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O-Zone: No more cheating

JACKSONVILLE – State of the Franchise, a negotiating window …

It's a busy day in the land of the Jaguars.

Let's get to it … Jaginator from formerly of Section 124:
Ahh, the cusp of another glorious free-agency period. And once again, we are at-or-near the top of the league in available cap space. I used to nod and smile at this fact, thinking that we were being wise in managing our future cap needs. I have to admit that now I'm just tired of it. Every single year we have more cap space than most of the league. Every single year, the majority of it rolls over to next year. And every single year, the Jags stink.
John: I'm tired of the free-agency buildup, too, Jaginator, but my weariness has a lot more to do with the fact that most free agents are available for a reason – and for that reason free agency is a very risky proposition. It's again a risky proposition this offseason, and it's a proposition in which the Jaguars seem about to invest a bunch of money. And that's fine. They have money and needs – and that money must be spent hoping to fill those needs and fill them well. I must say I'm relatively optimistic by reports this week of who the Jaguars may be pursuing. If reports are true, they could make strong runs at Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and perhaps a few other front-line free agents. They look like players who have a chance to help, and I particularly like the idea of Campbell, who reportedly is exactly the kind of player you want to bring in as a free agent. But remember: tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick looked like really good signings, too. I believe the Jaguars have a chance to be improved next season, but I believe that more because of the young core of players who could improve than I do for the quick impact of even the best free agents. Here's hoping I'm wrong. I'd love to feel differently about free agency in 51 weeks.
Marc from Jacksonville:
Lots of impressive cornerbacks in this draft class, O-Man. What are the odds our 2017 second-round pick ends up starting opposite Jalen Ramsey in September?
John: This is a tricky question until free agency officially begins. If things go as the Jaguars hope in the next week or so, then I think there's little chance your scenario plays out. That's because all indications are the Jaguars very much would like the starter opposite Ramsey in September to be one of the top unrestricted free agents. I'm thinking a logical target is Bouye, but we'll see what the next few days bring. If the Jaguars don't land a front-line corner in free agency, then yeah … the cornerback class in this draft is deep enough that a second-round corner could start immediately.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
Are the Jags anything like how the A's were portrayed in "Moneyball?" -- that is to say, due to revenue, do they try to have a budget well below the salary cap so they have to continue to seek hidden value?
John: No.
Abe from Mobile, AL:
I think one of the things that often goes missing from the "The Jaguars have $70 million to spend this year so get to it" is the damage it may do to future years. Remember: we have some major players whose rookie deals are up this year, and we probably want to keep a Telvin Smith or a Brandon Linder or a certain wide receiver named Allen Robinson. Let's not forget that by letting a Prince or a Cyprien walk this year, and not overspending, we leave our cap in a better place next year for those sorts of long-term deals to lock up younger and better talent.
John: There is an element of that, though with the salary cap escalating on a yearly basis the Jaguars realistically are a long way from not being able to play players they want to keep. The biggest reason you let guys walk in free agency is you want to make sure you're paying players at least somewhat close to market value – and that you believe the players you pay core, foundation-player money are core foundation players.
Phil from Woodmere, NY:
Has Blaine Gabbert shown enough that we could bring him in to compete with Blake Bortles if he were released by his current team? If we could land him, is there any way we could get Byron Leftwich to come in as quarterback coach? Would anybody's head explode?
John: /Raises hand.
Mark from Washington, DC:
"Reshaping"... you make it sound like the Jags are going on a diet. They are who they are until they win. Fancy words won't change that.
John: Thanks, Mark.
Donald from Orange Park, FL:
If Cyprien is released, would we get compensated in this year's draft?
John: I think you're asking if the Jaguars would receive a compensatory draft selection if Johnathan Cyprien signs elsewhere as a free agent. It's impossible to say for sure because the NFL figures compensatory selections with a secret formula that essentially rewards teams for losing quality free agents and penalizes them for signing quality free agents. That means the players the Jaguars sign in free agency count against them in the compensatory formula as much as the players they lose count for them. Either way, it has nothing to do with this year's draft. Compensatory selections are awarded for the following offseason's draft.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I don't understand the fans being upset if Cyp leaves. For years they've been asking for his release; now that he's likely to walk away the team doesn't know what they are doing. I guess fans going to fan.
John: Yes. Fans fan. It's what they do.
Mark from Jacksonville:
I think Adrian Peterson is the reason for not drafting a running back at No. 4. He has been the best running back in the league over the last nine years, but what has it amounted to for his team? Four playoff appearances and only one playoff game win. Even if you think Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook is a Peterson-like talent, that doesn't put your team over the top. There are way too many other needs for this team to fill, so even if you think one of those guys could be the next dominant Jaguars running back we need to remember that a dominant back doesn't solve all your other problems.
John: That's certainly the argument against. The argument for drafting a running back No. 4 is that Peterson when healthy has allowed the Vikings to often be competitive, and to have an offensive identity. He has been a player for whom you must game plan, and he can make your team better. I'm more of the school that you don't take running back that high because of the length of career and the importance of other positions, but if a player such as Fournette or Cook would truly make the Jaguars' running game a consistent threat then I can see the logic given this team's situation.
Aaron from White Hall, AR:
Here's a guess since it usually happens every year when people freak out over a top prospect like Leonard Fournette's combine performance. At his Pro Day he will weigh about 230, run a 4.4 in the 40, and his vertical will improve. Then everybody will forget about his combine.
John: Yep.
Brian from Orlando, FL:
Solution to hearing the question: get the speaker to repeat the question into the mic. Done. You're welcome …back to my nap.
John: While I appreciate the effort and the interest in an O-Zone debate that is fast becoming tortuously tedious, your solution isn't really a solution. Askers of questions in press conferences are under no obligation to repeat the question into the mic in any scenario – and the answers of questions really aren't, either. That's particularly true at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is run by the NFL and not by the Jaguars. I suppose someone could tell the slew of NFL prospects to repeat every question into the mic because viewers believe the website is overpriced, but that someone ain't gonna be me.
Andrew from San Diego, CA:
On the eve of free agency, with our biggest need being offensive line, our options appear quite limited in both free agency and the draft for interior offensive line, specifically guard. Would this scenario mean it's possible Brandon Linder could move back to guard to free up the Jaguars to find the best available guard or center?
John: I don't know that the Jaguars would agree that offensive line is the biggest need, and I don't know that they would agree that the options are limited in free agency for interior offensive line.
Mickey from OP:
I feel cheated when you respond to a post with "OK." I want to hear your wonderfully enlightened thoughts and opinions even if a question was not involved.
John: Okey-doke.

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