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O-Zone: Match Game '16

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Navarre, OH:
I don't think I've ever been this excited about the offseason – especially this early. As far as free-agent signings go, how long after the window opens Wednesday should we expect to see signings? At that point, will most players already have their mind made up or do they have a certain limit to how much time an offer is available? Can you explain this?
John: I'm glad you're excited. Excitement can be … exciting! I anticipate the timing this week to go pretty much as follows. From now until Wednesday at 4 p.m. … a whole lot of rumors, reports, leanings and Twitterelation/Twitterangst. From Wednesday at 4 p.m. through around midnight Wednesday night, you're going to see a whole lot of stories and tweets about players agreeing to terms and signing with teams – though not a whole lot of news on because these moves won't yet be "official." I expect you'll see a lot of things turn official Thursday and a lot of wealthy, smiling players that day around EverBank Field, too. After that, free agency won't be over, but it will be less feverish and less chaotic; I expect the Jaguars to be better defensively around that time, too. The first, feverish wave will take a couple days at the most. Players technically have all the time they want to mull an offer, but the reality is the highest-profile players will sign fast because they'll know where they want to go (and who's offering the most $$$$$) – and the teams will want to get the deals done quickly and move forward.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, in your opinion does Blake Bortles have the potential to someday take the title of Best Jag Ever from Boselli?
John: Of course. And of course, he has a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng way to go.
Dylan from Yukon, OK:
Malik Jackson or Oliver Vernon? Eric Weddle or Tashaun Gibson? Who do you pick and why?
John: Vernon … because pass rush. Weddle … because experience. But I don't see Jackson/Vernon as an either-or scenario and I don't know that I'm all that passionate about Weddle over Gibson.
Rob from Fleming Island, FL:
Hey John, can players such as Ryan Davis really improve their overall skill set, talent and strength at this stage of their career? It seems he has been just good enough to stay on the team but never good enough to be a relied upon full-time starter. Is it a matter of either you have it or you don't? He doesn't appear to have increased in body strength or improved technique.
John: Your question implies there is something wrong with Davis never being a full-time starter. That runs counter to NFL reality, which is that the league is about players who fulfill roles and do so at a high level. Davis is a very good interior pass rusher in passing situations. That's probably what Davis will be for the duration of his career, and you know what? That's really, really OK. Teams need that. Players can have long careers doing that. Shoot, he just signed a contract making a pretty good amount of money doing that.
Adam from St. Johns, FL:
I'll see if I can spell everything correctly this time because I do want to drop this because nothing is changing anyway. I've already paid for my tickets so, I'm tied to this turd no matter what. You're telling me that 5-11 isn't exceptable any longer. Even 8-8 is getting dicey for this staff? Fair enough, I'll stop talking about it then. I've been impatient, as you've pointed out, but now I can expect a decent product? That would be so cool.
John: I've never, ever, ever criticized fans for being impatient. Fans are supposed to be impatient; it's just that teams can't act impatiently. Oh, and I changed nothing in this email. Really.
Blues Man from St. Augustine, FL:
The closer we get to free agency, the more excited I get … but with somewhat of an apprehension. I just read that the Dolphins are restructuring some contracts in order to try and keep Olivier Vernon. I guess my hopes are high that we can land one or two top-notch players for defensive help. … If not, we'll have to hit it really hard in the draft. I love this time of the year, but also dread it due to potential disappointment. Fingers crossed!!
John: If you're going to be disappointed if the Jaguars don't sign every player with whom they're being mentioned … then, yeah, there's going to be some disappointment. If you're hoping that the Jaguars do enough to improve their talent level – and therefore improve defensively – in the next few days, then I think you'll be just fine.
JP from Jacksonville:
As unlikely as it may be, Derrick Henry in the second round would be a solid choice where value meets need. It became obvious in London that Jacksonville lacks a goal-line back, and I assume Caldwell fills a lot of the other needs in free agency. Henry would be the perfect Greg Jones type fullback/running back hybrid. Thoughts?
John: As great a story as it would be if Derrick Henry joined the Jaguars, I wouldn't hold my breath on this. The Jaguars almost certainly are not going to invest a second-round selection in a running back for a second consecutive year. They're certainly not going to do it for a short-yardage/fullback; Derrick Henry appears to be more than that, but they're probably not investing in him, either.
Jim from Neptune Beach, FL:
Consider this scenario. A top free agent gets tagged with a tag that permits the tagging team to match the offer and retain the player. Continuing on, let's say, for example, the Giants (or Bears) have tagged such a player. The Jags want the player, so they offer a great contract. The Giants (or Bears) match and they retain the player. However, because of the state income taxes in each state, the player actually retains less $$, because NY (or Illinois) state has a substantial state income tax, and higher cost of living. So, in a way, the two offers weren't actually comparable in terms of take-home dollars. Is there any mechanism in place to make adjustments so the contracts become more equal in terms of the after-tax money? Does any of that come into play in the free agent signing process?
John: There is no such mechanism to adjust for state taxes. It's why teams in Florida and other states with no state sales tax have an advantage during free agency. It's not an overwhelming advantage, but it's absolutely an advantage.
Jackson from St. Augustine, FL:
If we need a free safety and we have the most cap space, why not Eric Weddle? What do you think John?
John: There would be nothing wrong with pursuing Eric Weddle. My gut is he may be the one guy being talked about with the Jaguars that the team doesn't have a real good chance of landing. That's not Inside Information or Breaking News … just a gut feeling reading the tea leaves.
Clay from Pensacola, FL:
Considering the potentially yearly increasing salary cap, is it legal for a player to agree to a contract not for a specific dollar amount, but a fluctuating percentage of the salary cap – , e.g, five percent or 10 percent? That would provide those high-profile free agents a way to ensure they are consistently getting paid current values.
John: A player can "ask" for anything. A team almost certainly never would agree to it. Besides, the highest-profile signees –who are really the only players who could even consider asking for such a thing – get compensated pretty fairly.
Ralph from Jacksonville:
I see rumors the Jags are considering Mario Williams. This has the smell of Chris Clemons redux. Thoughts, O wise one?
John: My thoughts are that the Jaguars have a list of some players they're planning to seriously pursue in free agency this week. My thoughts are also that Williams probably isn't at the top of that list.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, with the FA "legal tampering" rules that are in place, what punishment do you think the league would hand down if they were violated? If for example, it was determined a player spoke directly with a team, and agreed to a contract prior to the official start of free agency, do you think the NFL would ever so far as to void the deal? Would the NFL consider forcing the player to go back on the market? Or would the fine more likely be monetary and say loss of draft picks? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: This is a good question, and it's likely the punishment – if proven – would be severe. I would guess the likeliest scenario would be voiding the contract and putting the player back on the market. That would be appropriate given the circumstance. Now, could you prove it enough to merit the punishment? That would seem to be a lot trickier.
Rob from Section 122:
What does it actually mean when a team "matches an offer"? Do they pay that exact amount, or top it?
John: When people say a team "matches an offer" they mean the team matched the offer. If they meant something else, they would probably say something else.

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