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O-Zone: Market value

JACKSONVILLE – All Allen Robinson all the time? Pretty much.

A day after the Jaguars declined to use their 2018 franchise tag on the 2015 Pro Bowl wide receiver, that pretty much describes this Wednesday O-Zone.

The team not using the tag on Robinson doesn't mean he is guaranteed to sign elsewhere. The team and his agents can still reach an agreement that keeps the 2014 second-round draft selection from becoming an unrestricted free agent on March 14.

The team has exclusive negotiating rights with Robinson until March 12. The guess here is if the sides don't reach agreement by then, it won't happen.

There's a big disconnect between a lot of readers and the team on this one. I doubt a day's worth of answers will close that gap. We'll see.

Let's get to it … Phil from Orlando, FL:
A-Rob. I. Do. Not. Under. Stand.
John: I assume you mean you don't understand how the Jaguars could let Robinson go as an unrestricted free agent. I'll begin by saying again that the Jaguars' decision to not place the franchise tag on him does not mean he is guaranteed to leave as a free agent, but the chances of Robinson signing elsewhere absolutely seem to be growing by the day. Why is this happening? The simple reason is the Jaguars do not believe Robinson's value to the offense/the team is worth the $16 million franchise tag – or whatever his representation currently believes to be his market value. That is not to say the Jaguars don't like him or that they don't believe he is important to the offense. But the team clearly believes that paying Robinson upwards of $16 million on the salary cap would preclude them from making other moves this offseason, and they believe that strongly enough that they may allow a very good player – one they drafted and developed – to leave via free agency.
Chief Wahoo from Celina:
You can justify it any way you want, but letting A-Rob walk is the single biggest mistake this franchise has ever made.
John: Nah. I agree it's risky, and I agree the Jaguars are better at wide receiver with Robinson than without. But considering the cap hit, considering he is coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, considering the Jaguars are doing this because they want to make moves elsewhere … while this may be one of the more frustrating and confusing moves the team has made, it's a long way from the worst.
Geralt from Rivia:
I just do not get it. The cap went up $10 million. Cut Allen Hurns and then tag A-Rob. Not that hard.
John: This is the way many people are seeing it – i.e., through a lens where Robinson is the only factor in the equation. The Jaguars want to do more than simply add/retain one receiver. I expect them to try to address other positions in free agency, most likely offensive line and perhaps tight end.
Geoff from Jacksonville:
I'm worried about Plan B if Robinson leaves. I'm not seeing anyone on the market that would improve the wide receiver. Maybe that's why I'm just a fan.
John: I don't know why you're just a fan, but I do know there's not really a Plan B for if Robinson leaves – at least not one that fans are going to love. What I mean is there's no master plan under which the Jaguars are better at wide receiver if Robinson leaves than if he stays. The Jaguars haven't sat in meetings in recent weeks asking the question, "What do we need to do to get better at the wide receiver position?" If that was the question, the meetings would be short and the answer would be to do whatever is necessary to retain Robinson. The question has been, "What do we need to do to get better as a team?" The answer clearly has been that they value improving and sustaining other positions more than they value just retaining Robinson for $16 million or whatever they believe he will command on the open market.
Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Zone, why not offer Robinson a mid-level guaranteed contract with elite-level incentive pay? If incentives make it worth as much as the elite guys, it's good for both sides if he reaches them – and minimizes risk for us if he does not. I know he wants the guaranteed money, but with the injury and a fickle performance over past couple years it might be the best offer he gets. I sense our decision not to tag him might bring a "respect" or "lack of respect" factor in to his decision, but I hope not.
John: We may never know exactly what the Jaguars have or haven't offered Robinson. It's the nature of negotiations that such details often don't become public. What I do know is players typically only take mid-level guaranteed contracts with big incentives if they have reason to believe they're not going to receive elite-level guaranteed money. I have heard little if anything that leads me to believe that Robinson won't get big-time guaranteed money on the open market. If that's the case, he will take it – as well he should.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Will Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin have interest in signing Sammy Watkins? He is set to become a free agent?
John: Watkins makes sense in one respect because he is a good receiver who could hit free agency. But while the Los Angeles Rams declined to use the tag on Watkins they reportedly want to retain him. I doubt the Jaguars would go that route because I think the Jaguars want to spend their money/cap room elsewhere rather than pay a wide receiver in the $10 million-and-up range. Would Watkins be in that range? Stay tuned.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Recovery from a torn ACL has certainly improved over the years, but I think those that are outraged by the Jags not tagging A-Rob need to look at the statistics involved. We all like to look at guys like Adrian Peterson and how he came back stronger than ever, but most players do not just pick up where they left off. According to the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 20 percent of running backs and wide receivers that tear their ACL never play another down. Those that do return, on average, see their production dip by a third. That's not to say A-Rob won't pick up right where he left off, but the odds are he will see a drop in his production. That doesn't even take into account the shift in the Jags' offensive mentality now that they have Leonard Fournette … they attempted 100 less passes last year versus A-Rob's big year in 2015. I'm not going to get up in arms about him leaving if he does; it's a business, after all. Teams have to make the best decisions based on the information they have, and the information says that wide receivers don't automatically return to form after a severe injury.
John: I would be shocked if Robinson never returns to play, and I would be pretty surprised if he doesn't return to his pre-injury form. He is young enough it's reasonable to think he will be able to do just that. Still, I do believe there's a chance that the timing of Robinson's injury played into the Jaguars' decision not to franchise him. The franchise tag secures a player for one season. The season after a torn ACL often is the most difficult for the returning player, and it stands to reason it would take at least some time during that one season to reach full form. Does the team want to invest that money and cap space for a player not yet at 100 percent? The answer to that question absolutely could play into such a major decision.
Kent from Jacksonville:
It looks like the Jags' brass is calling Allen Robinson's bluff as to what his value is. Personally, I thought he was a bit overrated. His big-year stats came in garbage time, the same as Blake Bortles' stats. And once defenses started game-planning to stop him he was just average. I think his market will disappoint him.
John: This is a little extreme – and I think it's unfair to call everything Robinson did in 2015 "garbage time." He's a good player who has done a lot of good things here, and he showed a lot of valuable traits that season – an ability to win 50-50 balls chief among them. But you are right that Robinson struggled at times with double teams in 2016 – and that he has yet to prove he is a true No. 1 receiver for which defenses must game plan. One area where we disagree pretty widely is Robinson's value on the open market. He appears likely to be the top-rated wide receiver on the free-agent market; teams are going to covet wide receivers. If at least two teams covet Robinson – and that's quite likely – I expect Robinson's price to escalate well beyond what the Jaguars are willing to pay. If that happens, he won't be disappointed.

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