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O-Zone: Oh, really?

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Gary from Fleming Island, FL:
I know you say the Jaguars like Luke Bowanko a lot, but is there a chance they are biding their time waiting for Alex Mack to play out the two-year contract he signed last year and sign him as a free agent for 2016? My take on the contract he signed was the Jaguars did him a favor in only making him stay in Cleveland – a place he says he'd rather not be – two years so that maybe, in return, he will agree to come to the Jags at the end of the contract. Is there any possibility that is true?
John: Me thinks you're overthinking this just a bit. The Jaguars didn't go after Mack last offseason to do him favors or with a grandiose plan to sign him two years down the road; they went after him because they thought he would make them a better team. And to think that the Jaguars would put the center position on hold and wait two years for Mack is to forget that the Jaguars – while certainly building with an eye on the long term – are also trying to put a quality team on the field for the short term. I'm not saying Mack will never play in Jacksonville; this is a league in which players change teams and you never say never. But two seasons is an eternity in the NFL and to think the Jaguars did what they did with Mack in 2014 with 2016 in mind … well, an awful lot of things would have to go right for such a plan to ever be worth anyone's while.
Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
John: what?
Scott from Aurora, IL:
I've heard sports-radio hosts talk about top draft picks getting into training camp, and the coaching staff immediately realizing the guy simply can't play at an NFL level. The example specifically cited was Vernon Gholston. How often does something like that happen (if at all) and what about the draft process doesn't allow teams to make the realization sooner? Also, why would a team hold onto a player they were so sure couldn't play?
John: Sure, it happens. Sometimes a player starts practicing with a team and everyone knows immediately a bad mistake has been made. It's rare that it happens in the Top 10 of the draft, but it happens. What about the draft process doesn't allow teams to make the realization sooner? The same thing that causes colleges to miss on recruits and NFL teams to miss in free agents. Scouting is not an exact science. It involves experience and projection, but a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and perfect NFL physique doesn't automatically mean you can play at the highest level. Those things help and they often translate to success, but not always. As for your final question – why would you hold on to a guy you were sure couldn't play? – perception is one reason, but the biggest is you hope like heck something happens and the guy can give you at least some value.
Lee from Sarasota, FL:
LT BULAGA, LG SCHERFF, C BOWANKO, RG LINDER, RT JOECKEL … I think this could be a good physical offensive line, but is it too far of a dream?
John: To have your scenario play out, you would need to move Bulaga to left tackle from right tackle and you also would need to Scherff early in the first round. I'd be surprised if the first happens; I'd be really surprised if the second happens.
Corey from Madison, WI:
I've heard people say it doesn't appear to be a really strong tackle class this year. While there doesn't appear to be loads of first-round talent available there appears to be quite a few tackles that will be available in the later rounds that likely will be quality players. I personally watched the monster right tackle Rob Havenstein (projected fourth round) dominate opposing defensive lines all season, helping pave the way for the Heisman runner-up Melvin Gordon. If right tackle is not fixed by free agency I would love to see a guy like him be taken later in the draft to compete.
John: I don't know that the Jaguars will depend on the draft to immediately upgrade the offensive line. It's difficult to upgrade your team significantly in the short term through the draft. So, I believe the first effort at right tackle will be free agency. But could the team address line depth later in the draft? Yes, that's a good idea and it's always a good idea to draft an offensive lineman for development later in the draft.
Matt from Lynchburg, VA:
I saw an idea regarding potential pickup of Ridley and Gurley. Any thoughts on that and what that might do for the backfield? Who would be the first to go from the current squad if that took place?
John: We've got a little less than a month to go before free agency. Do we really have to spend the next 26 days cutting players before it's necessary.
Chhean from Northern Virginia:
Longtime fan here. I know we have had four straight losing seasons but I feel we are about to turn the corner for sustainable success .With money to spend in free agency and Top 5 draft selections every round in this upcoming 2015 NFL Draft and the continued development of the young players currently on the roster – most important Blake Bortles – I see a dramatic turnaround, possibly a division title, next season .Do you agree?
John: I'm reluctant to pick a team that went 3-13 to win a division title the following season. I think the Jaguars have a chance to be a lot better next season. I think they were better this past season even though it didn't show in the record and I think next year it should show in the record.
Armando from Vacaville, CA:
Would Torrey Smith be a good free agent pickup?
John: I believe he would be. Whether he is available when free agency begins March 10 is another question entirely.
Kevin from The Ville:
Johnny O, do you think the Jags will address tight end in free agency? If so, what are your thoughts on Julius Thomas? Would he be a possibility?
John: I think the Jaguars will address tight end in free agency. I think Julius Thomas would be a good player to pursue. I think he is a possibility.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I am fully aware Caldwell has said he will be aggressive in free agency and spend money. He has also been a straight shooter so far and has done what he says he will do. I just hope he will do this offseason what he says and if he doesn't spend, with our league-leading cap space money on some significant help, then I stand by my statement that he should be fired. Time will tell. Money talks and you know what walks.
John: This is turning into a lot of ultimatums for ultimatums' sake – or something like that. And while I get that there is an odd mix of giddy optimism and cynical pessimism as the free-agency period approaches, I would encourage people to look at the Jaguars' free-agency philosophy with the proper perspective. First, there were never any plans to spend big in unrestricted free agency the past two offseasons; that was an all-inclusive organizational decision from the top down because the team wanted to build a foundation through the draft. It was very much not a Dave Caldwell-only decision. The plans all along – as laid out by Caldwell, Shad Khan and Gus Bradley when Caldwell and Bradley were hired in 2013 – was to use free agency beginning in a bigger way in the third offseason to begin to fill holes and strengthen the roster as the foundation became such that the team could reasonable expect to start improving. That's a rather cumbersome way of saying pretty much everyone who matters in the organization – and me, too – has been pointing to this offseason as the one when the Jaguars would be more active in high-profile free agency. What's next? Well, what's next is to see what's available in free agency and just how much and where you really want to spend. I expect it to be significant. We'll see how it plays out.
Bryant from White Plains, NY:
Mock drafts are a ton of fun to look at it and I find myself checking them out on a daily basis. However, these mock drafts are silly because a lot is going to change between now and the actual draft with free agency and prospect workouts. Also, Caldwell made it clear that the Jags are going to take their guy regardless of how everyone rates the draftees.
John: Wait a minute … mock drafts are silly?

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