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O-Zone: Three More Steps

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JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Marcus From Jacksonville

The main argument against cutting wide receiver Zay Jones is he provided quality depth – and if the team loses one or more of its top receivers, it's worth $10 million to have experienced and quality depth at the position. Are the people complaining about the cut for that reason the same ones who would be complaining at season's end that Zay was overpaid when he finishes with 25 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns? At best, he would have been the Jaguars' fourth option at receiver, fifth if you count tight end Evan Engram – and possibly sixth if you count running back Travis Etienne Jr. , who had more targets, receptions and yards receiving last year. Quality depth is great, and I would have loved to have Zay on the team next year, but it makes sense. You don't pay your fourth or five receiving option that much money unless you're making a move after the injury bug bites.

You're probably right. I liked the idea of the Jaguars retaining Jones – not only in the event of injury but to allow rookie wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. time to develop without the pressure of immediately being a "starter" at a particular position. It's a fine theory, I suppose. But while me "liking an idea" is well and good, such a move indeed makes little sense when you're trying to manage a roster and manage the salary cap over the long haul.

Jon from Jax Beach, FL

I apologize for seeming so angry. I'm just a Day One fan who was at the old Gator Bowl with my father watching preseason Buffalo Bills games that helped us get a team in the first place. I love the Jags, but feel we make continually poor personnel decisions. I'm certainly not alone and history doesn't suggest I should feel any differently. I disagree that football people don't judge drafts for multiple years. It doesn't take that long. I'm hopeful I am wrong about this class. We just botched the wide receiver Calvin Ridley thing. We didn't address the offensive line besides an old center whose team no longer wanted him. You say it takes four new linemen to address the position group. That is extreme and nobody expects that. We do expect adding competition to both guard spots as Brandon Scherff is old and hasn't played well here; add him to the long list of free agents that don't work out here. We will never succeed bringing in free agents. That's why I'm so passionate about the draft. It's frustrating to me how you can act as if we are all out of our minds because we expect better. Have a great day, John. Sincerely.

No need for apologies. You make many valid points. And fans aren't "out of their minds" to want and expect better. The Jaguars haven't won enough. But when you say, "We will never succeed bringing in free agents," it's simply untrue. Engram was an unrestricted free agent. So was wide receiver Christian Kirk. So was wide receiver Zay Jones. So was middle linebacker Foye Oluokun. Free agents in a very real sense helped lift the Jaguars from a truly uncompetitive roster to the one that has had winning seasons the last two seasons. While nothing is wrong with expecting better, player acquisition and team-building in the NFL are projection/percentage endeavors. Rarely are moves "home runs" or complete wipeouts. Stating incorrect extremes makes it difficult to be heard when making valid points.

Scott from Jacksonville

"Bring in the Analytics Guy!!!" That was funny, John! Good job.

Throw enough darts at a board and one will hit somewhere.

Josh from Atlanta

Can Thomas be a Desean Jackson type of threat? Or is that comparison too far off to the type of receiver he projects? Not the caliber of receiver, just the role.

I expect Thomas to help the Jaguars stretch the field and improve the offense's chances in "jump-ball" situations immediately. I expect he has a chance to develop into a complete receiver moving forward. The last part likely will depend on professionalism, work ethic, offensive scheme and how he grows – as is the case with most young receivers.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo, O-Zone! I believe that by improving our defense through free agency and draft that it will be the catalyst that improves our offense. I believe that it will allow the offense to play looser and open, taking pressure off of quarterback Trevor Lawrence to make a comeback. Being that rookie minicamp is coming up quick, besides Thomas who are some of the drafted and undrafted free agents that you really looking forward to seeing at camp? Me, I am looking forward to seeing how running back Lorenzo Lingard and safety Josh Proctor fair. What says you O-Zone???

I say I will naturally watch veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landy in rookie minicamp. He's a five-time Pro Bowl selection expected to participate on a tryout basis. I also will be watching essentially every draft selection to see if they "look the part." I will try to remember to get an eye on an undrafted free agent or two. I won't do any of this expecting to learn much beyond "getting a feel" because rookie minicamp is far more an orientation than practice for all but a few players and therefore not a good time to judge a player's future.

Julio, the sexy pool boy from Daytona

When Trent called about Brandon Aiyuk, didn't the Niners want Zay and our first-round pick? He said no, and drafted a good – not great – wide receiver and cut Zay instead. Unless I'm remembering incorrect, why?

There are many reports every offseason, and there were reports before the draft that the Jaguars were going to trade up into the Top 10 for a receiver. There is probably some truth to some reports. There probably is some vagueness and interpretation involved with others. I don't doubt there was interest on the Jaguars' part in San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. If indeed the conversations went as this report indicated, I imagine one reason the Jaguars chose the direction they chose was that they would have had to pay Aiyuk a veteran contract solidly over $20 million a season. The Jaguars selected Thomas Jr. No. 23 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Minnesota Vikings selected wide receiver Jordan Addison No. 23 overall in '23; his contract averages about $4.5 million a year. Also: We don't have an idea yet if Thomas will be good, great or awful. We may know more once he participates in a padded practice.

Sean from Oak Leaf, FL

I suspect there will be less angst from your Loyal Reader about the disrespect the Jaguars will suffer this year from the lack of a prime-time game on Sunday or Monday.

Stay tuned.

Richard from St Augustine, FL

Just noticed SF and KC ranked 27th and 31st in dead cap expense. Seems like a well-managed roster picks players and holds onto them through the contracts the team agrees to. The Jags are in the middle of pack but about 10 percent of total cap versus two percnent … that's like a few good men lost to poor decision-making. Plus KC and SF have been doing pretty good for a bit. Even though I have retired my general manager position, my philosophy would be live with your decisions which could possibly lead to making better decisions. Since you have seen a few regimes come and go in your career, do you agree? Moodachay more in 24! Go Jags.

I don't particularly agree. While teams ideally would have no dead money on the salary cap, teams that are aggressive in free agency are going to incur dead money. This is particularly true when teams are as aggressive as the Jaguars necessarily were in 2021 and 2022 to dig out of the roster hole the franchise was in at that time. If you're going to sign high-dollar free agents, you almost have to structure contracts so they will have some potential dead money at the end. Once the Jaguars have a "healthy" cap structured around drafting and developing – and around a handful of core players – I expect there will be a "cleaner" cap with less dead money.

David from Jacksonville

What's the one thing you want to see in rookie minicamp?

I want to see a short practice with a breeze and shade. What general managers and coaches want to see is players who look like they belong in the NFL – and they want to see practice end without injury.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh Mighty 'O' / King of All funk, I thought it was longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette who cut a rug down at a place called The Jug with a girl named Linda Lou? Of course, Gene only needed one step, not three.

This is a common misperception. Gene actually was the guy who had the disagreement with the fella with a hair color of yella.