O-Zone: Hot topics

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Jim from Jacksonville

Are NFL scouts paying much attention to the Alliance of American Football games? How big a factor do you think the AAF will be when it comes to putting together the NFL active rosters and practice squads?

NFL personnel departments pay attention to all levels of professional and college football, with college scouting departments focused on college players and pro scouting departments focused on professional players in the NFL and other leagues. Teams undoubtedly will pay attention to the AAF and the XFL when that league begins play next offseason. But don’t think that teams suddenly will be discovering AAF players and being surprised by what they see. Many AAF players already have been in multiple NFL camps and many have been on regular-season rosters. Nearly all will have been extensively scouted coming out of college and throughout the time they have been in and out of the league. I expect many AAF players will play in the NFL in the coming seasons, but I also expect many of those players would have played in the NFL had there been no AAF. Players quite often play in the NFL again after being out of the league for a time. So, how big of a factor will the AAF be in future rosters? Probably about as big of a factor as players from practice squads and street free agents. The players will be a factor, though probably a minimal one.

Aron from Aldie

It appears our defense has the potential to trend downwards and it’s aging. I guess we need to build around our offense and defense this year. It seems unwise to trade up or lose draft picks, right?

The Jaguars’ defense has enough talent at all three levels – and enough talent in key positions – to remain strong next season, though aging is an inevitable reality for any group of NFL players (or any other group for that matter). I expect the Jaguars’ 2019 NFL Draft to be heavy on offense, and it’s always better to keep as many draft selections as possible. I can’t see the Jaguars parting ways with more than one of their 2019 selections to trade up for a quarterback and I would be surprised if they gave up more than a third-round selection.

Frank from Jacksonville

So, how does this work? If we release Bortles and pay him his $16.5 million, then another team decides to pick him up, does Bortles get to double dip and get paid by both teams or does his new team compensate the Jags somehow?

Bortles’ $6.5 million salary for 2019 is guaranteed. Whatever salary he earns from another team will lessen that number – and that salary-cap hit – by whatever amount that team pays Bortles.

Abel from Jacksonville

I hear you saying it's time to move on, but why would the Jaguars give up $16 million for nothing? I think the Jaguars should draft the best offensive right tackle in the first round and a really good right guard in the second round. The Jaguars’ offense is much better with a good offensive line. Let Bortles play and earn his money. If it does not work then they could always Tank for Tua.

I don’t expect Bortles to be with the Jaguars next season, though I don’t think it’s ridiculous to think they could draft offensive line with one of their first two selections in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Casey from Kingsville, TX

Hey O-Zone, there already is and will be much speculation for the Jaguars between now and the draft. As of today, how many picks do they have per each round?

The Jaguars currently have selections in the first (No. 7 overall), second (No. 38 overall), third (No. 69 overall), third (No. 94 overall), fourth (No. 102 overall), sixth (No. 164 overall) and seventh (No. 198 overall) rounds.

Logan from Wichita, KS

Based on our horrible quarterback, wide receiver and running back situation can we just skip the upcoming season? There is zero hope of a winning season.

Fine.

Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL

Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson played both sports. What has changed why could this not happen for Kyler Murray down the road?

The NFL is more of a year-round sport now than when Sanders and Jackson played in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That’s one difference. The biggest difference is Sanders and Jackson didn’t play quarterback and Murray does. Quarterback isn’t a position for part-time employees.

Paul from Gainesville, FL

John, some "small" quarterbacks over the years have had an innate ability to avoid many crushing blows, minimizing risk of serious injury. Just superior athleticism at work. Think Russell Wilson, Doug Flutie, and based on pocket nimbleness, Drew Brees. Do you see some of that in the play of Kyler Murray?

Murray looks very athletic and nimble. He probably would do a nice job avoiding a lot of hits. The issue with Murray is not whether he would avoid a lot of hits; it would be the physical toll of the hits he did take.

Niaz from Orlando, FL

The Jags have the least cap space (most money allocated to players) of any team in the NFL this year, 2020, and have the third-most in 2021 (with a few key young players left to pay). On the other hand, our average roster age during these years is 25, 26, and 27 respectively (about middle of the pack). Is the core of this team that they're committed to good enough? Of the core players we've signed/resigned to multi-year deals, which of guard Andrew Norwell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, linebacker Telvin Smith, center Brandon Linder, safety Tashaun Gipson, wide receiver Marqise Lee, defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, running back Carlos Hyde, cornerback D.J. Hayden and defensive tackle Abry Jones plays out their contracts? I have obviously left out quarterback Blake Bortles, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins - holler if something's changed with those three.

A team’s core is more dynamic than your question indicates, and the reality is the Jaguars’ core is pretty good for the next couple of years. If they get improved quarterback play, and if key young players develop, it could be a competitive core. As far as the above-listed players playing out their contracts … perhaps one or two will do. Perhaps none. Veteran contracts in the salary-cap era rarely are structured in a way that allows playing to see the end of deals. It’s not unusual, and it’s not a mystery to either side. It’s just how it is.

David from Oviedo, FL

O - Suppose the Jags sign Nick Foles. As of today, who would you select with the Jaguars’ first-round selection?

In your scenario, I imagine the Jaguars could try to trade back – though it’s always far easier to want to move back than to actually do it. If they stay at No. 7, I would say the odds favor the Jaguars selecting an offensive lineman. I think they will draft a tight end sometime in the first two days, but it’s hard to see that position in the Top 10 this year.

Fred from Naples, FL

It is safe to say that if the Jags don't trade for Nick Foles and acquire a mid-level guy such as Teddy Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill they are saying that they are going to draft a quarterback with their first-round pick. The price to overtake the Giants is going to be huge. IMO there is Haskins and the rest of the field and the Giants are probably thinking the same.

OK.

Mark from Archer, FL

I do not get this whole draft a rookie and sign a bridge quarterback. If you are going to draft a quarterback in the top 10, then you should believe he is your franchise quarterback, play him Day One and let the kid learn by playing. Is that a bad idea?

It depends on the readiness level of the young quarterback, but in general … yeah, it’s a good idea to have a veteran who can you trust to play in front of the young quarterback. Young quarterbacks – even talented ones destined for greater things – make mistakes. The Jaguars should believe based on their talent level on defense that they can win and contend for the postseason next season. If that’s the case, having a quarterback who can manage games and win by playing smart, mistake-free football for the short-term makes sense.

Bryan from Tampa, FL

John, I figured we could get today's column out of the way nice and quick. What are your thoughts on the quarterback from Oklahoma? Do you think Nick Foles would be a good option? And what about keeping Blake Bortles this year? This month has been far worse than the dead zone.

Jaguars fans do seem to be asking about Kyler Murray, Foles, Bortles and just about every other imaginable quarterback topic – college or professional – these days. Why, it’s almost as if quarterback is the most position in sports and people care about it.

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