O-Zone: No fooling

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL

I usually lean toward the team when it comes to salaries because I always want the team to have more money for more talent, but after hearing Jalen Ramsey’s comments about Yannick Ngakoue, I say, “Pay the man.”

I usually lean toward players when it comes to salaries because the NFL is a violent, dangerous profession – and most players have extremely short career spans in which to earn their career’s worth of money. And you’re right that Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey made good points this week about defensive end Yannick Ngakoue deserving a huge raise from his rookie contract. Here’s the thing: No one believes Ngakoue shouldn’t get huge raise. The team believes he should get a huge raise. But there’s a difference between believing that and being able to automatically pay Ngakoue what he’s seeking. Will the Jaguars be willing to make that raise as huge as Ngakoue wants? That’s a tricky question, and that’s why this thing probably won’t get resolved for a while.

Mason from Palm Bay, FL

Surprised you guys just didn't add more ads to this column to raise the money to pay Yannick.

That’s not even close to how it works, but OK.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

I'm sure NFL teams are required to fulfill their end of player contracts. No. 91 should do the same.

NFL teams are actually not required to fulfill their ends of player contracts. Players in fact are often released before the end of contracts. That happens as often as not.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

I think Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is doing a tremendous job for Jacksonville and for us Jaguars fans. I know he must stay tremendously busy with the franchise, his commercial business interests, his civic projects and his other “football” club across the pond. I’m curious though: Does he ever just walk around the building and talk with the “rank-and-file” employees?

Yes.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

We keep getting reminded of wide receiver Marqise Lee returning from a torn ACL and it has me wondering: Do players typically come back from torn ACLs as good as new?

This answer has changed in recent decades, and the answer now often varies on the player. While a torn anterior cruciate ligament once was career-threatening and almost certainly career-altering, ACL surgery and rehabilitation has advanced than enough that it’s common for players to return to pre-injury levels. It’s particularly common for players under the age of 26 or 27 who sustained torn ACLs to return “as good as new.” But even with the advances in rehab/surgery, it’s not a simple or quick process – and players typically don’t return to their pre-injury level until their second year removed from the injury. It’s often not a physical issue as much as regaining confidence in the knee. The injury is that severe and traumatic.

Bentley from Boulder, CO

Great O: It seems many fans hold doubt surrounding running back Leonard Fournette’s chances for rebound in 2019. Yet perhaps one single running back doesn’t matter all that much. In my Madden season with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm, Fournette went down with a severe injury. In his stead, Blake Bortles – whom I kept on the roster – rushed for nearly 1000 yards on the season.

Hey, one fer Blake!

Jaginator from (formerly of Section 124)

Sometimes, I think I’m too hard on the O-Zone readers. Sometimes, I convince myself that us Jag fans aren’t as stupid as I thought we were. Then I read some guy comparing his experience of being coached IN LITTLE LEAGUE to … OTAs in the NFL. And then I realize that I should just stop thinking about this at all.

Fans gonna fan, and a lot of readers – and emailers – in this column are going to do what they do. Not sometimes but all the time. It’s just how it is. Even in OTAs.

John from Playa Del Carmen

Recently I've noticed that many of your loyal readers are called John. Why do you think this is?

Awesomeness.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi, John: It’s seems to me that the Jaguars don’t have the cap space at this moment to give Ngakoue a new contract. However, when the 53-man team is decided, they will have somewhere around $20 million in cap space. That should be enough to get a deal done if both sides agree to terms. Am I missing something that would allow them to get a deal done before?

Teams usually can get deals done if they want to get them done and when they need to get them done – i.e., if it’s a player they consider important enough to mortgage future money. Other players can restructure contracts and bonus money can be paid out in advance or put into other years as teams manipulate the salary cap for the short term.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Do the Jaguars have the money to pay both Ramsey and Yannick? Do you expect them to try to keep both players? Two $100+ million contracts is a big chunk of salary.

The Jaguars do have the money to pay both Ramsey and Ngakoue, and I do expect them to try to keep both players in the coming seasons. Will they decide they want to do that considering the likely asking price and considering their circumstances when they are making those decisions? That’s a different question, and that remains to be seen.

Kenneth from Ponte Vedra Beach, F:

Mr. O, referencing Yann: What is the rule for a player playing six regular-season games to constitute a full season? He could hold out ‘til game 10. How does the fine/game missed work? If a deal does not get done, do you think this will happen?

Ngakoue won’t be able to play just six regular-season games and accrue a season toward free agency. The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement mandates that a player must report 30 days before the regular-season opener to accrue a season. (A previous O-Zone answer in recent days overlooked this; for that, I not-particularly-humbly apologize.) As for the fine system, it works as follows: teams may fine a player $40,000 for each day of training camp practice missed. For players who sign as unrestricted free agents, a team can also add a fine equivalent of one regular-season game’s salary for every preseason game missed – but Ngakoue doesn’t fall in that category.

Mandy from Jacksonville

Mr. O. Do you think this is one of the most precarious situations for the Jags’ front office that they have seen in a very long time? How they deal with Mr. Ngakoue may show Mr. Ramsey how they plan on dealing with him next year. Both men have played themselves to lucrative contracts. I have enjoyed watching these gentlemen from my teal seat the past few years and this team can’t let them go to the wayside, can they? I know it is a business, but when was the last time the Jags have had two of the best at their positions in the league on their team? I am worried that both may not be here long-term. That would be disastrous to this team and to many 10-plus season ticket holders like myself that have waited patiently to see NFL superstars on our home field. GO JAGS!!!!

The Ngakoue and Ramsey negotiations, while similar in that they are high-profile, do have one important difference: While Ramsey has established himself as at minimum one of the best two or three best players at his position in the NFL, Ngakoue has not. Whenever I write this, I am quick to say that’s not a criticism of Ngakoue. He is very good. He deserves a new contract. He has made a Pro Bowl. But he’s not one of the first two or three defensive ends to come to mind when rattling off a list of the top players at the position; Ramsey is on that list when rattling off top cornerbacks. That’s a long-winded way of saying that I’m not particularly sure that how the Jaguars handle the Ngakoue negotiations will foreshadow how they handle the Ramsey negotiations.

Jon from Ocala, FL

Hi O, is it true that if Ngakoue doesn't report to training camp 30 days prior to the start of the regular season, he doesn't accrue a season towards free agency? I think he will get an extension before training camp but...

Yes, that’s true.

Kenny from Springfield

Why is anyone debating your humor? You possess too much vital information to be cowed by criticism from a couple of spoilsports. I, for one, laugh at all your Gene Frenette jokes even though I don't understand most of them.

My humor is an acquired taste – and sometimes that taste goes down bitterly. As far as longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette, I assure you this: He is no joke. Underestimate him at your peril.

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