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O-Zone: Just a minute

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Mike from Azores

Hey, John. With the opponents in our division all led by tough runners like Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and even Houston running back Dameon Pierce, who we couldn't stop in our loss to the Texans last year – and since we play a 3-4 defense – why isn't there much talk about the Jags drafting Baylor defensive lineman Siaki Ika to play nose tackle and help stop the run? We don't currently have anyone like his size in the middle of our defense! What do you think?

I think the reason you don't hear much talk about Ika – or a lot of players – being selected by the Jaguars in the 2023 NFL Draft is they're selecting in the bottom quarter of the first round rather than No. 1 overall. When you're selecting that late in Round 1, pre-draft analysis is even more guesswork than usual – and pre-draft analysis is almost always a lot of guesswork. I absolutely could see the Jaguars selecting a dominant interior defensive lineman in Round 1 next month. I could see them selecting multiple positions there if they believe there's a first-tier talent available.

David from Maplewood, NJ

John, We need someone to show Josh Allen the ESPN+ 2024 NFL free-agency primer. You know the one where they list key free agents next offseason and they mention about 40 dudes but not a word about Josh Allen, even in the list of other notable free agents at the end of the article? Pretty significant slight in my opinion. Hoping it would make him angry enough to motivate an All-NFL, Defensive Player of the Year candidate type of year. I don't disagree that he hasn't produced yet at an elite level … yet.

Loyal O-Zone readers – and he knows who he is – know how important I consider lists and primers, even those from as unassailable a source as ESPN-plus. And I have no idea if Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen will see the "primer." Either way, Allen doesn't lack for motivation. He is driven and works hard. He spoke openly last offseason of wanting to turn in an All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year type of season. He didn't do that and hasn't really come close to that type of season in four NFL seasons since the Jaguars selected him No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Not that he has been bad. At all. He actually has been good – and I considered him perhaps the Jaguars' best defensive player last season. He certainly was the defensive player I thought the team could least afford to lose. Allen at times has seemed close to the sort of breakout, All-NFL season he wants. He hasn't yet achieved it. Can he do it in 2023? Stay tuned.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, let it be written, let it be predicted. At 10-plus victories, the 2023 Jacksonville Jaguars will take both the South and the Super Bowl. My Bold Prediction: Trevor Lawrence League Most Valuable Player plus Super Bowl MVP. How you like me meow? Sell out the Bank, Jacksonville. Head Coach Doug Pederson and General Manager Trent Baalke built it, you better come. #DUUUVAL!

Nathan is "all in." #meow

Don from Marshall, NC

If you're looking to be a running quarterback or running back, don't expect to get top dollar. Pretty crazy when a guy takes all that physical abuse and does not get rewarded for it. Look at Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson carrying the team on his back and has no contract. He was a former league MVP. Seems like a reflection of our society when the ones who do the hardest physical work get least amount of money.

You don't pay players for what they did in the past. You pay them for what you expect in the future. That's a huge reason NFL running backs often don't get huge second contracts. And yes … it could factor into "running" quarterbacks' contracts moving forward.

Keith from St. Augustine, FL

I know this is probably far-fetched, but drafting Darnell Wright (left guard/swing tackle) of Tennessee in the first round with Darnell Washington (tight end) of Georgia and Isaiah Foskey (SAM or WILL edge) of Notre Dame in the second round would take good fortune and creative trading of positions in the draft (possibly giving up some future draft equity-such as a second or third rounder from 2024 draft). Cornerback is deep and could yield a quality starter at nickel corner and depth at cornerback with picks 121 (Riley Moss of Iowa) and 127 (Rejzohn Wright of Oregon State). Offensive line depth (such as McClendon Curtis-guard/tackle of Chattanoog) and defensive line depth (like Keondre Coburn-nose tackle of Texas) could then be acquired with trading up from the sixth and seventh rounds. This is a year to draft boldly and creatively. It's also a nice time of year to wish and dream.


Arnie Z from Costa Blanca, Spain

Hola, O. Can you talk some on just how healthy we remained last season and how much that overall impacted that amazing late run? I remember season after season losing key players before the season even started. Here's to staying healthy!

The NFL is a league of attrition. The overarching reality for most teams that are competitive every season – i.e., the ones with elite quarterbacks – is they try to make the playoffs as often as possible over a long-term span, stay as healthy as possible and hope for maximum health and good matchups in the postseason. The Jaguars were a very healthy team late in the 2022 season. The Tennessee Titans were not. That's not the only reason the Jaguars overcame the Titans' four-game lead to win the AFC South, but did it play a role? Of course.

Steve from Nashville, TN

I believe Chris from Tampa is saying the Jaguars' AFC South opponents would not be considered difficult 2023 games as they combined for a league-low winning percentage of .294 and since the Jaguars won their division. It by definition makes them better than the rest of the AFC South this year.

Good for Chris.

CaptBob from Jax

Do you know or believe that Florida's no state income tax, on at least seven or eight games, is considered by potential signers? Additionally, does an injury settlement count towards the cap? What year does payment for incentives in players contracts get accounted?

Yes, players and their representatives consider state tax when deciding where to sign. Yes, injury settlements – like all player costs – count toward the salary cap in the NFL. Incentives typically count toward the cap in one of two ways. If the incentive falls under the category of "Likely to Be Earned," it counts in the year earned. If it falls in the category of "Unlikely to Be Earned," it counts toward the following season's cap.

David from Orlando, FL

KOAF – I think, the Chiefs felt pretty good about themselves in signing tackle Jawaan Taylor away from the Jaguars. They surely felt it was a win-win by getting the top tackle in free agency and weakening the competition in one fell swoop. Au contraire mon frere, guaranteeing $60 million dollars to a slightly above average right tackle with the intention of and moving him to the left side, to protect the backside of your $450 million dollar man is probably not going to end well. I know, this wasn't nice, but somebody had to say it!

This wasn't nice at all. It actually feels vindictive. It's also perhaps a little misplaced. Former Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor indeed signed as an unrestricted free agent earlier this month with the Kansas City Chiefs, who indeed reportedly plan to play him on the left side rather than the right side where he played his four seasons with the Jaguars. I expect this signing will work out OK for Kansas City. The Chiefs are a well-run organization. They also have a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who has high-end pocket presence and escapability, traits that help offensive lines dramatically.

Alan from Ellington, CT

I'm thinking of a second-tier free agent similar to Arden Key last year. Would you rather have the Mayor back or Justin Houston to be a rotational piece.

I probably would have to go with Houston because he produced 9.5 sacks last season and is "only" 34 compared to Campbell being 36. What your question doesn't include is salary. Until we know what each players is demanding it's a tough question to answer.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

By all accounts the Green Bay Packers' 41-year streak of having a Hall-of-Fame Franchise starting quarterback appears to be over (no offense to Jordan Love). In today's era of player movement in free agency and the dramatic increase in quarterback salaries vs the rest of the roster this "record" will stand for some time?

First, this email is kinda, sorta offensive to Packers quarterback Jordan Love. Second, the Packers' "Hall-of-Fame, Franchise" starting quarterback streak really was 31 seasons (Brett Favre, 1992-2007; Aaron Rodgers, 2008-2022). But yes … the Packers' streak on that front was unreal. It could happen again, but it may be a minute. Or two.