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O-Zone: Life goes on

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Tom from Moncks Corner

I know that you will disagree, but in my estimation General Manager Trent Baalke's moves in free agency improved only the center position and get a "C-" at best. Exchange a quarter for a quarter and you still have only 25 cents. Baalke seems to have that "I have a dollar, so I have to spend it" mentality of a six-year-old. Unless he hits several homers in the draft, the best the Jags will finish is third in the AFC South and again miss the playoffs. Then, he will seek to make Head Coach Doug Pederson the scapegoat in an effort to save his own job.

I don't know that I agree or disagree – though it certainly makes sense that you know – and I have long since lost interest in "grading" free agency. My experience is teams signing players people have heard of get As in NFL free agency. Teams that aren't active when fans think they should be active get "Ds" and "Fs." These grades usually mean little come the regular season, though by then we have moved on in our short-attention-span world. The Jaguars reportedly have signed/agreed to terms with five free agents in recent days: Center Mitch Morse (Buffalo Bills), wide receiver Gabe Davis (Bills), wide receiver/returner Devin Durvaney (Baltimore Ravens), cornerback Ronald Darby (Ravens) and safety Darnell Savage Jr. (Green Bay Packers) while also reportedly trading for quarterback Mac Jones (New England Patriots) as a backup. It's hard not to see Morse as an upgrade at center and it's hard to not see Jones an upgrade at backup quarterback. The extent of other upgrades is yet to be determined. Davis may not be an upgrade over Calvin Ridley at receiver, but we don't know yet if he is replacing Ridley or being asked to fit into the receiving corps. Savage and Darby appear solid fits as the Jaguars transition to a new defensive scheme/coverage concept under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. As for the Jaguars' prospects for next season … you seem sure that free-agent moves and the draft will determine success or failure. The thought here is the Jaguars' fate next season depends more on the continued development of quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and that their status in the AFC South isn't nearly as dire as many believe. Stay tuned.

Andy from Halifax

Trent Baalke has a strong vision. What a haul. One fer.

Andy, meet Tom. Tom, meet Andy. And one fer Baalke.

Richard from St. Augustine, FL

Is it possible Ridley was waiting until 4:01 pm 4/13/24 all along to make announcement unless additional offer higher than Jags, taking into account Florida's no-income tax advantage – that is, if we are to believe the report Ridley prefers to stay with Jaguars! You might have to give Culligan girl answer to avoid Jaguars having to give up second-round pick instead of third-rounder to Falcons. Can you handle the truth, King of all Jax Funk?

This remains as of this writing The Great Unknown of Jaguars 2024 Free Agency with Ridley as of this writing reportedly having not yet decided whether to re-sign with the Jaguars or join another team. Speculation reigned supreme, with Jaguars Twitter – along with other outlets – offering theory upon theory as of Tuesday afternoon and into the evening. There was speculation that Ridley wanted to stay with the Jaguars, and that that was why he hadn't signed elsewhere. There was speculation that he waited to avoid the Jaguars having to send a second-round selection – as opposed to a third-rounder – in the 2024 NFL Draft to the Atlanta Falcons to complete the trade that sent Ridley to the Jaguars in November 2022. What I know isn't much. But my sense late last season was Ridley wanted to stay with the Jaguars. I also sensed the team wanted to retain him – at a sensible price. My sense as of this writing was there's a decent chance Ridley will re-sign with the Jaguars. But that's just a sense and free agency can be a weird, unpredictable place. Wednesday afternoon could be interesting. Wednesday morning could be, too. Here we go.

JayPee from the The Vortex

The internet is saying we have a good chance to still bring Ridley back. What do you think the chances are?


Nick from Annapolis, MD

Some fans seem to not like the quality of the players, but the (reported) contracts seem to align with the tale.

Another fer Baalke.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

Can't criticize without giving some praise. I think our GM made some good, and financially smart moves. We got quality players who will start. There are still more moves to be made. We have got to hit on the draft also, but kudos to Trent Baalke in free agency.

One fer Baalke … as always.

Arthur from Glassboro, NJ

Signing Morse was a big addition. Good job correcting a mistake, Trent.

Big day fer Baalke.

Paul from Lake City

I'll admit, if the deals I've seen talked about so far become official on Wednesday, I will be keeping an open mind on Baalke.

He'll rest so much easier.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

The "churn" this year seems to be bigger than I remember back in the day. The prevalence of one-year contracts appears to be adding to the player turnover?

I have covered NFL offseasons since 1996. I can't remember one without significant turnover around the league. Some turnover might be a smidge higher-profile than other turnover, but it's always there.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Even when Baalke's nailing free agency, you still suck.

I know Art, and thanks for noticing.

Thomas from Jacksonville

How large of incentive package may be used in signing outside linebacker Josh Allen? $10 million if he leads league in sacks? Does that count against cap only if he does it?

There's no technical limit to incentives in a contract. Players typically prefer contracts heavier in guarantees than incentives because guaranteed money is cooler than the alternative. NFL contracts contain two types of incentives – Likely to Be Earned and Not Likely to Be Earned. An LTBE is one that requires the player to reach a plateau reached the previous year with an NLTBE requiring the player to reach a plateau not reached the previous year. An LTBE goes against the cap in the year scheduled with an NLTBE going against the cap the following year. Neither goes against the cap if unachieved.

Don from Marshall, NC

Does it seem to you that the free agent talent was exceptionally good this year? Teams are getting pinched into some tough decisions. Jaguars have done very well on their shopping spree. Go Jaguars!

When it comes to the quality of free agents, Don remains all in. I'll reserve the right to view free agency through skeptical, jaded – and aging – eyes.

Andrew from Los Angeles, CA

Hi John, pass rusher Danielle Hunter (Minnesota Vikings) and running back Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals) are going to play next season with the Houston Texans. They are getting very talented players and seem to be a force in the AFC South next season. Which player do you expect to improve from last season that can have a greater impact to help the Jaguars to win the division?

I'm more a believer in improving from within – with development and cohesion – than from expecting to improve by adding free agents. The breathless, endless coverage of free agency has created an illusion among many fans/media/observers that it is the Great Cure All – and the reality remains that drafting, developing and improving from within remains the best way to improve. In that sense, I expect players such as Lawrence and outside linebacker/defensive end Travon Walker to improve along with an offense that's returning much of its core. I think if those and other returning players continue developing, the team can be better than it was last season. This team came within a game of the postseason last season and a lot went wrong. I also think it can be better if key players are healthier. Remember: While the narrative in these parts has been that the Jaguars were awful last season, the reality is this was a nine-victory team that had a chance at a very good playoff seed until late in the season. A plan that deemphasizes panic is not necessarily a bad plan.

Stuart from Cottonwood, AZ

OK, now we can start having normal conversations about where the Jags are going. Sharp new center, Pro Bowler in2022 to push/replace Luke Fortner. No more doom and gloom Jags fans. Duuuuuval!

I don't see Morse having to "push" Fortner at center. The Jaguars didn't sign the veteran from the Bills to have him be a backup. No more doom and gloom? Indeed, Jaguars fans seem to be happy about this. Hold on to that feeling as long as you can. Changes come around real soon make us women and men.