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O-Zone: Man of importance

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Yash from Jacksonville:
Hey O-man, a lot of the panic for the 2018 free-agency class stems from this being a very likable group. This also is the first time in a looooooong time this town has felt so connected with all of its core players. I moved to Jacksonville in 1998; I was four, so I don't remember the early years as vividly others do. For me, this is the first time seeing this team rebuilt and poised to be competitive for years to come. I know that having to let some players leave is a great problem to have, but I just haven't seen this level of talent on this team in a while. I just don't think I'm ready to see what happens if they do have to let some "key" players go.
John: I'm not trying to be "That Guy," but it may be time to pump the brakes on the 2018 free-agency angst just a tad. Yes, it appears the Jaguars are building the right way. Yes, it appears the team may be close to brighter days. And yes, it appears they have drafted well enough to have some core players develop into stars in the coming seasons. But that's still in the future; for now, these players still must improve to the point that they are core players. It's possible – even probable – that not every player about whom fans are gnashing teeth will be an absolute priority to re-sign when the time comes. Quarterback Blake Bortles almost certainly will be a priority, but he still needs to continue developing. Wide receiver Allen Robinson will be a priority, and it seems certain he will merit a major contract. Dante Fowler Jr., Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey have yet to play an NFL down, and a lot of the other potential core players need to string together a lot of healthy, productive games before they are considered elite players who must be re-signed. Don't get me wrong: I believe many of the players we're discussing will be very good and will form the core of the franchise. But we've got some watching and waiting to do before collective panic is merited.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
Could Dave Caldwell be on to something? By having more cap room left over, he can then give a bigger signing bonus and not affect future caps near as much? That way he can reward good players like Allen Hurns, etc. … without breaking the team up like other teams have to do when they get in cap trouble?
John: If you're asking if by managing the cap and having space to re-sign veterans Caldwell could be on to something … yeah, I suppose so.
Al from the Mean Corn Fields of Ohio:
I don't know why everyone is so worried about the salary cap and retaining players. If Dave and staff have shown they deserve an A grade in any category, it is in structuring contracts. Anybody that thinks Dave is going to destroy the cap or not find creative ways to sign or re-sign guys clearly isn't paying attention.
John: Caldwell also has been prudent about what players he pays and about how much he pays them. Look, if the Jaguars have drafted as well as many believe they won't be able to keep all of their players. But if they have drafted as well as many believe, they'll still be able to retain enough to win.
Kenneth from Las Vegas, NV:
Lot of talk about Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack and even Malik Jackson, but I'm curious as to how Sheldon Day is doing in practice. I have this feeling he will be a big surprise for us by the second half of the season. He was a true steal in the fourth round.
John: The coaches and personnel department were high on Day after the draft. Nothing has happened in the offseason to change that. He may indeed have been a fourth-round steal. We'll see.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Man, I'm a Big Ten football fan, and I've watch Brienn Boddy-Calhoun for the last few years in Minnesota. I was curious if you had heard much about him, and if he has flashed at all during OTAs?
John: Yes, he has flashed at times. That makes him someone to watch during preseason.
Jake from Hamden, CT:
Being a first-rounder, Blake Bortles most likely won't really be a free agent until 2019, right? And if the improvement continues probably not really until several years after that. See ya at the Opener!
John: You're right about Blake Bortles' free-agency timeline because the team will have an option to keep him under contract for a fifth season. It seems at this stage an option the Jaguars almost certainly will use. Look, I realize Bortles' contract is going to be a much-discussed issue in the coming months/year until it gets done. I realize there will be angst and analysis. But there's little reason to worry. If Bortles continues developing as a franchise guy, he's going to sign a second contract unlike anything this franchise ever has seen. It will be obscene. It will be absurd. It will dwarf reality. It will also be right in line with market value. But he will re-sign with the Jaguars, so worrying about it will serve little purpose.
Ryan from Apopka, FL:
Loved the Jag Wired video of Doug Marrone. First, his rapping skills seem unparalleled. But most importantly, the fact that the video starts and his sweatshirt is perfect, and by the end of the video it is soaking wet. Maybe next O-Zone video mailbag we can get a little rapping in the sun by yours truly! Thanks
John: Absolutely, though it's hard to soak your shirt through with sweat when you're not wearing one. And when I saw "absolutely," I mean "absolutely not."
Zurka from Section 122:
Hey Big O, since we've been talking robot football do you ever see a day when replay goes away entirely? The NFL (or any other league) will never perfect this system to the point that every call is made correctly, so why bog down the games with these reviews that take way longer than they should? Love the Zone. Love the Jags. Love you. Hate the replay.
John: I don't see a day when replay goes away in the NFL – or any other sport, for that matter. You're correct that the replay system never will be perfect, but NFL replay does reverse enough obvious calls to make it worthwhile. That was the idea of replay in the first place – to get the correctable, obvious calls right – and there's no going back to a time when there's no mechanism to reverse an error everyone can see.
Jorge from Wonk:
It's good to pay your own homegrown players that have earned it like Allen Hurns, but isn't his contract a little rich for a WR2 when you have players such as Marqise Lee that could very well surpass him? Now A-Rob is gonna get paid more and that's a lot of money tied up in receivers when you have other good options behind them.
John: Hurns' contract is structured so he must earn a lot of the $40 million. That's one reason the contract was a good one. Another reason it was a good one is it was very low risk in the sense that his work ethic and approach makes him a very safe bet to continue being productive. If paying Hurns $20 million guaranteed ends up being a mistake then enough other good things would have happened that it won't be a very costly one.
John from Jacksonville:
I often wonder what is better during OTAs and training camp: the quarterback not throwing interceptions, which raises the perception that he is improving – or the quarterback throwing interceptions, which raises the perception the defense is improving. It seems one or the other causes concern with fans when a little of both based on the scenario itself could be a good thing. Do you agree?
John: The reality of training camp/OTA practices is similar to the reality of games: you can't make sweeping judgments without knowing the circumstances – or at least you can't do so if you want those judgements to be accurate. Some interceptions happen in practice because of bad throws or bad routes, and some happen because of good plays by the defense. I'd say the Jaguars' increased interceptions during this offseason's OTAs are a positive. We know what Blake Bortles and the offense can do – though decreasing interceptions is a priority. What we haven't seen enough in recent seasons is defensive backs breaking on passes and making plays. That's happening more and that's a good thing.
Kyle from Jacksonville:
With all this money left in the Cap Room and guys like Hurns getting paid, it's only a matter of time where we see the O-Man is signing his new contract!! Right?
John: I keep bringing this up when I see Shad Khan, emphasizing my obvious importance to the organization. He keeps smiling and shaking my hand, saying "It's nice to meet you" and asking if I work for the Jaguars.

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