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O-Zone: The Summing Up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mark from Ponte Vedra, FL:
John, the whirlwind seems to be subsiding … I guess. But whoa!! Awesome free-agent class, huh? What are your thoughts? Go!
John: We at can't officially report these signings as official until the players indeed officially sign, but I'll address the six players who are generally thought according to media reports to be perhaps unofficially maybe signing with the Jaguars at some point soon. Those players are tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end/tackle Jared Odrick, offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, outside linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown. I think the Jaguars overall did a good job pursuing needs and focusing on players who could still be ascending. That's important in free agency for the long term even if it's overlooked in the short term. I particularly like the Odrick and Parnell acquisitions, with Odrick a very underrated player entering free agency and Parnell having played very well in his starts last season. Skuta makes sense because of the need at Otto, and House gives them the ability to move Aaron Colvin to the nickel if he indeed starts opposite Demetrius McCray. Thomas was the jewel of the class from a high-profile, name perspective and there's little question he adds a weapon to the offense, though it will be hard for him to match the 12-touchdown-per-season pace he set in Denver the past couple of years. Brown would likely start at free safety, and the Jaguars like his potential, though he has started just 11 career games.
John from Jacksonville:
Build with the draft and supplement in free agency. It's happening, Zone, and in my opinion going very, very, well.
John: It indeed is happening, and the approach thus far is impressive. By that, I mean while the Jaguars are going to spend a lot of money – apparently – they seem to have kept the spend-for-the-sake-of-spending to a minimum. That's the obvious worry when you have as much salary-cap space and the accompanying build-up, water-behind-the-dam feeling there was around the Jaguars before this free-agency period began. As much as possible, the moves made thus far seem reasonable and to fit within the general framework of the build. I doubt all the players acquired in recent days will be home runs. Some may even be disappointments. But the Jaguars appear to have put themselves in good position to have a chance to improve. That was the goal entering free agency.
Ed from Winston-Salem, NC:
Why did Jax go after Odrick instead of bringing back Pot Roast? Age? Money? Scheme fit?
John: Odrick and Terrance Knighton play different positions. Odrick is primarily going to be a five-technique defensive end with the Jaguars, while Knighton is solely a tackle.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
The running back market has been deflating for years. The 2014 season went even more heavily to a running-back-by-committee league. So why in the world are general managers throwing $8-9 million a year on a running back? Stay away from DeMarco Murray. He is overpaid for the position; otherwise I'm loving all the FA rumors … Go Jags!!!!
John: Ordinarily and philosophically I agree with you. This year, with the Jaguars' cap situation, there doesn't seem to be as many negative ramifications to risking big money on the position. We shall see.
Christopher from Philadelphia, PA:
How do you think Jared Odrick will be used in the Jaguars' scheme with their current personnel? It seems like he could ably fill in for Marks at the three-technique until he recovers. Going forward, it looks like he could eventually replace Big Red. Thoughts?
John: My thoughts are your thoughts are good thoughts.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
The Jags' salary-cap situation is still a mystery to me. How could they be able to sign Thomas and Murray and still have money left over to sign 2015 draft picks?
John: The Jaguars entered free agency with over $60 million cap space. Generally speaking, you figure cap hits by base salaries for each player plus the average of the signing bonus. So, a player with a $4 million base salary for 2015 with a $10 million signing bonus spread out over five years would have a $6 million cap hit. Without going into the details of every contract – details that aren't yet out there -- you can shove a lot of signings into $60 million of cap space and still sign rookies.
Wyatt from Jacksonville:
O-Zone, I can't believe you forgot about possibly the best player on the Jaguars in 2014 when asked about who the Jaguars have signed over the last five seasons that actually had a major impact. Marks was a free agent signing, and shows that great players can definitely be found.
John: Yep. You're right, and that's my grievous error. When asked about free agents who had made an impact in the last five years or so aside from Paul Posluszny, I essentially answered that none had. I was thinking about the question in the framework of players who had come in as high-priced, high-profile free agents, which Posluszny did and Marks did not. Still, there's no question Sen'Derrick Marks has had an impact. And a big one.
George from Savannah, GA:
STUPID! How can our duo of Caldwell and Idzik pay third-tier players such as Parnell and Skuta – the 75th- and 95th-rated players – multi-year million dollar contracts? Parnell has all of seven starts in his entire career!! This is not the way to spend money. Is this their idea of blue chip players?
John: Welcome to free agency. If you're going to play, you're going to pay a lot of money and you're not always going to spend that money on players about which there is a consensus among fans. You have to project and you have to take some chances, because no matter who you sign in free agency, you're projecting and taking very expensive chances.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
I'm not going to freak out about the Jermey Parnell signing, I'll wait and see, but I will say, I'm not expecting much...
John: That's actually one of my favorite signings. I'm the first to say – and I've said it often; in fact, I just said it one answer ago – that every free-agent signing carries with it significant risk. But there are pretty legitimate reasons to think Parnell is better than you might believe. Yes, he has only seven starts, but he played on a very good offensive line and for a team that was slammed against the cap. Parnell reportedly played very well in his five starts last season, so while I get the skepticism there's also some reason for optimism here.
Kevin from Beacon, NY:
John ... why didn't I hear the Jags in discussion for Suh? I know the defensive line is already a strength of ours but we didn't even try to bring him in for an interview. A guy like that I feel we should at least take some sort of a shot at. Your thoughts?
John: My thoughts are I discussed this quite a bit last week – and from a theoretical view, I absolutely would have gone after Suh. Whatever the price, I thought he was the player most likely to be a game-changer and most unlikely to be a bust. That was never the direction the Jaguars seriously considered going. There was a lot of cap space and a lot of cash and the Jaguars used both on a lot of needs, so the thought was, "There are a lot more needs than just one. Let's address them."
Stephen from Belfast, Ireland:
With Julius Thomas apparently going to become a Jaguar, what would you say to those – like me – who think he is just a product of playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game, and not an elite TE?
John: I'd say I understand your argument, and it's a legitimate concern. I've said often that it's not reasonable to expect 12 touchdowns from Julius Thomas next season. That's what he had each of the last two seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver, and it will be difficult to reach that number playing with a quarterback in his second NFL season. I've also often said you're not signing Thomas with the expectation that he will match those numbers; you're paying him to make your roster better and he will. One other thought on this subject, though. I covered Manning for 10 seasons and in that time, he played with several tight ends – Ken Dilger, Marcus Pollard, Jacob Tamme, Dallas Clark. In that time, only Clark caught double-digit touchdowns from Manning, catching 11 in 2007 and 10 in 2009. So, while Thomas without question benefited from Manning, he certainly did things while playing with him that not just any tight end has done.
Sarge from Jacksonville:
JO, if the unofficial official signings are true, I've got one word to say. "WOW." Not only Thomas, though. Seeing the highlights of Dan Skuta and Jared Odrick make me very excited to see what the defense will be like in 2015. These two have attitude, speed, and power. Just WOW.
John: Well said.

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