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O-Zone: Quittin' time

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from Jacksonville:
I remember a lot of angst when we let Cecil Shorts III go. Perhaps the Jags know something about A-Rob's injury where letting him go will be the equivalent of a Cecil Shorts III release that obviously did not hurt the team?
John: Though I can't put Shorts on quite the same level as Allen Robinson in terms of the significance of the potential loss, my sense in recent days and weeks is people are overthinking/overcomplicating the Robinson issue a bit. That's understandable, because we've had about six weeks since the AFC Championship Game to think, re-think and re-, re-think a lot of issues. While people understandably want to unearth some reason the Jaguars are doing the "unthinkable "and not paying Robinson No. 1 receiver money on a long-term contract, the simple reason for their approach is there on the surface. While he is a good and valuable player, he has not consistently been a front-line, No. 1 receiver enough – and he also is coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in the 2017 regular-season opener. The Jaguars also have other needs offensively they apparently want to address. Robinson, for his part, has done enough in his first four NFL seasons for his negotiating team to legitimately believe he should be paid like a No. 1 receiver – or close to it, apparently. Because of those factors, there apparently is a gulf between the sides. It's really that simple. That is simple, right?
Chris from London Town:
O Man, what's happening with Marqise Lee?? I'm a big fan. Is he staying???
John: Stay tuned.
Tyler from Reno, NV:
I've been a fan since 1995. I don't know if you get to talk to David, Tom or Mr. Khan but I'm one of the fans that would like No. 15 back in a jags jersey next year. Can you please relay the message? Thank you, sir. Die hard Jags fan since Day 1.
John: No one around the Jaguars is unclear on this issue. The decision-makers are well aware of how many fans feel about Robinson – and in fact, I am quite sure in a perfect world Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Owner Shad Khan would love to re-sign Robinson. But that perfect world would mean not being concerned about the salary cap and not having to be worried about signing other players on offense.
Paul from Jupiter, FL:
Can you think of any instances of a top-level player hitting free agency but then coming back to his original team – i.e. there wasn't a better offer out there? I can't.
John: It's rare. Really rare.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
John, which wide receiver do you think has the ability and the team's confidence to pick up third-and-6, Allen Hurns or Lee? It seems like Lee gets the drops when it is an end-of-the-game, keep-the-chains-moving kind of situation. If I recall correctly, there were two games last year we most likely would have won if not for his drops; that would have meant home-field advantage in the playoffs last year, and perhaps more favorable refereeing in the AFC Championship Game. I don't have confidence with Lee in the clutch and personally would like to see Hurns stay and invest draft picks in multiple offensive linemen and a tight end. Thoughts on the third-down-conversion situation?
John: I prefer Lee to Hurns if all else is equal because I think Lee has more explosiveness and gets open more consistently, therefore making defenses have to worry about defending him more. Lee did break the Jaguars' hearts a time or two with late drops last season, but he also made some plays last season without which the Jaguars don't win a game or two. As for what receiver has the team's confidence on third downs, that's a difficult question. It seemed from watching last season the Jaguars had confidence in both players; I didn't sense quarterback Blake Bortles going away from either player in big situations.
David from Orlando, FL:
Do you think Dante Fowler Jr. could play linebacker? I think his physical presence coming downhill from the linebacker position would be awesome!
John: I think Fowler could play linebacker because I think he is gifted athletically enough to do a lot of things – play inside or outside linebacker, defensive end, etc. I think the Jaguars will keep him at defensive end.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
O-man, do you think Marqise Lee will be back? If he thinks he should get $10 million a year based on his potential, I would let him test the market. But if we can bring him back at the $6 million range and add a mid-round draft pick I think we will look good at wide receiver. I just don't want the Jaguars to pick a wide receiver in the first round. I'd prefer that they never do it again. The Jaguars' track record for first-round wide receiver selections is nauseating.
John: I think there's a chance Lee returns, though it seems possible he could have a chance this week to see what the market holds. As for wide receivers, I understand considering the team's history how fans feel about taking one in the first round. But the front office doesn't see things through that lens. The people drafting for the Jaguars now have had one negative experience drafting a first-round receiver for the Jaguars. That was R. Jay Soward, who Coughlin drafted in 2000. That one misstep can't – and shouldn't – influence the franchise 18 years later.
Jeff from Wake Forest, NC:
If we don't re-sign Allen Robinson and it's the end of the world as we know it (and coincidently I feel fine), I'm intrigued by signing or drafting a pass catching running back like Dion Lewis or reuniting Derrius Guice with Leonard Fournette. Just thought it worked well in New Orleans last year for the Saints. Am I overthinking? I need a nap.
John: We're not going to know the Jaguars' thoughts on this front until the draft and free agency play out, but your approach makes sense. I doubt the Jaguars spend big on a free-agent running back, but could I see a running back selected in the middle rounds to complement Fournette and add an element to the running game? Absolutely.
Sandman from Jacksonville:
Looking at the backup quarterback situation, I always have felt Blaine Gabbert got a bad rap here in Jacksonville. Do you think he would be a better backup than Chad Henne? Any possibility Jags look at him for a minimum veteran salary? I think he played OK on some other teams since he left, and he is still pretty young. Thanks, O.
John: I think Gabbert will play a long time in the NFL as a backup, but I would be shocked if Gabbert ever had that role in Jacksonville. It's tough for players who don't live up to expectations as starters with a franchise to return to that franchise in lesser roles. It happens, but it's rare.
Mark from Palatka, FL:
Should the Jaguars be in the market for a backup quarterback? I would say put Henne as quarterbacks coach, because he's a little old to play quarterback and find a younger alternate either late in the draft or undrafted as backup.
John: The Jaguars currently do not have a backup quarterback under contract for next season because Henne is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday. The Jaguars already have a quarterbacks coach, Scott Milanovich, so unless something dramatic happens that's not an option. As for realistic options for the backup quarterback position, the Jaguars either will re-sign Henne, sign a veteran free agent or draft one. I would expect them to go the veteran option – and Henne indeed remains an option. Henne, by the way, is 32; that's not too old to play quarterback.
John from Jacksonville:
I must admit it has taken quite some time to realize the possible reality that we might lose a potential superstar if Allen Robinson is signed elsewhere. However, my peace if he is released comes from the fact that Jalen Ramsey/A.J. Bouye can shut him down (like other star receivers) if he plays against us on an opposing team. I guess that's my bright side in this.
John: OK.
Bill from Jacksonville:
The Eagles just won the Super Bowl, are almost $10 million dollars over the salary cap, and they're going all in again in 2018. They're trading for star players that fit their system and are expected to retain Nick Foles as their "backup" quarterback – and that won't come cheap. Is cap space in the NFL overrated, John? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: It's overrated until you run out of it – and then it's important. The Eagles, incidentally have made some expensive moves in the last few days and they're going to have to make some high-profile moves in the next couple of days to counteract those moves and get under the cap.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I've given you up for Lent.
John: I gave up on me long before that.

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