O-Zone: Information game

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Alon from Malibu, CA

Late third-round compensatory picks are really valuable. Did the Houston Texans just get a third-round pick for not resigning Tyrann Mathieu last March?! The Jaguars it appears historically have never had too many of these picks. There is almost an incentive to let free agents sign elsewhere. Do you think this system is fair?

Yes, the NFL's compensatory-selection system is fair. While it's perceived by some as a "reward" system, it's really just a way to prevent teams from being too hurt by free-agency losses. The way it works is this: the league awards compensatory draft selections based on free-agency gains and losses from the previous offseason. If a team loses more than it gains in free agency, it gains selection(s) the following offseason. If a team acquires more than it loses in free agency, it's not going to gain any selections. This is why the Jaguars for the last decade have had no compensatory selections; they historically have signed more free agents than they have lost. Is the system a good one? If anything, it doesn't reward teams that lose free agents enough. A team in theory could be in a position to not be able to re-sign an elite, Pro Bowl player as an unrestricted free agent. If that team loses that player, the team would receive a third-round selection the following offseason. That's decent draft equity, but a third-round selection hardly makes up for the loss of an elite player.

Steve from Nashville, TN

John, is there anything more confusing and complex in the NFL than the free-agent compensatory pick formula?

The system is confusing and complex in the sense that the league doesn't announce the precise formula. It's simple in the sense that if you lose more than you gain in free agency one offseason then you're going to get compensatory selections the following offseason; if you don't, you won't.

Tom from the Revenue Streets of Nocatee

When is the last time the Jags have had a compensatory pick?

The year was 2010. The player was sixth-round defensive back Scotty McGee, the No. 203 selection overall.

Tom from Shanghai, China

In four years in the NFL as a third-round draft pick, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has made a little over $4 million. This is obviously a massive underpayment for his production. It got me thinking about how the draft system is pretty unfair to guys drafted outside the first round who come in and perform right away. Do you think there is merit/potential in having some mechanism for players to void their contracts to allow earlier renegotiation? Seems like in a world of increasing player power, there are still a load of guys way outperforming their contracts with no imminent prospect of a pay rise.

I think there is very little chance of this happening. The NFL Players Association is made up of veteran players and their concern naturally is protecting the interests of older players. Besides, young players do have an imminent prospect of a pay raise: their second contract. And while it's true Ngakoue has been comparatively underpaid in four NFL seasons, don't forget: The Jaguars attempted to negotiate a long-term, well-paying deal last offseason – a year before they were required to do so. He opted not to accept the deal, but he absolutely could have been making more this past season than he did.

Bryan from Tampa, FL

John, when you say you do not expect the Jaguars to be big players in free agency, what are you expecting? I would think the team has enough room for rotational/fringes-starter types at defensive tackle and linebacker (Jake Ryan-type deals), with perhaps a starting cornerback and tight end – and a few low-cost veteran depth guys elsewhere.

I expect basically what you expect, meaning I expect the Jaguars to sign a player or two capable of starting – but I don't expect those to be so-called "splash" players. I do expect the Jaguars to come out of free agency with 22 players who they feel could start effectively if necessary. That's typically the approach under Jaguars General Manager Caldwell. That could mean signing a mid-priced veteran middle linebacker to allow Myles Jack to move to the weak side, and I imagine it could mean signing a corner capable of starting. It may mean signing a serviceable tight end. That approach allows a team not to have to reach in the early rounds of the draft. I think overall the Jaguars will be active in free agency, but I don't anticipate them to set the market with big-name, high-priced players as they have done the past several offseasons.

Bobby from Summerville, SC

Hi, John. Proud to officially be a season-ticket holder as I picked my seats last week. Now to my question. How many wins do you think the Jags have to have next season in order for Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone to retain their respective positions?

There's rarely a predetermined number for this, and I doubt Owner Shad Khan has such a number. I would be surprised if the season can look like either of the last two; I don't think the Jaguars can have double-digit-loss seasons or long stretches where they appear uncompetitive. I would guess the Jaguars need to have a winning season for things to remain the same moving forward. Could they remain in place with an 8-8 record if it was an "encouraging" 8-8? Yeah, because how things look matters in decisions like this.

Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone: If the league held a senior writer combine, how do you think you would compare to the other 31 competitors in drills like attacking the interviewee's defense and knowing when to push the question down the field, short area quickness and proper angles to maneuver ahead of other reporters, words per minute on the keyboard, football IQ and knowledge of the history of the game; as well as stability in your personal life as it relates to ignoring marketing initiatives involving hot models like the Culligan Girl?

I'd be up there.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

"Virtually every move Jacksonville made after its AFC championship run turned out to be a disaster. Free-agent additions Nick Foles and Andrew Norwell got hurt and didn't live up to expectations. The team foolishly let Allen Robinson go and chose to pay Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and Donte Moncrief instead. A decision to re-sign [Blake] Bortles quickly proved to be a mistake. The team's toxic culture under Tom Coughlin ran off several key players. A Super Bowl appearance might have smoothed over some of the flaws, but it's depressing to think about how exciting the Jags looked so recently and how far they feel from that team now." Bill Barnwell preach! Is he wrong?

Barnwell, like so many others, has overstated how many players were "run off" by former Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. That group of players is pretty much cornerback Jalen Ramsey and not much else. Other than that … yeah, it's been a difficult few years. Is this news?

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Considering the trade of cornerback A.J. Bouye – and also the talk of upper management about being satisfied with the personnel on offensive line – how much did the probability increase that they take a cornerback with the 20th and elect to not take an offensive lineman in the Top 3 rounds? I was really hoping they would take an offensive lineman at 20, if one happened to fit there, but cornerback is as pressing a need on this team as any position now.

I always considered cornerback extremely likely for the Jaguars with one of their first three selections in the 2020 NFL Draft. That hasn't changed. I'm expecting the Jaguars to go defensive tackle and cornerback in the first round and possibly an offensive skill position player early in the second round. An offensive linemen in that group wouldn't be a shock, but I wouldn't consider it likely.

Pay from Duval

Any chance of signing XFL players? At least to the practice squad?

Maybe, and I'm sure there will be XFL players signed to NFL rosters next season. I'm sure some of those players will make NFL rosters – just as I'm sure had there been no XFL many of those players would have signed to NFL rosters and made teams.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Three of the four AFC South teams appear to have uncertainty at their quarterback position going into the 2020 season. It would seem that Houston would be a pretty strong candidate to repeat as AFC South Champions this year?

The Texans have won two of the past four AFC South titles and have been in the postseason four of five seasons – and yes … they have Deshaun Watson – the best quarterback in the division – returning. Why wouldn't they be the favorites?

James from Jacksonville

Thank you for answering my question, that was the information I was looking for.

My bad.

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