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O-Zone: Name game

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I'm all set to be disappointed in free agency again. So tired of this, Zone.

I have been struck by how much sentiment I have heard along these lines in recent days. The NFL's 2022 League Year begins Wednesday, March 16 – and teams can begin negotiating with potential free agents from other teams Monday at noon Eastern. So while there may be a lot of speculation, and a lot of accompanying reports and rumors over what will take place, the 2022 offseason player-acquisition period essentially begins Monday with little having yet occurred. And history tells us much of the speculation regarding NFL free agency is just that: speculation – and it is soon forgotten and made to look a little silly in the frenetic hours/days at the start of the league year. I don't know what Monday at noon will bring for the Jaguars. Despite the speculation, teams typically share little about their free-agent plans before the negotiating period – and strikingly little such information usually is reported with much accuracy. I do expect the Jaguars to be aggressive this offseason – far more so than was the case last offseason. This likely will not result in them signing every player they pursue. It likely won't mean all Jaguars fans like their moves. It almost certainly won't mean every name the Jaguars sign is at the top of the internet's "best-available" list. It's also quite possible the team doesn't fill every need on the roster; this is a team with a lot of such needs, and it's tough to go from a 3-14 roster to a healthy one in two days. But I do expect the Jaguars to be aggressive in the coming days. That's what this feels like this year.

Mike from Orange Park, FL

So, no Amari Cooper. Sigh.

The Jaguars indeed did not trade with the Dallas Cowboys for wide receiver Amari Cooper, with the Cleveland Browns reportedly agreeing to terms with the Cowboys to trade for Cooper – who will enter his eighth NFL season next season. The deal is expected to be finalized at the start of the league year next week. Notable to many Jaguars observers were reports that the Jaguars were among the teams also pursuing a trade for Cooper. Not unexpectedly, the Jaguars not completing the trade drew the ire of some Jaguars fans. Why didn't the Jaguars complete the deal? At some point in any trade negotiation, a team must decide how much is too much. Either way, the Jaguars not trading for Cooper doesn't mean receiver won't be addressed. It just means it won't be addressed for a few more days.

Keith from Saint Augustine, FL

I was willing to give Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke the benefit of the doubt, until he started acting like … Baalke. Some are now saying correctly that Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson is the last No. 1 wide receiver left in free agency. At 29, Robinson is no longer an ascending player as his numbers from 2021 (38 receptions and 410 yards) seem to indicate. I do not disagree that D.J. Chark did not earn a franchise tag. There is another option. Do what it takes to trade for D.K. Metcalf. If that means trading next year's first round draft pick, so be it. If that means paying D.K. Metcalf, so be it. What compensation, if any, would you be willing to give to get D.K. Metcalf? This is a hypothetical question, so spare me stating the obvious with authority, "Well, the Seahawks would have to be willing to trade him and Metcalf would have to be willing to be traded."

I would consider a second-round selection. I would struggle to give up a first-rounder.

John from Jacksonville

Does DJ Chark have any say in where he plays next year? What if he doesn't want to play here?

With the team having placed the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson last week, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. is the highest-profile Jaguars player set to become an unrestricted free agent. Chark absolutely will have say in where he plays next year. As an unrestricted free agent, he may sign with any franchise offering him a contract.

_Tom from Shanghai, China         _

This is not to say you just sign a blank check for Chark or anyone else, but we are – barring a couple of Dan Snyder in the 2000s spending sprees – a long way off from salary cap issues. Getting anyone to sign with a franchise that's been this bad is going to require a bit of an overpay and so with that in mind I for one would cheer Chark's signature even if it's a bit on the expensive side.

Hey, one fer Chark …

Steve from Wallingford, CT

How come no one ever talks about Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson's motor? Every time I watch him, I'm reminded of JJ Watt with his non-stop effort. He is never out of the play, even after it's past him, he's all in.

…and one fer Hutchinson's motor.

Geno from Wenden, Germany

Hello, John. Do you think it could be possible that Doug Pederson will use his contacts and connections to bring some valuable former players from his time in Philly who are or will be free agents to Jacksonville? For example, I'm thinking tight end Zach Ertz, who has become one of the best tight ends under him.

Pederson was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-2020. It is not at all uncommon for coaches to sign players with whom they are familiar, and Ertz is the sort of signing that would make sense given that circumstance. Stay tuned.

B.S. from Middleburg, FL

I would like to see the Jags step into free agency and get a top tight end and wide receiver. What do you think are the odds of us getting both?

I believe the Jaguars will be significant players in free agency this week. I expect they could pursue tight end and wide receiver, with their level of aggressiveness dependent on how much they like the player compared to the player's value. I also expect they could be aggressive at safety, offensive and defensive line – and even with the Jaguars' cap space, it's hard to spend at the top of the market at that many positions in one free-agency period.

Joe from Living in St. John's, down by the river

John, in your response to Sean from Oakleaf, you have us in the postseason. Now that's what I'm talking about!! Is it too early to think like this??

It's never too early to dream.

Just Andrew from Cowford

Mr. Zone, one of your clueless readers criticized me for asking about you being intimidated by Mr. Khan, to the point that you may not point out his failings. You had his back on the Vice President fiasco, but I actually have been surprised by some comments you made about his inability to select a quality coach and GM over the years. You have to walk a tightrope, and I get that. Only a man near retirement would throw his boss completely under the team bus.

What's perceived as me "walking tight ropes," "having people's backs" or "criticizing or not criticizing" here in the O-Zone is more often than not simply me answering questions as accurately as possible. How people interpret those answers is up to them. I have written multiple times in recent weeks/months that Khan hasn't done well enough selecting general managers and head coaches. I don't know that this is criticism; the Jaguars have nine double-digit losing seasons in 10 seasons of Khan's ownership, so by definition the general managers and head coaches haven't been successful enough. I also have written that I thought the idea of hiring an executive vice president would have been a good one. This doesn't mean not hiring one was a bad or good idea. You call it a fiasco, and that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion and that's another case where people can interpret a situation as they see fit. The truth is Khan initially thought he would go in one direction and changed his mind to go in another. It happens.

Sam from Nottingham, UK

I'm not being facetious; please explain the value of a "blocking" tight end, who doesn't catch passes? Chris Manhertz isn't on chump change but seems like a "poor man's" O lineman.

The value of a blocking tight end is you need that position to block well in the run game; if it doesn't, you're going to have trouble running consistently.

Wally from Lawtey, FL

Hi, John: Trivia question for you. What's Ikem Ekwonu's given first name? It's Ikemefuna which means "my effort will not be in vain." Jags need this football player! Hope he's who they draft.

My given name is "John." It means "graced by god." I'm not saying Ekwonu won't be good. I'm saying the name thing doesn't always turn out as parents hope.