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O-Zone: Making room

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

_Steve at Work from Jax Bch                  _

I heard a discussion on local sports talk radio where the idea that future key franchise players (like franchise quarterbacks) could negotiate all or part of their salaries as a percentage of the salary cap and that the way it's playing out, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence could be in line to be one of the first to go this route. I'm certain that there will be BIG complexities to this sort of thing but on the surface, I think I like it. Thoughts?

This idea makes sense in theory, and high-profile quarterbacks – and their representation – reportedly have pushed for this in past negotiations for mega-contracts. It makes sense for quarterbacks signing long-term deals for the following reason: If the NFL's salary cap continues to rise, a player with a percentage of the cap theoretically would avoid being/feeling underpaid four or five years into a really long-term contract. But it also makes sense – a lot of sense – that teams would resist this. A team wants to know its costs for specific seasons so it can plan its salary outlay for future seasons. I therefore would be surprised if a team agrees to this approach, though I have been surprised before. A lot.

Brian from Round Rock, TX

You're wrong, O. It won't surprise you, because you have never admitted to being a leader. If you want to win the Super Bowl, you better make it a stated goal that is discussed often and from the beginning of the season. It has to be the driving force of everything that is done. It must be explicit, not implicit. It must be what the team lives and breathes when they are in the building. If that's not the case, you will not win a Super Bowl. Now, I've heard some mention that's not the real goal. Those people are losers.

I'm never surprised when I'm wrong, and I indeed am one of life's great followers. But I'm not wrong about this topic. NFL coaches motivate in different ways – and plenty of NFL coaches take the approach of not banging the table and constantly talking about winning in every team meeting, thereby allowing players to play without the added pressure. And yes … Super Bowls have been won that way. Why does this work? Because all NFL people know the Super Bowl's the ultimate goal. Players know it. Coaches know it. Everyone knows it. They're professionals and don't have to be told.

P Funk from Murray Hill

Have the Jags ever had an offseason in which they didn't sign any free agents? I suppose I could Google this, but what fun would that be?

The only offseason I could find in which this happened was 2001, the year the Jaguars were so tight against the salary cap that their offseason consisted of restructuring the most of the team's veterans under long-term contracts.

JR from The Squatchlands

You're punny.

I am the king of all funk.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Here we are at the brink of the tampering period? We haven't signed Taylor or Key or any other free agent. What gives?

We indeed are at the brink of the NFL's negotiation period, with the 2023 NFL League Year set to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. and the negotiation period scheduled to begin Monday at noon. What does it mean that players such as right tackle Jawaan Taylor, outside linebacker Arden Key and others haven't been re-signed? It means the Jaguars have a day or two to gauge the offers other teams make to these players and determine if they can match/better the offers. It doesn't the players are absolutely, positively going to sign elsewhere. But those two players in particular figure to draw significant interest on the free-agent market. When players start getting that sort of interest, they usually sign elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, I had to look up the word burgeoning. Funny that the reason I came to the O-Zone was discussed by Peter King the same day; "I think this year the Jaguars proved they have three burgeoning elements of a championship team." I, too, have seen this team flourish rapidly as of late. Enjoy it now, Jags fans! Our team is going to win the Super Bowl next season. I wrote in mid-season that Trevor Lawrence will progress to a pro bowl caliber player. Being a year ahead of schedule, I think he is the best quarterback in the league. Moreover, that he will also be the Super Bowl MVP. Enjoy it while you can fellow Jaguars fans! Enjoy it now while it's all happening! All-In? Yeah. I've been all-in for 20+ years!!!! #DUUUVAL!

Your enthusiasm is impressive – and in many ways warranted. I would caution that burgeoning and developing – both of which the Jaguars appear to be – are very different from arriving. I also suppose I would caution that the difference between winning and losing can be miniscule in the NFL. While the Jaguars' thrilling 2022 season indeed should give fans great hope for the future, it's also true that they rallied from at least nine points in their last five home victories and won those games in narrow fashion. Those games made the Jaguars' '22 season one of the most memorable in franchise history. It also shows they are not yet a dominant team, and they are in no fashion guaranteed to be the best team in the NFL in 2022. And quarterback Trevor Lawrence, while impressive in the second half of the season, is no way yet the best quarterback in the NFL. He's moving toward that. He has improved dramatically. But there are some more steps – particularly in the area of consistency – that he must reach before being elite. Either way, yeah... enjoy the ride. It's sports. What good is it if not enjoyed along the way?

Armand from Jacksonville

Besides Cam Robinson and Walker Little, who else on the current roster could play swing tackle if Jawaan Taylor signs elsewhere?

A logical candidate would be Coy Cronk, who was active in four regular-season and two postseason games last season.

Bob from Bobsville

John, looking at the varying costs to franchise different positions it seems the most cost-effective way to go is focus the draft on the most expensive positions to get them for five years on rookie deals and then use free agency to fill in positions that are "cheaper." Do you see this as a trend in the NFL (almost all draft picks o and d line and quarterback).

This calls to mind the old Mike Tyson line that every boxer has a plan until they get punched in the face. Every team has an ideal way of roster building, and that plan is essentially almost always drafting premium positions early, developing those positions, then re-signing those players to long-term contracts. You ideally would then supplement those positions by drafting "supplemental" positions later in the draft and having those players play really well until you draft more players at those positions to replace them. Then life happens. And teams get punched. And some draft selections work out better than others. And then you supplement that with free agency. And then there are injuries. And then you're figuring out your plan each year – as most teams do.

Dan from Munich

Hi, Zone, what is the benefit of extending TL contract next year rather have him play on the rookie deal? Extending him a year earlier doesn't give you any discount, correct?

There are a few benefits. First, it ensures that Lawrence will be with the franchise for an extended time. Second, it shows good faith to Lawrence – and tells the rest of the league that beyond doubt he is the franchise quarterback. Third, you can structure the contract in such a way that the cap hit and even the cash outlay isn't enormous in the first year of the extended deal. Mostly, you do it because he's your franchise and you know he's your franchise. You may as well start working toward a long-term deal when you can.

Brian from Atlantic Beach, FL

Do you see the Jags pulling out of their London games at some point? We had a real homefield advantage down the stretch at TIAA that isn't there for London games. If you were The King of All Funk and could make that decision, what would you do?

I'd be surprised if the Jaguars stop playing a home game annually in London any time soon. If it were my decision, I would play all home games in Jacksonville. Then again, I would play all games of any kind in Jacksonville. At 1 p.m. With no timeouts allowed.

_Fred from Naples, FL                                              _

Zone- big news down here in Naples! Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's $200 million yacht, "The Kismet," is for sale. He would probably discount it for you if you are thinking of making an offer. He is upgrading to a $360 million yacht!

I'll have to move some things around.