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O-Zone: Impossible dream

LINCOLN, Neb. – We'll address Maurice Jones-Drew's retirement in the first questions of the O-Zone.

First, a couple of thoughts …

Jones-Drew, who on Thursday announced his retirement from the NFL after nine seasons – eight seasons with the Jaguars and one with the Oakland Raiders – unquestionably deserves to be mentioned with the greatest players in this franchise's history. I covered him in just one season in his prime, 2011, but what a season. He won the NFL rushing title, and I often have said he put as much into and got as much out of that season as he possibly could. It was a Herculean effort in which he squeezed the most from every run, and should be remembered as one of the great seasons in Jaguars history.

I didn't cover him in his first five NFL seasons, but fans who watched him and players who played with him and coaches who coached him can tell you he was a special player. He will be remembered as such.

I am getting a lot of questions about Jones-Drew retiring as a Jaguar, and being inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars. There is a time for ceremonies, and that time is in the future. He is deserving of both honors, and I have no doubt there will be ceremonies and announcements about those ceremonies when appropriate.

For now, remember what Jones-Drew meant to this franchise, because he meant a lot.

Here's wishing him a well-deserved happy retirement. James from Phoenix, AZ:
With the announcement of Maurice Jones-Drew's retirement and his prominence in both the team's and town's heart is it likely that the team will offer him a one-day contract so he can retire with the team he helped and loved for so long?
John: I would say it's safe to say that's very, very likely. We got a lot of questions about this Thursday. Remember, Maurice Jones-Drew is in California living a life with his family and the daily details that requires. Would it stand to reason that a retirement ceremony could happen between now and the distant future? Yeah, that stands to reason.
Matthew from Jacksonville:
Why didn't he retire as a Jaguar?
John: Give it some time, Matthew.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
Zone, what do you think about this year's free-agency class? It seems to me it is way better than most years. What say you?
John: It certainly seems way better. That's because there are a lot more prominent names, and I suspect part of it is because we who follow the Jaguars are following the names much more closely. How good is the class? I suppose we'll see next season once we see how these players fit into new teams and new situations. That's a big part of a free agent's success.
James from Columbus, MS:
So, one thing I still don't get: players want to get paid, and they are one of the best at their position. So the team franchises them until a longer deal is made. But while they are franchised, they are making the average of the top five salaries of their position. Yet, players hate getting franchised: one plus one equals two as far as I know, but this logic just doesn't add up to me. Why do players balk at getting franchised?
John: Players are human beings and human beings typically want long-term security and more money. Remember, injuries are a very real threat for NFL players. A high-end player might receive, say, $12-13 million guaranteed for a year under the franchise tag, then play while risking injury. That's considerably less attractive than playing under a multi-year contract that guarantees you $40 or $50 million if you are injured.
Pradeep from Bangalore, India:
Hey John, there are many reports indicating the Jaguars could be signing a quality running back in free agency. I feel Denard Robinson did a good job behind that porous offensive line. Do you feel we have enough running backs on the current roster having potential to be very successful?
John: I do, and I think Robinson was pretty good for a four- or five-game stretch last season. I also think the Jaguars have very few positions that couldn't be upgraded – including running back – and they have money to spend in free agency. It wouldn't shock me if some of that money is spent on a running back because right now very little that happens next week would shock me.
Catherine from Jacksonville:
John, what happens when there are multiple interesting Pro Days on the same day? Do the position coaches divide them up for coverage? What does the scouting staff do? Where do the head coach and the general manager go? Are there clues based on choices?
John: I wouldn't look too hard for clues here. Who goes to certain Pro Days isn't terribly meaningful, and sometimes can be misleading. Remember, head coaches and general managers attend comparatively few Pro Days, and while position coaches attend Pro Days it's not as if, for instance, Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan is going to canvas every receiver in the draft. Teams typically cover most high-end Pro Days with at least a scout, but anyone else in attendance rest can often be chalked up to smoke screen and pre-draft conversation fodder.
Jesse from Orlando, FL:
Given what we saw last year going after Alex Mack after he was transition tagged, we know Dave Caldwell isn't afraid of spending big bucks to get premier talent. Do you see any chance he goes after Justin Houston now that he has a non-exclusive tag and the Chiefs don't have much wiggle room with their cap? He is still young and one of the best at his position.
John: This isn't likely. Not that Houston isn't worth two first-round selections; I'd say he just might be – and that's rare for a free agent. But there's almost no way the Chiefs wouldn't match the offer, which means you're just setting the market for the other team.
Walter from Yulee, FL:
Every player I have heard or seen talked about getting drafted in the Top 10 is either a quarterback, wide receiver or a defensive lineman/pass-rusher. What position other than these do you think will be the first selected and when will that pick happen? 1-5, 5-10, 10-15?
John: I think defensive tackle Danny Shelton from Washington will be selected by Chicago No. 7. He's a defensive lineman, but not a pass rusher. As far as a player other than quarterback, receiver or defensive lineman, I'd say Iowa offensive linemen Brandon Scherff somewhere between 11 and 15.
Bernabe from Monterrey, NM:
I would like to say I read the column every day and I'm a huge fan. It's my fear the Jaguars will overspend this year, I don't care that we have a lot of cap space; we need to have a healthy cap to be a successful franchise. We just have to look at our own history to understand that. Premium free agents come at a price, and I would rather be bad another year than mortgage the future again. We should stick to draft and develop; that is how Seattle and Green Bay have been doing it, and how it works. It's a long process, but i don't want to suffer for another 15 years just to be good now. Let's hire free agents like David Caldwell has been doing up to now. Please put my mind at ease on this subject. #DTWD
John: I admit to sharing the same trepidation you do on this subject. Big spending in free agency historically is scary stuff without the payoff that such spending leads fans to expect. But this is a different year and the Jaguars are in a different situation than normal. But without going into too much drawn-out numerical detail, it's important to remember that the Jaguars are far enough under the cap that there's little danger of mortgaging the future with this offseason's free agency moves. They're also a long way from re-signing any of their own players to cap-eating, high-dollar second contracts, so there's not going to be a scenario next offseason where the Jaguars wake up and say, "Whoa! We've overspent and now we can't sign Player X or Player Y!!" The key now is to be smart managing the cap after this offseason and ensuring that when their own players are up for free agency there is room. No harm has been done yet and no harm likely will be done this offseason; you just need to stay on top of it and do what you can to do as little harm as possible in the future. All of that said, even throwing the cap conversation out of it, the draft-and-develop approach is still the best way to build a roster. It's tried and true – and I feel confident in saying Caldwell will gear that way as quickly as possible.
Jerry from Tamarac:
With high-tiered free agents is it possible to sign them to team-friendly deals where if they fail the team isn't suffocating with repercussions for years to come or is that impossible?
John: It's pretty much impossible.

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