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O-Zone: Making the call

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tom from Jacksonville:
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait … we didn't pick up Beachum's contract? He was the only O-line player not named Linder that played decent for us all year. How does this make sense? Now we have one good lineman and seven trash players that wouldn't make it as bench warmers on the Browns. This is stupid!
John: Let's clarify something before we begin: The Jaguars indeed declined to exercise their four-year option on offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, the deadline for which was Wednesday. That means Beachum now is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9. But being "scheduled" to become a free agent is not the same as "becoming" a free agent. The thought here is the Jaguars didn't want to commit to Beachum for four seasons, but that they could – and should – try to commit to a shorter deal with him. The reason is they still need to see just what they have in him. He pass-blocked well last season, but didn't fare as well run-blocking. It's very possible the run-blocking issue had much to do with the aftereffects of the torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained with Pittsburgh in the 2015 season. The knee theoretically should be stronger in 2017. That means he very well could improve as a run-blocker next season, and it means he could improve overall. It makes sense to see if that happens before committing to four more seasons.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
I love the Abry Jones signing … great guy, great with the fans and always a smile on his face. One fer Abry!
John: Defensive tackle Abry Jones re-signed a long-term deal with the Jaguars Wednesday, and yeah … one fer Abry!
Chris from Goodnight, TX:
The Jaguars are signing Chad Henne to an extension? Nothing against Henne, but that is a little disheartening, since it suggests that the quarterback room is going to remain the same (which means that there won't be any real camp competition for Bortles, and no bona fide starting-quality quarterback to step in if Bortles falters early on in the season). It seems that, again, this team will rise or fall with Bortles. That's concerning.
John: The Jaguars indeed re-signed Henne on Wednesday, which understandably led to much speculation about what it meant for the Jaguars' overall quarterback situation. So, what does it mean? Perhaps not as much as many believe. Henne re-signing does not mean he automatically will be the backup next season. It does not even mean he automatically will be on the roster next season – and in fact, he likely will have to play his way onto the team. Because of that, signing Henne does not preclude the Jaguars from acquiring another quarterback to compete with Blake Bortles and Brandon Allen. That can happen now just as much as it could before. Henne's presence gives the Jaguars a viable option as a backup should they opt not to acquire competition for Bortles, but his contract does not mean they are tied to keeping him. In that sense, Wednesday's move really doesn't say much about who will start at quarterback for the Jaguars next season at all.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
I am a believer most teams have a three-to-four season "window" to compete for a championship before the core stars become too expensive to keep (with the exception being that having an elite quarterback can make that window much bigger). While all the talk seems to be that the Jags have a great young nucleus of players and their window is on the verge of opening, we might actually waste the window altogether. If Bortles doesn't pan out and we draft a quarterback next year that takes another three-to-four years to develop, we will miss our chance because that core group of young players will leave in free agency. As much as I usually believe in drafting and developing for the future, wouldn't it make some sense to pull the trigger on even a moderately decent quarterback, even if it meant overpaying, so that we maximize our chances to get to the playoffs in the next few years while we still have our core young guys? We've been waiting for the future for a long time. While most of us have gotten used to it, it would be a disaster if we had to do a third rebuild in a row.
John: A couple of thoughts here. First, while the Jaguars' core players indeed have potential, as a group they remain a ways away from "great." Telvin Smith, Allen Robinson, Brandon Linder, Allen Hurns, Malik Jackson, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr. have flashed, but none has consistently been elite on a year-in, year-out level. If a large percentage of that group indeed can reach that level, then this is a great core. If not, it was a potentially great core that never reached potential. As for pulling the trigger on a "moderately decent quarterback," it still all depends on what you're trying to acquire. Will overpaying for A.J. McCarron or Jay Cutler or Ryan Fitzpatrick maximize the Jaguars' chances to get to the playoffs the next few years? If it did, I have no doubt the Jaguars would be willing to overpay. It's understandable to be skeptical that those players actually will do much maximizing, but therein is the great Jaguars debate of the coming weeks.
Dave from Duval:
Blake did not "struggle" at times last year. He was an absolute dumpster fire that helped the other team win at times more than their own quarterback. Some of his passes at times made him look like he shouldn't be a QB on a competitive high school team. Your downplaying of just how bad he was and has been at times during his first three years does not help appease this fan base.
John: Thank you for the help, Dave. I watched Bortles last season, and in fact I have watched every one of Bortles' regular-season games. I know how he played. I also have made it pretty clear for the last several months that I believe Bortles' struggles were a primary reason for the Jaguars' struggles last season. I have written often that he needs to improve, and I have detailed many areas where he thus far has fallen short. I also last offseason consistently wrote that Bortles was not yet the franchise quarterback many believed him to be, and that there were major areas he needed to improve in 2016 for the team to be competitive. I mention this not to pat myself on the back but to point out that I hardly have downplayed the impact that his level of play had on the team in 2016. At the same time, I strive to be as accurate as possible and it's not accurate to say that he was horrendous all of the time last season. He indeed had moments that made you wonder what in the world was going on and he had moments where he wasn't nearly that bad. He wasn't great. He wasn't close to great. He was bad at times and that has been noted a lot here in the O-Zone. I can't control what affect me writing that has on the fan base, but that indeed is what has been written.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
Are there any rules for the coaches and player personnel staff to abide by this time of the year? Are they allowed to get together and watch film to evaluate players on the roster and on other rosters?
John: The Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that players and coaches cannot meet and discuss football matters until April. Coaches and staff can meet during this time.
Jason from the North Pole, AK:
Do you think the Jaguars will address running back this offseason? It seems a lot of fans are clamoring for investing a high pick at the position. Do you think Chris Ivory/TJ Yeldon can be effective with better offensive-line play? I felt like whenever Ivory got going, he would fumble. Would you bring in a new running back or invest that equity in the o-line?
John: There's no question Ivory and/or Yeldon will be better with improved offensive line play. That's true of pretty much any running back and Ivory/Yeldon – like most running backs – go as their offensive line goes. I would emphasize improving the run-blocking this offseason more than I would emphasize running back because I'm a big believer that the running game is a function of line play. That doesn't mean the Jaguars won't take running back in the first round. Given the players available in the draft, and given the Jaguars' current roster, running back at No. 4 wouldn't shock me. I wouldn't love it, but it wouldn't shock me.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Do you think Blake is the type of quarterback that needs everything to be perfect around him to make a huge jump to 6-10??
John: Ladies and gentlemen … Jerell!!!
Teddy from Andalusia, AL:
I think Bortles is a franchise quarterback. What do you think?
John: Hold on. I have a call in to Jerell on this.

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