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O-Zone: Sunshine and roses

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

The Jaguars better be ready and they better make an impact Monday.

I have received multiple versions of this email in recent days, with Jaguars observers poised for Monday's start of the "legal tampering" period in advance of the NFL's 2022 League Year/free agency. Jaguars observers and fans correctly see the time as important for the franchise, and their anticipation is laced with cynicism and skepticism. That's because fans seem predetermined that the team will not improve – or, at the very least, not significantly enough. Some emailers even seem oddly convinced that the team doesn't even want to try to improve. These sentiments were heightened over the weekend when the Jaguars did not trade for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper after reportedly being among teams pursuing the deal. While I do understand that a decade of mostly losing has spawned these feelings, know this: There is every reason to believe the Jaguars will be aggressive in free agency this week – far more aggressive than was the case last offseason. General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Doug Pederson said as much as the recent 2022 Scouting Combine. Reports have indicated that the team will try to address offensive and defensive line, as well as wide receiver. I wouldn't be surprised if safety and tight end were also areas of focus. Remember: Not completing the trade for Cooper doesn't mean the Jaguars weren't interested in the trade; it means the Jaguars eventually reached a point where the deal didn't make sense. Those sorts of decisions must be part of any offseason plan, unpopular as those decisions sometimes may be. The tampering period begins Monday at noon. Expect the Jaguars to be active. They probably won't acquire exactly the players all fans hope. But they absolutely will be ready and attempt to make a major impact.

Ed from Danvers, MA

John, Does anyone else but me think that Sean Payton was wrong in running for the hills and sticking the Saints with the bill for former quarterback Drew Brees? He honored less than half his contract and left them in a serious salary cap mess.

Sean Payton coached the New Orleans Saints to far and away the most successful period in franchise history. That period included the Saints' lone Super Bowl victory – following the 2009 season – and the Saints contended for the postseason and the Super Bowl throughout Payton's tenure as head coach. He will be the most successful head coach in franchise history and, along with Brees the most important figure in franchise history, for a long time. He earned the right to step away when he so chose.

Marcus from Jacksonville

Can you define for us what you mean when you say you believe the Jags will be "aggressive" in free agency? Is aggressive signing a lot of players and spending a lot of money, regardless of the quality of individual players? Is aggressive signing some of the top players at their positions? I'm confident that whatever the Jags do, fans will be encouraged to "wait and see" because we can't judge the free agent class simply by name recognition, so I'm curious to know a little more about what you mean by "aggressive."

I expect the Jaguars to aggressively pursue top-of-the market players at multiple positions. I also expect them to pursue players at positions where they don't sign "top-of-the-market" players. I do not expect them to operate without regard to quality of player, though I expect fans to have mixed reactions based on their perception of players signed. I don't yet know who they will eventually sign, so I can't tell you what to expect. This isn't scripted television where we know results beforehand. That's what makes this so damned fun. And boy, is it fun.

Bob from Sumter, SC

One thing I'll always remember about Carlos Hyde. He tucked the ball in real tight and held it the right way when he carried it.


Sebastian from Poland

Please help us understand, John: Amari Cooper to the Browns for a fifth-round pick. You see trades like this all the time. A big-time player for a draft pick that likely won't be playing in the NFL, statistically speaking. I understand that there are contracts and salary caps involved, sure. However, why wouldn't every team with the cap room (Jaguars) make deals like this all day long? In fact, salary cap notwithstanding, the Jaguars and every other NFL team should trade every pick for proven players all day long (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, etc.). I know you can't pay them all but if you have cap room, you should trade your draft picks (which you will likely waste anyway) on proven commodities that make your team better instantly.

A couple of thoughts here. The reason established players are traded for late-round selections is exactly the reason you cite – that the player's contract is a far bigger issue in most trades than the draft selection. Cooper's contract was the primary reason the Cowboys traded him and therefore a primary factor for teams trying to trade for him. Remember: While fans weary of hearing about the salary cap being a factor in roster building, it very much is a factor. Teams can work around the cap in the short term, but it is a factor in the long term and overspending in one area eventually will impact another.

Ben from Cuba, MO

If DJ Chark Jr. hits free agency, what do you believe the chances are at him resigning with us after the initial wave of free agency?

Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. indeed remains projected to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. Which means his agent will be free to negotiate with other teams at noon Monday. If that happens, history tells us the chances of him returning to the Jaguars are slim. "Slim" doesn't mean "impossible," but once a player begins receiving multiple offers from multiple teams returning to the former team just usually doesn't happen.

Ryan from Detroit, MI

John, some teams just seem to have different priorities than others. Would you say that on the whole, the Jaguars philosophically just don't value the wide receiver position that highly? Over the past decade, they have seemed to be a "trenches"-focused team in terms of where the money goes. I can't remember the last time we were willing to spend big-time money on the offensive skill positions. Maybe it's time we change that.

It's tricky identifying the Jaguars' "philosophy" in general terms over the last decade; an NFL team's philosophy depends on its decision-makers, and the Jaguars have had multiple decision-makers during that span. They indeed have focused on defensive and offensive line during that span. That they haven't spent as much at wide receiver may be more circumstantial than philosophical, though. They haven't been great at the spot aside from perhaps former Allen Robinson, so there hasn't been much incentive to sign their own receivers to lucrative second contracts. And it can be tough to find free agents at the position worth signing to such contracts. It has been a long-lasting dilemma that has helped define what by any measure usually has been a struggling offense during that span.

Tom from Freezin' Fruit Cove

John, the "professional" GMs, who wrote before the selection of a new head coach, were insane because Owner Shad Khan did not name a coach as quickly as they would. Only after the resultant delay resulted in a coup did they quit carping. Now, the same pattern has developed re free agency. Can we look forward to similar results?

We'll soon find out.

Art from Orange Park, FL

With the free-agent market looking how it does at wide receiver, not resigning/tagging Chark could prove to be a massive miscalculation by the general manager.

Perhaps, though it stretches reason a bit to assume the Jaguars didn't know how the free-agent market would look at this point. A lot of "top" receivers received the franchise tag. That happens pretty much every offseason, so that wasn't a surprise

Bill from Viera, FL

Sure would be nice to get Allen Robinson back …

Hey, one fer A-Rob …

Sam from Nottingham, UK

Value, value, value … you don't get "value" when you've won four games in two years and have disfunction across the organization. Overpay in picks when trading and overpay for the right player(s) in free agency, win a few games, and then search for value.

… and one not fer value …

Tony from Richmond, VA

Mike Williams gone, Davante Adams gone, Chris Godwin gone, now Amari Cooper gone. It's a good thing the team amassed all these late-round picks to use on unproven rookies who most likely won't make the team. Wouldn't want to waste them on a proven wide receiver commodity. Can't wait to not sign Chark and give $12million a year to Cole Beasley instead. Joke.

… and one pretty much not fer anything at all.