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O-Zone: Just you wait

JACKSONVILLE – Super Bowl-Sunday O-Zone.

Let's get to it …

David from Durban, South Africa:
The Jags need to spend at least $28 million to reach the threshold agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. [Jaguars General Manager] Dave [Caldwell] needs to pony up the cash and reel in Eric Weddle, Alex Mack (if he voids his contract), Bruce Irvin, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins. We also need depth behind Roy Miller and Caldwell needs to spend on lower-level free agents like B.J. Raji. However, I have a nagging fear this will all end in wailing and gnashing of teeth, as Cautious Dave will stick to his market-related offer. Do you think we will have to overpay to be able to sign these guys and will the Jaguars be prepared to go that far?
John: Cautious Dave? You mean the Dave Caldwell who was accused last season of overpaying for Davon House and Jermey Parnell? That cautious Dave? The cautious Dave who offered DeMarco Murray a lucrative contract last offseason then bowed out when the price reached a point that was too much for a running back – a bow-out decision that in retrospect doesn't look that silly? Look, Caldwell was aggressive trying to improve the roster last offseason, and he missed out on just two free agents: safety Devin McCourty of New England and wide receiver Randall Cobb of Green Bay. Both of those players returned to play for contending teams that had drafted them, and here is some breaking news: that probably will happen once or twice to the Jaguars in free agency this offseason. That's because while the Jaguars must be aggressive (read: they must overspend) they can't do so ridiculously; there is a limit even when you're breaking the bank. Yes, you have to overpay in free agency. At the same time, you can't completely reason on a slew of players and expect your salary cap to work for the long-term. And sometimes players are going to decide to play elsewhere no matter what you offer. Caldwell will be aggressive again this offseason, and I suspect the Jaguars will sign a few big-name free agents. I also suspect the roster will look a lot more talented and deeper in late March than it does now. But Caldwell's not going to get every fan's wish list. It doesn't work that way.
Frankie from the Mean Streets of Ponte Vedra, FL:
When are the Jags gonna join the likes of the Miami Dolphins (and Sun Life Stadium) and get their own sunroof? It is inhumane to subject fans to muggy 80-degree temperatures while watching that product on the field. I was in danger of breaking a sweat at the last home game. Think about the children!
John: I sense you're kidding, but September heat at EverBank Field is no joke. I expect the Jaguars indeed will do something to shield fans from the heat in the foreseeable future, although I don't yet foresee just exactly what that will entail.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brazil:
You know how you get Marqise Lee on the field more? Improve the offensive line. Then, he can face favorable matchups against nickel cornerbacks in four-receiver sets. But nothing works if the Jags can't block!
John: The offensive line improved last season compared to the previous season, but no doubt it must improve more. Brandon Linder coming back next season should help, and I believe they'll address center in the offseason. Blake Bortles also can do a better job sensing pressure and identifying blitzes before the snap – and obviously left tackle Luke Joeckel can improve. A big factor here, too, could be improved run-blocking. That would help the Jaguars get into better down-and-distance situations, and that would help the pass protection immeasurably.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, with all the cap space and what seems to the untrained eye a less-than-stellar-free-agent class, I'm curious if in addition to Allen Hurns – who you have mentioned and who is certainly deserving of a new contract – are there any other current players that could potentially get new contracts? I'm thinking Telvin Smith, or is it too soon by the rules? I just don't see a lot of "potential" free agents that are going to still be free agents once the open period starts and are going to significantly improve the Jags. I believe the team has to spend a certain amount of the free cap based on league rules, correct?
John: Psst: Free-agent classes are rarely stellar; it is the nature of free agency that most elite players re-sign with their teams. That's the bad news. The good news for the Jaguars is it appears there will be players available next month who can make them better – Olivier Vernon, Eric Weddle and perhaps Alex Mack, to speculatively name a few – and spending enough certainly won't be an issue. As for who they can re-sign, Hurns is the most logical target. All of the "re-signable" players drafted in 2014 – Allen Robinson, Linder, Telvin Smith, etc. – must wait until the end of the 2016 season to renegotiate.
David from Orlando, FL:
Standing O, do you remember Dan Marino's last game when he looked like half the quarterback he used to be? I have a sneaking suspicion that's how Peyton Manning's going out. Do you think Manning has enough left in that arm to lead the Broncos to victory in the Super Bowl Sunday – and if so, would you like to put down some money on that?
John: I do remember Marino's last game – I was there, after all. There's a good chance Sunday's Super Bowl could end with a Broncos loss, and there's an equally good chance Manning may not throw for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns in what I do believe will be his final game. There's a very good chance he won't look like he did in his prime because he's not … in his prime. At the same time, I don't know that anything that happens Sunday will diminish what Manning has done in the past month and a half. He has helped get his team to the Super Bowl when few imagined that possible, and in doing so, he is playing in a fourth Super Bowl. Considering his arm strength and the injuries he faced this season, if Manning's going out, that's an unbelievably memorable way to do it.
Chris from Niagara Falls, Canada:
Hey, Zone. When and why did the safety position become so highly regarded? Also, Sabbath or Zeppelin?
John: The free-safety position has taken on added import in recent seasons because more efficient passing offenses have spread the field and turned that position into one that not only must have playmaking instincts but also the ability to cover sideline to sideline. I don't know that it's reached the same level as pass rusher or quarterback, but it's infinitely more important than it was even 10 years ago. Oh – and Zeppelin.
Armando from Vacaville, CA:
I know this is farfetched an idea but ... do the Jaguars consider "street guys" like me, as in non-football player, for a long-snapper position?
John: Long snapping is a skill. /Ducks
Steve from Nashville:
With the Rams' move to Los Angeles, Dallas now takes over the No. 1 spot in the NFL for total combined distance from its division rivals' cities, unseating Seattle.
John: Awesome.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
John, I'm no expert on punters, but Bryan Anger didn't seem like a low-quality talent at the position. I'm trying to understand why the feeling seems to resound that he won't be back when I don't really understand why the Jaguars wouldn't want him back. Or is this just a purely business decision where the value added (at the punter position) doesn't appear to justify the cost (veteran salary)? Do you have the feeling that he will be signed by another team before training camps open?
John: Bryan Anger was in no way bad during the past four seasons, although there certainly have been times he didn't get adequate hang time in key situations. Mostly, it's a value-to-cost situation – and I absolutely think Anger will be in a training camp and on a team next season.
Mark from Jacksonville:
What is the plan for punter? I know Anger has been average, but shouldn't we have some competition before we release him? Are there no concerns about finding a viable replacement?
John: The NFL offseason has two major times when teams can acquire players. One is unrestricted free agency, which this year begins March 9. The other is the NFL Draft, which this year is held April 28-30.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
Stroud and Henderson! Yes! I miss those days. I started watching the Jags late, after those two were already in their prime, so in a way Stroud and Henderson to me are probably what Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell are to earlier Jags fans. I love a high-powered offense, but I really hope the Jags get back to having a dominant defense again someday.
John: They will.

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