JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
OK, with the flurry of deals this week I am now a bit concerned about the Jaguars' cap health. I'm not sure some of these gaps could not have been addressed in the draft. I haven't seen a lot of numbers yet, so I could be concerned about nothing, but I hope we aren't sacrificing the future. There is a core to be re-signed a year from now. Do you sense any concern or that "win now" could be at too much future expense?
John: I don't sense that concern. While the Jaguars certainly are taking a more "win-now" approach now than they did from around 2013 through around 2015 – when nearly all of their free-agent moves were made with the idea of having mountains of salary-cap space for 2016 and 2017 – they are not sacrificing the future. It's difficult to say with accuracy precisely how the Jaguars will manage the cap in future years because specifics will play out in the coming seasons depending on undetermined factors – how certain players play, how they project, health, etc. But the Jaguars have structured most if not all of their high-dollar, cap-eating contracts so that they have various degrees of flexibility. Defensive end Calais Campbell, free safety Tashaun Gipson, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus … all are examples of players who can be released with a relatively small cap penalty in the future. It's safe to assume the cap impact of the players who will sign Thursday morning – with the likely exception of All-Pro offensive guard Andrew Norwell of the Carolina Panthers – will play out similarly. Now, this does not mean there won't be tough decisions. It almost certainly won't be possible to keep all of the aforementioned players AND sign players such as linebacker Myles Jack, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to multi-year, cap-eating contracts. You can't pay everybody in the NFL and you can't have a roster of 22 guarantee-contracted, high-profile stars. But while those choices won't be easy, they should be able to be made in such a way that the Jaguars can manage the roster and stay competitive moving forward.
Kinzie from Asheville, NC:
Hey John, I like free agency so far from the Jags ... helped to shore up the offensive line with Norwell, held on to a very gritty receiver in Marqise Lee, didn't give in and overpay for Robinson (although I will miss him very much), re-signed Corey Grant, added Niles Paul and kept Ben Koyack for tight-end insurance as well. Is it just me, or are we going to enter the draft being able to draft the best player available or what! No glaring needs, just get the players that will help your team win. I like it!
John: That's a factor in this week's free-agent signings that shouldn't be overlooked. The Jaguars in recent seasons under General Manager David Caldwell typically have gone into drafts with enough at all positions to not be absolutely forced to take a player in the draft to improve the position. That appears to be the case at most positions this season. Could they take a tight end in Round 1? Yes, but they also could take one on Day 2 or 3 considering the depth at the position in the draft. Do they have enough on the offensive line to play well in 2018? Yes, but they also could still benefit from a front-line offensive lineman; the same also could be true at wide receiver. Stay tuned.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
What do people not get about the Andrew Norwell signing? He is as close to a guaranteed-production player as you are going to get. You have no idea what you're going to get from AR15 from year to year even before the ACL. Also, I heard a rumor that unless you have Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, your offense isn't going to work without a good offensive line to buy time and open holes.
John: My cat likes shiny objects. He rarely moves quickly unless I flash a laser against a wall; then he breathlessly lunges his fat self at the wall in a comical frenzy until I opt to stop. Wide receivers are shiny; many people like them. I also like being superior to animals; it makes me feel good about myself.
Javier from Sicklerville, NJ:
I don't disagree that signing a Pro Bowl guard will help the offense in the running game, but that won't stop defenses from loading the box even more. If we don't have a wide receiver that helps with a possibility of the deep ball (assuming Blake Bortles can make the throw) to open up the defense, the running game may still struggle in the latter part of the season.
John: It better not.
Alex from Los Angeles, CA:
Iso left, iso left, lso left. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. We're going to be hearing a lot of Leonard Fournette in the end zone next year.
John: You better.
Derrick from Jacksonville:
O, just curious. Any idea what amount the Jags offered AR-15? Did they even make an offer?
John: My understanding is that the Jaguars made Robinson an offer before the start of Monday's pre-free agency negotiating period and that they were involved in the process once the negotiating period began. My understanding is that the price for the top receivers – including Robinson – got very high very quickly and that the Jaguars knew relatively quickly after that that Robinson wouldn't be returning.
Tom from Jacksonville:
How good is Norwell?
John: He was an Associated Press All-Pro selection last season. That means you're as good as there is in the NFL. Maybe it's not fair to expect him to be first-team All-Pro every season. At $13 million a season, he needs to be pretty close.
Greg from Boise, ID:
It seems to me, that some fans are not looking at the "BIG picture" about losing Allen Robinson. It has been well established that the Jaguars want to be a run-first team, but also a balanced team. So personally, I would take that to mean we are trying to get to the point where we will see more ground-pounding, clock-eating drives down field with a few occasional passes when needed or to back the defenders out of the box. Most receivers want the ball thrown to them all the time, and if we get to the point the Jaguars want to get to, there will be fewer chances for the receivers to make plays, which is not only going to upset some receivers, but also spend more than we have to. To get where we want to be in the ground game, we need to improve the OL, and that is priority over keeping a WR for big money who will be playing a reduced role. Does that sound about right or am I missing something?
John: It sounds about right.
Thad from Albuquerque, NM:
How can anyone possibly think Marqise Lee is better than Allen Robinson? Lee LEADS THE LEAGUE IN DROPS!!!!! Plus, he is always injured. This is stupid. Lee shouldn't be our No. 1 wide receiver or anyone's wide receiver.
John: The Jaguars indeed reportedly will re-sign Marqise Lee Thursday while Robinson reportedly will sign with Chicago. But that has nothing to do with the Jaguars thinking Lee is better than Robinson and everything to do with what made sense in regards to the salary cap. As for the rest of your email … while your exclamation points are many, your salient points are few. Lee missed fewer games the past two seasons than Robinson; he also missed fewer games than Allen Hurns. And while he may not be a No. 1 wide receiver, he's not terrible. He's actually a long way from it.
Thomas from Lawrenceville:
After going back and forth on this many times, I think the decision not to pay Allen Robinson is a good one. TC [Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin] and DC [Caldwell] did not take this decision lightly, but their plan for the team is clear with the signing of Andrew Norwell: play D and run the ball.
John: The plan was clear before Norwell, but yeah … it got clearer.
Mike from Orange Park, FL:
Bears signing A-Rob for three years at $14 million. We sign Norwell for five year for $13 million. Don't see the money savings for us. Could have drafted a good guard?
John: Signing Norwell instead of Robinson wasn't about saving money; it was about getting better on the offensive line with a healthy All-Pro player as opposed to committing a lot of guaranteed money to a Pro Bowl player coming off a serious knee injury. And signing Norwell wasn't about signing a good guard; it was about signing an All-Pro guard. There needs to be a difference.
Antony from Columbia, SC:
This just in: Tom Coughlin believes in prioritizing the offensive and defensive lines.
John: Ya think?
O-Zone: High priority
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL: