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O-Zone: Sitting hot

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Steve from Nashville, TN

What will the overall No. 1 pick's contract structure and amounts look like? I know it's controlled mostly by NFL rules, but are there incentives built into a rookie contract?

Quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, signed a four-year, $36.2 million contract with $23.9 million signing bonus last offseason. The rookie pool typically increases annually, so you generally project a proportionate increase in each draft slot each offseason. With the salary cap this year expected to drop because of COVID-19, the thought is that the salary for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft likely will increase from last season, but perhaps not as much as otherwise would have been the case. There typically aren't incentives built into rookie contracts.

Mark from Gainesville, FL

John, what's the point of saving cap space during the offseason? I don't think it rolls over to the next year. Since we have so much this year, why wouldn't the Jags front-end load a lot of long-term contracts? Wouldn't it secure us elite players without landing in cap purgatory a few years down the road?

The point of saving cap space can be several-fold. One … yes, it does roll over to the next season – so if a team believes it's in a bit of a rebuild it can make sense to save some cap space for the future. It also can be wise to save the space if a team believes it will be needed to sign its own veteran player in the foreseeable future. There's another reason for not being overly active in free agency that fans/observers often miss, and that's that sometimes a free-agent class doesn't feature players worth the investment. Free agency is not the end-all and it's actually a very risky way to acquire players. There are few elite players available in any season in unrestricted free agency – and sometimes there aren't any. Remember: If a player is truly a franchise-foundation player, the player's team usually is proactive in signing that player to a long-term deal. The worst thing a team can do for the long-term is spend big in free agency simply for the sake of filling the depth chart. Make sure a player is worth the investment on the field before signing him just to feel good about your roster on paper.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

This year, Rob Gronkowski (two touchdowns in the Super Bowl). Last year, Travis Kelce (touchdown in the Super Bowl). In 2019, Gronk (87 yards in the Super Bowl). In 2018, Gronk and Zach Ertz combined for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Super Bowl. I could go on and on. If anyone thinks tight end is overvalued, they must not have paid attention to recent history, let alone any history really. Basically, what I am saying is I want a tight end.

Let the record show Josh has weighed in.

Marcus from Jacksonville

I don't see analysts writing about Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson or others as a possibility at No. 1 as a conspiracy against Jacksonville. I see it as what it is … click bait. Stories about Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence as the No. 1 pick have been written ad nauseum for three years, so who is going to read another story about why Lawrence should be the pick by Jacksonville? But if you have someone making an argument for someone else with the top pick, that's at least worth reading to see how ridiculous their reasoning is. Most years there is debate among sports writers about who the top pick will be, so in years where there is little-to-no debate, they have to manufacture it to keep people reading their stuff. It's not conspiracy, it's job security.

Most analysts don't rely on "clicks" in their jobs, but is there an element here of analysts just wanting to say something new? Yeah, that's fair.

Peter from Summerville, SC

¡Oh, O! Are you enjoying your job now more, or less, with Trevor possibly coming to the Jaguars?

I always enjoy my job, and the possibility of a draft selection doesn't change things much during this stage of the offseason. The lead-up to the draft varies little based on who a team might select, particularly in what is expected to be a mostly virtual pre-draft process – no NFL Scouting Combine, etc. Now, if/when the Jaguars actually do select Lawrence and we start seeing the other results of the offseason … yeah, that could get fun. Stay tuned.

Matt from Houston, TX

Are we really going to keep avoiding throwing Colin Kaepernick in the conversation mix for available veteran quarterbacks? There have been many players who have been given second, third, fourth chances with their careers for actual offenses. How is it that everyone is so comfortable combing the veteran quarterback market and signing players like Mike Glennon and a bunch of other mediocre – not really talented – quarterbacks, when Colin is a dynamic playmaker who is hungry and wants to win? The hypocrisy with the NFL's performative messaging this year was astounding. If it were truly about winning, he would be signed somewhere. Give that man the chance he deserves.


Matthew from Saint Augustine, FL

Bring on the Fitz!!! He is a vet, with great knowledge, can come in and save a game. And also is a great teacher. He is the kind of guy any quarterback can relate to. Bring on the Fitz!

All true. The question with Ryan Fitzpatrick – as with any potential backup with a young, potential franchise quarterback No. 1 on the depth chart – is whether he is ready to be a backup and only a backup. Not every quarterback is ready to do that.

Dan from Varna, Bulgaria

Hi John, in your response to league making the 17 regular-season games you explain that they will alternate years when teams will have one more home game. My question is, are the NFL teams sold on that? We know that it is very hard to build the same teams year after year, thus if you are having good year you will be in a greater disadvantage playing one more away game.

The NFL and its owners want the 17th game for the revenue, and there's no way to get the 17th game without an unbalanced home-away schedule. Considering the NFL owners indeed want the revenue … yes, they are sold on it.

Alejandro from Mexico City, Mexico

I don't get the idea of trading Gardner Minshew II to hire a veteran quarterback to support Trevor Lawrence. Gardner is an amazing and cheap backup. If we want a good advisor for Trevor, we could hire Philip Rivers, Kurt Warner or another great ex-quarterback willing to come to Jacksonville and it will cost the same and will be out of the salary cap numbers. Am I missing something?

We've talked a lot here in the O-Zone about a veteran backup for a rookie quarterback, but your scenario certainly is possible, too. Minshew could make sense as a backup – if he accepts the role. Or it could be a tricky situation. We don't know yet how the Jaguars will approach this, but yes … either route makes sense. Stay tuned.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

Hi, John. How much benefit to CJ Henderson do you think the addition of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson to the cornerback room would be? If he can still play at a high level, plus mentor Henderson, all for around $10-to-11 million, don't you think that would be a great pickup?

This idea has merit, and corner opposite Henderson appears to be one of the more obvious and immediate priorities on the roster. Addressing the position at No. 25 or 33 in the draft makes sense because you can typically get a very good starter at the spot later in the first round; that's often considered good value, and that could influence the thinking in free agency. IF the Jaguars opt to pursue a veteran corner, the question becomes whether Peterson is still playing at a high level at the position. There are those around the league who think his best option entering his 11th season may be to move to safety. That also could be a move that makes sense. Either way, a veteran such as Peterson could benefit the entire secondary. You don't play at Peterson's level for a decade without knowing how to prepare and approach the game like a professional, and a young cornerback always can benefit from being around that.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Forget the draft. Forget free agency. Forget tags. Forget the new coaching staff and general manager. We have a much more important issue. A new Director of Communications. Otherwise known as O's boss. Many, if not most of us, are on the edge of our seats waiting to see how this hire is going to affect the team's (current) senior writer. Is John Oehser on the hot seat?

This seat always is hot, and I am relieved each day when the door code works. So far, so good.