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O-Zone: Spare change

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

Riddle me this, Batman, how can a team like the Kansas City Chiefs with MVP Patrick Mahomes and the best tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce, with an overall solid roster, still afford a market-setting contract for Jawaan Taylor at tackle? Are the Jags just that bad at scouting? At roster/contract management? Both? What gives that our rosters have been historically weaker than teams that have legitimate superstars?

The Jaguars as they stand now aren't bad at roster/contract management, and nothing about the Taylor situation indicates otherwise. Teams must make choices when it comes to the salary cap, and those choices are often difficult. The Jaguars did have a deficient roster in 2020, an issue they addressed by spending big in free agency in 2020 and 2021. That – along with the development of quarterback Trevor Lawrence – enabled them to win the AFC South in 2022, but it also caused them to have many contracts with big cap hits in 2023. That was one of multiple reasons they weren't going to spend major free-agent money this offseason, and one of many reasons they opted not to re-sign Taylor before he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. And remember: This regime is just getting started. Time will tell how well this group scouts and manages the cap. The early signs are positive.

Rusty from New Iberia, LA

You often have said that you always overpay in free agency. If that is the case, how is it ever possible to re-sign your own guys? Seems like there will always be some other team willing to overspend. You can't blame the player for leaving, as they are just trying to maximize their earning in what usually is a short career. So, at the end of the day, you would just be overspending on your own guy as opposed to some other team's guy.

You re-sign your own guys by overpaying them. The positive to overpaying your own players is you know how they fit with your system, you know who they are as people, and you know their approach to the game. Because you know these things, your chances of the signing being successful are very high.

Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL

Losing Taylor isn't fun, especially to a team perceived to be "in the way" to a Super Bowl appearance, but this team does need to be able to sign Trevor Lawrence (which will be the biggest Jags contract by some multiple). Don't forget cornerback Tyson Campbell either. Another big contract. Good teams lose good players. The Chiefs just won a Super Bowl with a significant number of rookies on the field. You can't sign them all. There are some guys more important to keep than Taylor. Time to draft and develop another one!

Good eye.

DJ from Jacksonville

O, Jacksonville has produced many NFL players over the years. I would place Bullet Bob Hayes as the best Duval-born NFL player. Do you agree? Why/why not?

I do agree. Bob Hayes, a Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and one of the greatest sprinters of all-time, attended Matthew Gilbert High School in Jacksonville. Hayes' deep speed – unprecedented in the NFL at the time – is credited with forcing defenses to begin playing zone defense in the 1960s. Hayes therefore is credited with helping change the dynamics of the NFL. Two Hall of Fame safeties – LeRoy Butler of Lee High School (Green Bay Packers) and Brian Dawkins of Raines High School (Denver Broncos/Philadelphia Eagles) – also must be in the conversation as the best players ever from Jacksonville. But it's hard to argue against Hayes.

Eric from Jacksonville Beach

I keep hearing that having a swing tackle needs to be a priority for us now that Taylor moved on. I know Tyler Shatley played a lot of guard last year, but he traditionally filled that swing tackle role and did pretty well from what I remember. Wouldn't it make more sense to have him go back to filling that role and then find a guard since they tend to be cheaper/easier to get?

Shatley has been the Jaguars' swing guard/center for most of his career. He is not a tackle.

Steve from Sunroom Couch

Dear, John. Well, General Manager Trent Baalke gave us something to complain about. Letting Key go will not help the defense's pressure on the quarterback – and to the Titans of all teams. Is he planning on drafting a replacement(s)?

Outside linebacker Arden Key, who indeed signed this week as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans, was a second-wave free agent last offseason who signed a one-year contract. I expect the Jaguars will look to that market again to address pass rusher – and to replace Key's pressure and 4.5 sacks. Pass rusher also could be addressed in the draft. And remember: Develop, develop, develop. I know the football world is obsessed with outside additions these days, but the Jaguars' young defensive players must develop. They simply must.

Bill from Jacksonville

John, reach over and wake up Trent Baalke. Free agency has begun. Has anyone told him?

The Jaguars were never going to be active in free agency this offseason. Baalke has said this repeatedly for nearly a year. It is not a surprise.

Hassan from Celina, TX

The Jaguars need depth at multiple positions. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, running back Leonard Fournette, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., defensive lineman Calais Campbell, linebacker Myles Jack, edge rusher Yannick Ngakue, all of them are available. Let's get the band back together!

The past, with rare exceptions, is the past. I suspect that will remain that way for most – if not all – the players you mentioned.

DenMiz from Duuuuvalll

Last offseason, I remember a lot of agonizing chatter about how unfair the NFL was to the Jags for the lack of Monday night football. Do you expect a shift this next season?

I expect the Jaguars to have multiple prime-time games in 2023, and I expect them to have a presence there outside of Thursday Night Football. I don't have a great feel about how many prime-time games overall the Jaguars will play – or how many might be on what nights. I expect it will be lower than many fans want. That's because many fans expect their team to have more prime-time appearances than any other team and I don't know that the Jaguars ever will have more prime-time appearances than any other team. I expect them to be well-represented in prime time moving forward as long as they win and as long as Lawrence is their quarterback.

Cliff from Orange Park, FL

What are the odds Walker Little starts at left tackle while Cam Robinson goes to right tackle?

I would be surprised if this happens. That doesn't mean it can't or won't.

Marc from Oceanway

All Knowing, Zone. Are there any players that were on our team last year but were not front-line starters – or were on the practice squad – who you could foresee moving into the starting lineup or at least earning more meaningful playing time this year?

There doubtless are multiple players who could fit this description. I wonder how outside linebacker Jordan Smith might fare moving forward. He's a talented player and a fifth-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft who missed the 2022 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. I also have an eye on Gerrit Prince, a tight end who signed as a collegiate free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft and who spent last season on the practice squad. The Jaguars like his potential and I expect he will fit into the rotation at that position somewhere in 2023.

Bruce from Saint Simons Island, GA

O, What draft pick do you believe would have the most positive result for the Jags, offense, defense, specific position?

How good is the player?

Brian from ROUND ROCK

I hope we re-sign Smoot. He's one of those core vets that should be a franchise lifer, like safety Andrew Wingard. Those guys keep the culture right and also do whatever it takes on the field. Do you think he stays?

Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot is a tricky situation this offseason. He is an unrestricted free agent entering his seventh NFL season. As such, this may be one of his last opportunities to test free agency while in his career prime. At the same time, he sustained a torn Achilles in a Week 16 victory over the New York Jets this past December. That's a potential career-altering injury, so finding a contract that Smoot and the team both like could be difficult. The Jaguars ideally would love Smoot back. This is not an ideal situation.

David from Chuluota, FL

Ozone – Although I was disappointed the Jaguars lost Taylor and Key, I am glad it was done with an eye to the future. The last thing we want to do, when it's time to negotiate Trevor Lawrence's contract, is to starting digging in the seat cushions for some spare change.

You're right.