? If during or after training camp it is determined we need to bolster edge rusher, will we have enough available to make a move or would we possibly need to further restructure existing contracts?

Signing Engram lowered his 2023 cap figure to about $6.6 million, so it saved the Jaguars about $5 million against the cap for this season. That reportedly gives them about $20.2 million cap space for 2023, so the Jaguars would be able to make a move for a veteran without significant restructuring.

Andrew from Halifax

O, I don't see too many tight end-wide receiver-running back-quarterback combos better than Evan Engram, Calvin Ridley, Travis Etienne Jr. and Trevor Lawrence.

Good eye.

Brad from Orange Park, FL

I find myself a little agnostic with the Engram extension. On one hand, he didn't not deserve it... But I wouldn't have minded seeing him not not deserve it again after a year on the franchise tag, either.

It seems you're saying you wouldn't have minded the Jaguars letting Engram play on the franchise tag in 2023 and I assume you must mean this would have motivated Engram. I don't think you have to worry about Engram being motivated; while he had his best NFL season in what was a "contract year" in 2023, he strikes me as a self-motivated player who will continue to have the proper mindset even after signing a big contract.

Ron from Tallahassee, FL

Is there a bigger villain in sports today than Novak Djokovic? He's so dominant and fans love to cheer against him.

This indeed is Djokovic's lot in life. Djokovic, who lost the Wimbledon final in a stunningly good five-set match to Carolos Alcarez Sunday, might be the sport's best all-time player. Playing in an era that featured two other players squarely in that conversation – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – Djokovic achieved what was once considered unthinkable by consistently beating that duo and surpassing them in many of the sport's significant all-time categories. But he never was remotely as popular as Feder or Nadal, perhaps the most-beloved players in the sport's history. This made Djokovic easy to dislike. I admit falling victim to this. Federer ranks among my favorite athletes of all-time. I find Djokovic's style, though effective, somewhat boring. But while that's one reason I'm not a huge Djokovic fan, the biggest reason was he beat Federer so often – and in so many big matches. You never like your favorite's rivals. That's part of the fun of sports.

John from Land of Indian river

The Jaguars got the Engram deal done with mere hours left to spare. Trevor has a full arsenal. The dreaded Tennessee Titans also got it done with D-Hop. If anyone thinks that Tennessee will go quietly, they don't understand rivalries in the NFL. I believe it's lining up to be a very interesting year for the AFC South. Let's go Chester Cheeto ….

I agree. The Jaguars deserve to be the AFC South favorites. They won the AFC South in 2022, they return much of their core and they added a potential No. 1 wide receiver in Calvin Ridley. But as successful as the Jaguars were last season, they needed a fumble return for a touchdown in the final two minutes to win the division ahead of the Titans. The Titans not only added wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, they are a well-coached team under Head Coach Mike Vrabel and understand their identity. They won the division in 2020 and 2021 and barely missed winning it last season. Don't count them out until they're eliminated.

Bubba from Jacksonville

John, with the NFL moving away from the importance of specialty teams due to safety reasons do you think if this trend continues it could change how teams select "backup" players as it seems now special teams ability seems to be a part of the selection process?

Special teams indeed has been somewhat deemphasized in recent seasons as NFL safety-oriented rule changes have meant fewer kickoff returns. The NFL continued that trend this offseason by implementing a rule for 2023 that all fair catches on kickoffs inside the 25-yard line will result in the ensuing offensive position beginning at the 25-yard line, a rule that presumably will result in even fewer kickoff returns. I don't sense that teams have dramatically changed how they evaluate potential backup players. Many roster decisions regarding the "bottom" 10 or so players still factor special teams heavily. Could that change moving forward if the new onside rule pushes kickoff returns close to zero? Absolutely.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

Why are there so few people on the planet that can play offensive tackle at a high level (not a "skill" position)?

NFL offensive tackles generally must be 6-feet-5-ish and 300 pounds-ish. They also must be athletic. They must be strong. When you start trying to check those boxes, you run out of names fast.

Toucan from Sam

I want chorizo with eggs.

Jaguars Training Camp begins July 26.

Robert from Elkton

Zone, it seems to me this coach-signing-his-son thing is incredibly overblown. So, let me ask this: Who had more to do with the signing of a bottom of the offseason roster tight end, the coach or the general manager? My guess is the general manager is paying way more attention to the 75th-80throster spot than the coach and that's who most likely signed the player with little to no input from the coach.

I'm guessing Jaguars Head Coach Pederson had input into the signing of his son, tight end Josh Pederson. It would be disingenuous to say otherwise. But you're right that any "controversy" over this is incredibly overblown – and then some. If Josh Pederson is good enough to contribute and be on the roster, he will be on the roster. If not, he won't. It's not going to tear apart this team. It just won't.

Don from Marshall, NC

I think Doug Pederson signed his son Josh because he thinks he is pretty good. The kid is pretty good from what I watched. Good Luck to him!

When it comes to Josh Pederson, Don is "all in."

Johnny from Westside, still best side

I was able to watch "condensed" versions of the 2022 season. Presumably they did not edit these beyond the obvious, but as I watched, it practically jumped off the screen that we-slash-Trevor Lawrence got much, much better very, very quickly. We did also get quite lucky, but whatever: One makes one's own luck. This is my reason for optimism. My real question is: Do you sign autographs at training camp?

You don't win in the NFL without some good fortune. It's just as true you don't get in position to take advantage of good fortune if you're not doing a lot right. As for your question … if someone has reached so low a point in this downward spiral that is life that they should covet my autograph, sure … I'll sign. I would just ask that you do some reassessing afterward.

Richard from Jacksonville

The amount of talent and depth Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke has gotten under contract in such a short time is mind numbing. I think it is epic he keeps a clown face emoji on his desk. I'm really thankful to be able to observe the next season.

One fer Baalke.

David from The Island

I wrote a dumb question recently. Thankfully you did not answer it as I regretted pushing send as soon as I hit the button. Do you think other people regret some of their questions as well? I know I do.

On the grand scale of life's mistakes, a "dumb" question or two to an obscure online forum in this twisted corner of the interweb is pretty forgivable.

Debbie from Downersville

All this offseason optimism brings me back to the summer of 2018.

Trevor Lawrence is the Jaguars' quarterback.