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O-Zone: Staying cool

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Richard from St Johns, FL

Fifteen days for the record 13 draft picks. Wow, pretty good. I know the NFLPA-agreed-upon rookie pay scale has been accelerating signing times for teams since its inception, but … wow. Not only a record number of Jaguars picked in draft, but fastest signing by a fair bit. Am I correct, King of Funkiness? Are we in dead zone yet? Go Jags.

The Jaguars indeed have signed all 13 of their 2023 NFL Draft selections, finishing the process this past weekend – a little more than two weeks after the draft. Perhaps what's most noteworthy about that is it was barely noteworthy at all, which shows how much the NFL has changed in a decade – and the effectiveness of the "rookie wage scale." The scale, implemented in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL's Owners and the NFL Players Association, ensured that rookie contracts are essentially slotted from No. 1 overall to the last player selected. It also capped the amount that teams can spend on rookie contracts – and limited lengths/structures of those contracts. The cumulative effect has been to effectively eliminate the ridiculous rookie holdouts that often lasted deep into training camp, sometimes setting rookies back and often causing unnecessary issues for teams. Rookie contracts not surprisingly have been agreed upon – and signed – increasingly quickly since the change. This indeed is the quickest I can remember the Jaguars' draft class being signed. That's notable considering the size of the class. Times indeed have changed. In this case, for the better. And no … it's not the dead zone. Not yet.

Brad from The Avenues

The Jags are not leaving! It defies logic, John. We are building a state-of-the-art practice facility. Plans are moving ahead for what is essentially a new stadium. All of the development that both Jaguars Owner Shad Khan and the city want is centered around this team. Yet still they talk. To paraphrase Alfred Pennyworth, " Some people aren't looking for anything logical. Some people just want to watch the world burn."

We're in the early stages of discussions on the Jaguars' stadium of the future. Because the discussions are high-profile, involve taxpayer money and involve tens/hundreds of millions of dollars, many people feel differently about many parts of the discussion. As such, there will be resistance and arguing on the topic – most likely until the process is complete. My sense is that you're correct – that at their core, Khan and the city want the same thing: An NFL-level, state of the art stadium that can house a team for decades and be the core of a revitalized downtown. Why wouldn't both sides want that? And no … the Jaguars are not leaving. The idea here is to get something done in downtown Jacksonville.

Mario from West Kelowna, BC

John! I know that you're just acting when you are being nice.

Good eye.

Scott from Jacksonville

For those thinking we will have a heat of the summer advantage over Kansas City, I grew up in the Midwest, and it gets just as hot there in summer as it does here - sometimes much hotter. Summers just last longer here. Kansas City will know how to deal with the heat just as well as our Jags.

It's also more humid in Florida, which gives heat here a different feel. That can't be ignored when discussing heat as it relates to early-season Jaguars home games. But overall … yes. You can't expect to win in the NFL because of heat. Or cold. Or homefield. You win because you outplay your opponent.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - Of the nine teams traveling to London this upcoming season, only one is from the NFC. Any reason why the lean is so heavy on the AFC for these games?

Not particularly.

Mike from Azores

Hey, John. I would guess that if you could add three players to the Jaguars roster in order to improve the team the most, it would be as most local experts and Jaguars talking heads suggest: An edge rusher, a cornerback and a left guard? If so, that's the same three positions of need going into the 2023 draft! How can that not result in the feeling that Baalke blew it??

Because drafting for short-term need leads to reaching for players whose values doesn't merit the selection, which is the easiest way to draft your way into big trouble. I would be far more concerned about the Jaguars' 2023 NFL Draft if every Day 1-2 selection matched a short-term need. That would indicate they were selecting to fill a hole rather than drafting because they liked the player. We'll know if the Jaguars' 2023 draft was a success in due time. That due time will be sometime during the '24 season or so. Another thought here: I was surprised the Jaguars didn't select a cornerback in one of the first three rounds because it seemed a position where a young player could make a quick impact. Not selecting a pass rusher there didn't surprise me because getting Year One impact from that position where the Jaguars were drafting was going to be difficult. Not selecting an offensive guard there didn't surprise me, and remember: The Jaguars did select Cooper Hodges in Round 7 and right tackle Anton Harrison in Round 1. They addressed offensive line – and guard – at various times in the draft and there's a lot of early optimism around both players.

Fred from Naples, FL

I am sure it is just a coincidence that we are playing two games in London this year at the same time we are beginning negotiations on stadium renovations for the future. I would like to think one has nothing to do with the other, right?

It doesn't. The Jaguars have played a home game in London for the past 10 seasons, with the lone exception being the 2020 season when COVID-19 prevented the NFL from playing any games overseas. The Jaguars this season agreed to play a road game in London because adding a road game to the preexisting home game always has made sense and the scheduling worked out this season that it could happen. Everyone involved in the discussions knows the need for a new/upgraded stadium. Adding a road game in London doesn't change that reality.

Don from Marshall, NC

How many teams do you see using tush push play and do you think the Jaguars will be one them? Go Jaguars!

I assume you're referencing players in the backfield "pushing" a quarterback on a sneak play. At least hope that's what you're referencing. The Philadelphia Eagles used this approach with great and notable success this past season, and the NFL opted against implementing rules to eliminate the play this past offseason. Because NFL teams will copy successful approaches, I do expect teams to copy it – and it's quite possible the Jaguars could do so occasionally. I'm not a huge fan of the approach. It seemingly invites a lot of large people – and therefore a lot of weight and force – on the quarterback, and I don't know that the Jaguars want to subject Lawrence to that very often. I would expect the Jaguars' use of the play to be limited, if they use it at all.

Howard from Homestead, FL

Before I make my prediction for the 2023 season, I need to know one thing: Does London have Waffle House?


Al from Alachua, FL

It seems pretty obvious, but it appears that their offseason strategy was to re-sign as many players to team friendly deals as possible, then draft players that will sit behind or even start over players whose contracts are nearing expiration or players that are candidates to be cut due to their high cost.

It's tricky trying to summarize an entire offseason strategy into easy compartments. NFL roster management is complex because you're dealing with 53 players at various stages and sizes of contracts. You do your best to project a player's value and projection, then try to fit those moving parts into each season's salary cap. The Jaguars' overall focus this offseason was to begin transitioning from a team that depended too largely upon unrestricted free agency in the past to one that will depend more on young, drafted players around quarterback Trevor Lawrence. As with any summation of an NFL roster, that description is too simple to be accurate. But that was part of the approach, and they very definitely took steps in that direction.

JR from The Squatchlands

Yo, O! A few days ago you mentioned that the Jags can't be required to participate in Hard Knocks this year. However, you forgot to mention that in years past we could not be required to participate because we had a first year head coach whereas THIS season we are given a pass because we went to the playoffs last season. Winning is cool …

Yes it is.