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O-Zone: My little sickness

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Alex from New York, NY:
Since new Head Coach Gus Bradley can't talk football with players for another month, what makes you comfortable saying he's a good motivator?
John: He's been talking football with players the last seven years in the NFL. Pretty much anyone who has been around him during that time says he is a good motivator. That doesn't guarantee success, and it doesn't guarantee he will motivate in Jacksonville. In life, there really are no guarantees except, perhaps, death. But does it make me comfortable saying it? Yeah, as comfortable as I can be in this ol', crazy, mixed-up game we call life, anyway.
Kenney from Jacksonville:
Did someone seriously ask about "D. McNabb?" The guy the Redskins and Vikings couldn't wait to get rid of? I feel for you O-Man, talking to a wall probably yields better results.
John: With a wall, sometimes when you throw something at it, it sticks.
Jack from Jacksonville:
I see what the Jaguars are doing. It all makes sense now. They're watching the other teams bankrupt themselves while picking up young, hungry players off the scrap heap.
John: There's sarcasm in your email, I sense, but there shouldn't be because in a very real sense, bankrupting themselves is exactly what a lot of organizations involved in free agency do.
Ian from Salt Lake City, UT:
Hmmm . . . I'm kind of thinking the Jags appeared at Geno Smith's Pro Day to seem interested as trading down bait . . . Or is that just silly thinking on my part?
John: It's not silly. The Jaguars certainly had nothing to lose by attending Smith's Pro Day en masse. They got a chance to thoroughly scout the player many consider the best quarterback in the draft. They got a pleasant afternoon in West Virginia. Worst case, they showed enough interest to perhaps spur interest in a trade. But if you're implying that the only reason the Jaguars attended was to entice a team to move up, no, I don't believe that. They're seriously scouting Smith. With the No. 2 selection in the draft, why wouldn't you do all the necessary work on Geno Smith?
Caleb from Tempe, AZ:
Hey John! Though I grew up in Arizona, attended undergrad in California, and grad school in Colorado, I've been a Jaguars fan since 1995. I've never been to Jacksonville before and my early fandom was based purely on the mascot. I've just been offered a job in the city and immediately decided that I'd become a season ticket owner if I accept the position. What have you come to enjoy about Jacksonville, and would you have enjoyed spending your mid-twenties there?
John: I grew up in Jacksonville and after college indeed spent my early 20s there, so I enjoyed it very much. I then got married at age 25.
Antonio from Huntington, NY:
With so many players being released and not signed/resigned, it's become clear Caldwell is planning to completely rebuild from the draft. My theory is that Caldwell will attempt to trade down numerous times and stock up on picks to build the team with. Thoughts?
John: It has been clear since the day Caldwell took the job that he planned to build through the draft. It became clearer at the combine and has become clearer since. But yes, if Caldwell can trade down, I believe he will do so again and again and again.
Randy from Jacksonville:
Never mind.
John: Okey doke.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
It's one thing to be prudent in free agency and not overspend. It's quite another to be anemic. We have not signed anyone, but gave up many players.
John: They have actually signed a few players, though perhaps not the ones you want. I get that. And I'll run emails such as these to present the views of the many fans who share them. But you'll never find the O-Zone to be a place for advocating all-in, overpriced free agency.
Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL:
The Jaguars; front office has been very transparent with their intentions on how they will build this team. Are people really not able to comprehend their message, or do they just like to complain?
John: Yes. And yes.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I am fine with letting players go that championed us to a 2-14 record. What concerns me is the seemingly lackadaisical approach toward garnering anyone in free agency that is elite at right tackle, cornerback, and now strong safety. I would think that at least right tackle and cornerback would be mandatory considerations since we have so many other holes to fill at other positions on the roster.
John: I, too, often am guilty of overusing the term 'elite.'
Christian from Coconut Creek, FL:
Any word on Greg Jones? Haven't heard any rumors about his visiting teams. You think there is a chance he re-signs?
John: It's not usual that Jones wouldn't have had much play yet. Fullback is a relatively low-profile position, and Jones is a veteran who likely won't command a long-term contract. Now that the market is settling at the other positions, you're getting more into the time when teams will address fullback. And yes, I think there is a chance he re-signs with the Jaguars.
Rusty from New Liberia, LA:
I have been reading up on free agency, and I am a little curious. What did players do before free agency started? Was a player cut by one team not free to sign with another? If a player's contract expired with one team, couldn't they sign with another team? What exactly changed in 1993 that changed the game as we know it?
John: Until the late 1980s – the true start of the changes that eventually led to this version of NFL free agency – players technically could become free agents, but the rules of the NFL generally kept teams from participating on any meaningful level. A player could theoretically play out his contract, but a team signing a "free agent" still had to compensate the player's former team at such a high level that it made it rare for there to be any meaningful player movement. A released player operated under much the same procedures as they do now – meaning they often were free to sign with any team. The format changed a bit throughout the 1980s with a series of strikes and litigation, then the current system of free agency/salary cap as we know it was installed in 1993.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
I compare what some of the fans think about what the Jags are doing, or not doing, during free agency to what happened to me last weekend. My wife and I were putting up a new fence. During the process we ran into a few problems and I threw a temper tantrum. I had to step away, take some deep breaths, and go back to work. I think that's what needs to happen this weekend. The fans and yourself need to take a break and enjoy St. Patty's weekend.
John: "My wife and I were putting up a new fence." You, my friend, are a far, far braver man than I.
Trey from Eagle Mountain, UT:
Is it difficult to completely switch gears to cater to the new general manager draft philosophy based on the needs of the team after telling us, on behalf of the last general manager, that drafting for needs is stupid and drafting BAP is most important?
John: It might be if I'd done that. The old general manager didn't say that, either – at least not to me. The old general manager said he drafted best available player within a system in which players were graded and ranked in groups. Within those groups, the idea was to typically draft positions of need. Most teams typically operate from essentially that philosophical place.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Many of the same fans who are hyperventilating over the course the team has charted through free agency will have forgotten all about this situation by the time the next big news (good or bad) hits.
John: Yes.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
Free agency is like turning the blue light on at K-Mart. Sale, sale, sale! You put stuff in the cart and bring it home and wonder how it got in there in the first place. Impulse buying is the devil. I'm pretty sure our guys have a very good idea of what they're doing. I'll go out on a limb and quote the Emperor - "Everything is going according to plan" They have forseen it.
John: There is a lot of truth in what you say, and it struck me from reading a lot of the in-box that perhaps readers and fans are starting to come around, that maybe they can see history and grasp that participation in free agency – particularly in the early stages of a building process – is more often than not a recipe for failure and disappointment. Perhaps, they can see that Gus Bradley and David Caldwell have a plan, and aren't just a couple of guys locked in a rec room somewhere throwing darts at a board. Maybe, maybe . . .
Jack from Oviedo, FL:
This team is being built to be the first NFL team in Europe.
John: . . . never mind.
Joshua from Franklin, IN:
I got nauseous after lunch today. It wasn't what I ate. It was the dizzying circle of logic a lot of people – a lot of non-NFL level employed people – have. Let's speak less of free agency and draft, we've paced in circles like a caged big cat.
John: I am nauseous a lot. Then again, I spend a lot of time on Twitter.

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