JACKSONVILLE – Well, well, well …
Monday night – or Tuesday morning, actually – apparently was a very big night for the Jaguars, with news breaking on multiple reputable outlets that they agreed on a contract with one of the NFL's top free agents – Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell – on the same morning/evening Jaguars wide receiver apparently agreed on a contract with the Chicago Bears.
Norwell, an All-Pro selection last season, reportedly will sign with the Jaguars for what is reported to be $66.5 million over five years with $30 million guaranteed. Robinson, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection reportedly will sign with the Chicago Bears.
To review our jaguars.com policy regarding free agency, we can discuss reports but can't report news on signings until such things become official on Wednesday at 4 p.m. That's the start of the NFL's 2018 League Year.
That's why we'll discuss the topics here in the O-Zone and on Jaguars Drive Time but you won't see an official news release or news story for the next couple of days.
But discuss we will. Let's get to it …
Ken from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
So, the Jaguars sign Norwell and let A-Rob walk … improving an area of strength and making a weakness worse. I don't get it, O-Man. Explain.
John: That's one way to look at Tuesday morning's news. The other way is that the Jaguars set the tone for what they want to be going forward. While the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, it was clear – particularly in the second half of the season and in the second half of the AFC Championship Game – that they were not running as well as they wanted or needed. It was the inability to impose their will along the offensive line that hurt as much as anything in the AFC title game loss to the Patriots, and that as much as anything influenced the decision to upgrade the interior of the offensive line this offseason. That's what signing Norwell did. Was that done at the expense of re-signing Robinson? Perhaps, but this team wants to be a dominant running team. This move is a clear effort toward that.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
If the rumors are true (we will find out Wednesday ... and I know this site can't report on them until official), I frankly like the trade-off of Norwell for Robinson. It is consistent with the team's identity; it advances the way this team wins. It will make the rest of the offense better, including the wide receivers. You can't sign everyone, and I think this was a good "trade" overall. Thoughts?
John: I think the "trade" absolutely fits the Jaguars' identity. They clearly want to be a dominant running team and win at the line of scrimmage, and they clearly don't believe they are going to be a throw-it-all-over-the-field passing team. On that front, the "trade" makes sense. It makes sense on another front, too. Norwell is an All-Pro player at his position and he is entering his time with the Jaguars healthy. Robinson was a Pro Bowl receiver who currently is rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. I'm sure the Jaguars would argue that they upgraded their roster overall. Considering how they want to play, that argument has merit.
Joey from Athens, GA:
I don't think I'm alone in the fact that I feel we really need a strong No. 1 receiver. With AR gone and Sammy Watkins to the Kansas City Chiefs, who in free agency could we go after without breaking the bank? Are there even any potential star receivers in free agency for us to get? Any possibility of a trade to obtain a receiver?
John: If you're wanting a wide receiver who's better on paper than Watkins and Robinson, I wouldn't hold your breath. I expect the Jaguars may now focus on seeing if bringing back Marqise Lee makes sense, but letting Robinson go and signing Norwell shows this team's direction offensively. I have written before that Keenan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Lee/Allen Hurns and perhaps a draft selection could form the core of the receiving corps next season, and that still makes sense.
Josh from Green Bay, WI:
It looks like A-Rob is going to the Bears, but that we look to be locking up a very good guard for years to come. From a numbers standpoint it looks like the contracts are roughly the same per year – $13.5 for Norwell and $14 for A-Rob. Do you think a change in offensive philosophy from A-Rob's big 2015 season plays any part in that?
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
Why are we so worried about a player leaving? I thought we established that it's always coaching in the NFL.
John: Fair point.
Genevieve from Jacksonville:
I know fans are going to fan, but I believe if everyone calms down and looks logically at what the Jaguars are doing, people will come to terms with the moves more easily. What we are seeing are the actions of a mature and stable front office that is not mortgaging its future for one season like we have seen so many teams do in the past. We wisely sidestepped the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes and his ever-increasing price. We avoided paying a receiver at the top of his pay scale coming off an ACL injury and a down season. Further, while Aaron Colvin is a fantastic player in his role, nickel corners are more readily replaceable than other players who need to be paid soon. People must realize this is not the upstart Jags who have unlimited cap space to overpay players anymore. This is a transitional phase for both the team and fans. These are the moves established, regularly competitive and smart teams make – New England, Pittsburgh, etc. Those teams do not typically overpay players and will cut their losses when the need/value proposition no longer leans in their favor.
Tim from Section 123:
Given the cap space heading into the offseason, who would have thought we could pretty much keep our starting 11 intact on both sides of the ball (pending keeping Aaron Colvin) and add one of the Top 5 interior linemen in the NFL? Are you kidding me? Wow - what a great time to be a Jags fan!
John: Hey, one fer not kidding around with Tim!
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
John, that's a lot of money for a left guard.
John: Norwell's reported contract absolutely is a lot of money for a guard, just as the contract Jaguars center Brandon Linder signed last offseason is a lot of money for a center. With those contracts comes a phenomenal level of expectation. Too often last season the Jaguars struggled to run through the interior of the offensive line. Considering the money invested in Linder and Norwell, that absolutely must change. The area is the focal point of the offense. It must be the best area of the offense. That's the expectation – and if the Jaguars are going to be the offense they want to be next season, it must be that way.
Damien from Jacksonville:
Do you think the Jags will pick up the fifth-year option on Dante Fowler Jr.? Thanks!
John: The league recently set the salary cap for 2018, which in turn means the numbers for fifth-year options for 2015 first-round draft selections now are set. Fowler's fifth-year option will cost the Jaguars $14.2 million. If the Jaguars exercise the option, they control his rights for the 2019 season and he would be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the NFL's 2020 League Year. If they don't exercise the option, he will be scheduled to become a free agent at the start of the NFL's 2019 League Year. The Jaguars could still negotiate a long-term deal with Fowler before he hits free agency, but as of right now I would be surprised if the Jaguars pick up the option.
Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Drew Brees remains unsigned and reports are his agent and the Vikings have begun talks. Never mind A-Rob … I say that if Drew Brees indeed does leave the Saints, and the Jags fail to land him, then THAT would be the "greatest mistake in franchise history." You can spin Blake Bortles over Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Josh McCown, etc., etc., but you cannot spin Bortles over Brees. I don't care how much less he (Bortles) costs: three years $100 million and well worth it. The list of players I would recommend we cut to sign him is too long to list, and yes … I think his talent will make up for the lost talent at other positions. Drew Brees, Zone!!!! Make it happen!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!
John: Your explanation points, capital letters and inclusion of both in a guttural "Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!" indicate a remarkable passion with implied ramifications if you don't get your way in regards to this topic. Here's hoping that passion can be controlled. Please?
Paul from Orange Park, FL:
Wow, I guess I shouldn't have gone to sleep.
John: Apparently not.