JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
I agree the team should not dive deep into free agency next month and that the Jaguars should leave room to extend the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, Cam Robinson and Leonard Fournette. That said, I am not sure there are enough draft picks to fully address offensive line, wide receiver and tight end in the manner desired for the 2018 season. Would you expect to draft for two and fill one in free agency, for example? Yes, there are seven rounds ... but getting starters past Round 3 is a challenge - at least in the year they are drafted. And that does not account for any of the top three picks being used on a developmental quarterback. How do you see this being navigated, O-Man?
John: First off, sometimes NFL reality is you can't address every need as much as you would like. You might believe you have a need to improve the interior of the offensive line but there might not be a significant upgrade in free agency – and you might need to address other areas early in the draft. There also might be positions you can't reasonably spend $10 million to upgrade and you therefore must move forward with a less expensive option. As for how the Jaguars will navigate free agency this offseason … I expect them to re-sign cornerback Aaron Colvin and to make a serious effort to re-sign wide receiver Allen Robinson before they become unrestricted free agents on the March 14 start of the NFL League Year. I don't expect them to place the franchise tag on Robinson. If Robinson does not return, I would expect them to try to re-sign wide receiver Marqise Lee. If they can't re-sign either Lee or Robinson, I would expect them to sign a free-agent offensive linemen, wide receiver or tight end – and possibly address the other two positions early in the draft. I don't expect the Jaguars to select quarterback before Round 3 of the draft. Of course I could be wrong. It happens.
Mark from High Springs, FL:
I remember seeing Robinson standing next to Blake Bortles on the sideline of the AFC Championship Game. In that moment they seemed to be more than co-workers, possibly even friends. I'm sure I'm reading too much into it, but after hearing Blake's comments on his new contract, is it possible that Allen might follow suit and take a team-friendly deal, which will also have him getting paid millions of dollars to play football?
John: You're probably reading too much into it. This is a close team, and Robinson – like most Jaguars players – appears to truly like playing with his teammates. Still, the situations of Bortles and Robinson are different. Bortles played his first four NFL seasons on a contract that paid him like the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft; Robinson played his first four seasons on a second-round contract. Bortles therefore had earned life-changing money far before he signed his second NFL contract. While Robinson was compensated well during his first four NFL seasons, remember: this may be his only chance at a contract with life-changing guaranteed money. When someone is in that situation, they are well within their rights to maximize their earnings.
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
I'm not sure I buy the idea that the contract extension means Bortles will be the Jaguars' quarterback in 2019. I don't think the contract changes much except taking Kirk Cousins out of the equation and cementing Blake as the starter for 2018. It buys Blake another year to prove he is worth a long-term contract. It gives the Jaguars the flexibility to have him locked up for 2019 if he improves, but not be throwing away too much money if he falters. Even if he ends up being released next year, $26.5 million isn't going to cripple the cap. I still see Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson at No. 29 as a possibility.
John: Bortles will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in 2018 and there's a high percentage chance he will be the starter again in 2019. I say this because his dead money on the cap in 2019 would be around $16.5 million if he is released; as my grandmother used to say, that's a lot of dead money. I would be very surprised if the Jaguars select Rudolph or Jackson at No. 29 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft – or if the Jaguars take a quarterback in the first round.
Ryan from Fremont, OH:
Why sign Blake now instead of waiting to see if there's a possibility Drew Brees hits the market? Chances are slim, but at least they could do their due diligence. That is, unless Bortles offered a slight discount to get the deal done now rather than later.
John: A couple of reasons. One is that the Jaguars – like pretty much every NFL team – almost certainly have a decent feel for whether Brees will really hit the free-agent market. But the biggest motivation for the Jaguars to get Bortles signed when they did was because by doing it now they have two and half weeks before the start of unrestricted free agency to negotiate with players such as Colvin and Robinson. A lot of work on these sorts of negotiations gets done at the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins in Indianapolis Tuesday. With Bortles under contract the Jaguars now enter the combine knowing precisely how much room they have under the cap to negotiate with Robinson and Colvin.
Brian from Mandarin:
I feel it is time to take a pot shot at Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell. He has seriously under-drafted the offensive line. After five years of drafting, we now have two positions of strength. We do indeed have a better offensive line but we find ourselves still needing to draft a starting offensive lineman this year – really two. You correctly stated that he could not build an offensive line in one year. It has now been way too long. What, I believe, he does well is his knowledge and management of the scouting department. He has had lots of draft hits. I think Tom Coughlin leans more toward the big boys and they will adjust the big board and get this right.
John: I don't know that it's as accurate to say the Jaguars have "under-drafted" the offensive line in the last five seasons as it is to say the Jaguars have had misses when drafting the line. Consider: The Jaguars since 2013 have used a No. 2 overall selection in the draft on a left tackle (Luke Joeckel), a second-round selection on a left tackle (Cam Robinson) and two third-round selections on interior linemen (A.J. Cann and Brandon Linder). That's a significant amount of draft equity on the line. Is the offensive line dominant? No, but it's not as if the team has neglected the position.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John: I think the signing of Bortles is a good decision: Reasonable cost that allows the team to sign other players. My question: What is the difference in the pro quarterback game that makes it so difficult to predict how college quarterbacks will play in the pros? The sidewalks are littered with will paid former high-pick quarterbacks that couldn't adapt to the NFL.
John: The difference in the NFL and college football these days is enormous – to the extent that they almost can be defined as different games. First, the college game is far slower than the NFL; to stand on the sideline of an NFL game and a college game is to be overwhelmed by the difference in size, speed, strength and impact of the hits in the NFL. But a bigger difference now is the proliferation of spread offenses in the college game with an emphasis on concepts such as run-pass options, the jet sweep and running the offense from the shotgun. That has caused it to be increasingly difficult to evaluate any offensive players, particularly quarterbacks and offensive linemen but also wide receiver and tight ends.
Cornel from Santa Maria, CA:
Now that BB5 is signed, what will the Jaguars do with Chad Henne? Will he be released and the Jaguars look for a quarterback somewhere in the draft?
John: That remains to be seen. First, Henne is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent so the issue isn't whether or not the Jaguars release him but whether they want to re-sign him. I think there's a reasonable chance Henne will return to the Jaguars, though if that happens I would expect it to be on a far more cap-friendly deal than in recent seasons. There's time on this one, and I would expect the Jaguars to take it.
Matt from Fort Worth, TX:
This column really puts a song in my heart, "John-O, John-O, it's off to work we go...." Could be a chart-topper if it ever gets produced.
John: There are times during the NFL offseason that the regular season seems like a long, long way away.
O-Zone: Hit parade
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL: