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O-Zone: Quarterback always matters

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jay from Gainesville, FL:
Do you have a prediction of how you think the offseason will play out? Like resigning Poz and A-Rob, cutting Hurns and Ivory and drafting the best tackle or guard available then getting a quarterback for Day Two?
John: My best guess – and this is only a guess: The Jaguars re-sign cornerback Aaron Colvin, place the franchise tag on wide receiver Allen Robinson and have quarterback Blake Bortles play 2018 for $19.1 million after realizing that signing Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins as an unrestricted free agent will prove too expensive. The guess here, too, is the team will release running back Chris Ivory, wide receiver Allen Hurns and punter Brad Nortman – and allow wide receiver Marqise Lee, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and offensive guard Patrick Omameh to sign elsewhere as unrestricted free agents. Best possibilities for Day 1-2 draft selections in this scenario: tight end, offensive line and quarterback.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If Bortles is a starting quarterback in the NFL in 2019, will he be making as much or more than Cousins?
John: How will Bortles play next season?
Mike from Palm Coast, FL:
I haven't seen this option mentioned anywhere yet, but what about offering Blake a long-term contract now at a somewhat discounted rate before we see how he does this year? It could turn out to be a great move if he continues to improve, and would allow us to spend our cap money on keeping our defense together and adding a few more offensive pieces. It seems you want to wait and see, but he could get real expensive if all goes well. I say we should go all in on Blake now, at the right price.
John: This possibility actually has been mentioned here on multiple occasions this offseason (the website is free; be not shy about visiting regularly). The idea of signing Bortles to a short-term deal at less than $19.1 million a year isn't a bad one, but it's contingent on a couple of questions. One is whether or not the Jaguars want Bortles for multiple seasons – at any cost. Another is whether he wants to sign a multi-year deal with the Jaguars at a discounted rate. From the Jaguars' point of view, they likely don't want to rush into anything long-term before exploring options this offseason. From Bortles' point of view, quarterback salaries are rising fast enough at an insane enough level that I don't know that he would (or should) be in any hurry to start offering discounts.
Chris from Jacksonville:
I get that Cousins might not be franchise quarterback material in the way that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, etc., are. So it would seem bad business to pay him franchise quarterback money. Makes sense to keep Bortles, right? However, as we know, Cousins is a better passer than Bortles. What happens if we keep Bortles, and he in fact does get better – maybe almost as good as Cousins. Now what? His contract is up next year. He's as good as Cousins (not franchise level) and you have to pay him franchise money, or let him walk. You are in the same boat you are in right now, except that now there is a known commodity available and you don't know if Blake will improve to Cousins' level.
John: That's certainly the pro-Cousins side of the discussion. And it's why I think the Jaguars will explore trying to acquire Cousins. Remember, though: even if the Jaguars seriously explore that option, they likely will have to outbid teams such as Denver, Cleveland and the New York Jets. If the Jaguars do get involved, there possibly could be a point at which they have to get uninvolved for the same reason they got uninvolved in the bidding for defensive end Olivier Vernon a couple of years ago. There's a point that it's time to stop – and you have to know when you have reached that point. Then, you have to stop.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
Sebastian Janikowski is said to be a free agent this year and I have always been a huge SeaBass fan ever since his days at FSU, and throughout his career. If I was picking a kicker in fantasy football, I first scanned the list for Seabass and picked him no matter his rank. With that being said, it feels great to have one of your all-time favorite positional players come available and absolutely not want him on the Jaguars. I guess what I'm trying to say is, One Fer' Lambo! Or heck, 19 fer' 20 for Lambo, he has earned it, and that Egyptian celebration is the epitome of cool, heck make it 20 fer' 20!!
John: OK, I guess.
Tom from Virginia Beach, VA:
You indicate that the Jags' salary cap is not healthy. What is the number? Wasn't it Tom Coughlin's misuse of the cap that lead to so many years on the downturn? It was not the only reason but a major contributor. As a fan I do not want this to happen again!
John: I to my knowledge indicated no such thing. What I wrote and have said often this offseason – and what anyone following this team most likely has written and said often this offseason – is that the Jaguars are no longer so far under the salary cap that they can keep all players including backups without regard to the cap. In the past three-to-four years, for example, there was little worry about keeping a backup quarterback counting $3-to-5 million against the cap. Now, the Jaguars can keep a backup quarterback counting that much, but it will have to be weighed against keeping players at other positions. This isn't an indication of the Jaguars' cap being in poor health. It's more an indication of it being back to normal.
Red from the O-Zone comments section:
Oh all-knowing O-Zone, do you think the Jaguars will exercise the option on Dante Fowler Jr.'s rookie contract? If so, what will his salary be for 2019?
John: The Jaguars have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year of Fowler's contract as the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. That would give them the option of having Fowler play the 2019 season at around $14 million, a figure reached because that's about the average of the Top 10 highest-paid defensive ends. I would be surprised if the Jaguars exercise the option. Stay tuned.
Kelvin from Atlanta, GA:
Our solution at tight end could be Trey Burton. Talented route runner and receiver, from the talented state of Florida, and is in his window to break out. He could be to the Jags what Delanie Walker is to the Titans. Delanie was hidden behind Vernon Davis in San Francisco and really wasn't given a true chance to shine but did show flashes. He has blossomed in Tennessee. Maybe Burton can do the same in Jacksonville as he has flashed as well, especially when Zach Ertz was injured. Most importantly, I don't think he would cost a lot towards the cap. Thoughts?
John: I like the idea of Burton fine. I'm guessing he would be about $6-to-8 million against the cap. That's not a lot compared to $20 million, but it ain't cheap. Then again, not much is cheap when it comes to free agency.
Captain Paul from Duval:
I am happy we are having a tough time with the quarterback question. When Blake came out there was tons of info that the team would have to develop him. Obviously, once the season starts everyone forgets that talk. He seems to be ascending, with a wacky wide receiver core last year, I don't see the value in sinking a huge percentage of the cap in a player that might not do that much better with the weapons that are available. I vote draft a quarterback high on the 'cheap,' stick with Blake (hopefully long term if he keeps going) and take that cap money and spend it on offensive line and pass catchers.
John: First, I'm relieved to hear you're happy; in fact, driving to work this morning I thought to myself, "Zone, you damned sure better do something today to make sure Paul is happy." Now that I'm done channeling my inner jackass … I tend to agree with you. I don't know that the available free-agent quarterbacks – unless Drew Brees is available – are worth the expense. I don't know yet the direction this will go. Stay tuned.
Josh from Lynchburg, VA:
It's hard to say he was the most important add of 2017, because there were so many high-impact quality adds, but Cam Robinson anchoring left tackle for years to come is HUGE for getting our offensive line to where it needs to be. The spot has been a veritable turnstile since Eugene Monroe was traded. Another good offseason with beef added, and it won't matter who the quarterback or running back is.
John: Psst … the quarterback will matter.

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