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O-Zone: Time to shine

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Rav from San Antonio, TX

Why does it feel we have lost another of our young, talented players due to mismanagement in the Jaguars' front office? Was the damage so great it couldn't be salvaged? Has General Manager David Caldwell even reached out to Yann's camp? In Twitter, he said don't believe everything you hear after Caldwell mentioned bringing him back. What now? If we franchise tag and trade him, do we do it before free agency? Are we tied to the franchise-tag money owed and effectively done with free agency already? I feel like we just got dumped and kicked on the way out!!! What's happening with our Jaguars?

The Jaguars have spoken with Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue's people often. They have discussed contract terms and have been unable to get close to an agreement. That understandably has Ngakoue unhappy, but I would caution against assuming that cornerback Jalen Ramsey forcing a trade last fall and Ngakoue tweeting this week that he doesn't want to sign with the Jaguars long-term are connected. Ramsey's situation wasn't about money; it was about a player whose history suggests that he will find something about which to be unhappy in any circumstance. I would anticipate he will become unhappy with the Los Angeles Rams and with future teams. Ngakoue's discontent seems to be far more "normal" in NFL terms in the sense that it he is unhappy with what he is – or in this case, is not – being paid. That doesn't speak to a cultural problem as much as it speaks to two sides having a disagreement over value. It's unfortunate that the disagreement could mean the Jaguars losing a good player, but that could in this case be unavoidable. What now? I anticipate the Jaguars placing the franchise tag on Ngakoue and I don't anticipate the Jaguars trading him – and yes, that means they must keep $19 million available on the salary cap for Ngakoue this season. It doesn't mean free agency is over, but it means more moves must be made to free space.

Bill from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

The "Pay Yann" crowd overlooks the most basic rules of negotiations: you NEVER match the first demand. Two reasons: (1) People always ask for more than they will accept; (2) it is a horrible precedent and will only encourage excessive demands from other players.

Two thoughts: (1) Fair; (2) fair.

Tom from Jacksonville

Looks like a new era in the NFL has been coming on since the running back from Pittsburgh – Le'Veon Bell – sat out to get his way. Ramsey probably had Deion Prime in his ear about how to get to a winning team, and I believe our defensive end has picked that up, too. I don't care for how the NFL has been going, but let the millennials work it out.

There indeed have been a few instances of players forcing their way out of and into situations in recent offseasons. Whether those players were "successful" depends on how you view success and your point that Ramsey listened to advice on how to get to a winning team is particularly interesting. Did he actually accomplish that objective?

Mark from Bethel, CT

With all this draft capital and the need at cornerback, do you think there's a chance we trade up to grab Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah?

Trade up? No.

Sam from Nottingham, UK

Caldwell is proving that Jags won't overpay mediocrity and are working to change the culture. With all this cap space being freed up, who would you target in free agency? And are we likely to attract blue-chip players given our reputation at the moment?

I would target a tight end and linebacker in free agency, but I will be surprised if the Jaguars made a significant "splash" during that period. The team went 6-10 last season and isn't perceived as a franchise on the rise within NFL circles. To sign free agents in that situation a team often must significantly outbid other teams. The Jaguars this offseason don't appear to have the salary-cap space to do this.

Matt from Charleston, SC

A lot of talent leaving or talent not wanting to play for Jaguars, two home games in London, and the return of Dave/Doug regime. We were 6-10 last year. What is there to be excited about or what is there to believe that 2020 will be better? Are we already looking to 2021? Perhaps this is why Jaguars Owner Shad Khan made the decision to play two home games in London.

Lack of excitement around the Jaguars has been a common theme among O-Zone questions recently, but it remains to be seen if the theme is merited. The Jaguars were a young team in 2019 and could be younger in 2020, but they are not a young team without talent. Defensive end Josh Allen. Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Ten 2020 draft selections, including six in the first 127 selections. It's true that this is a time of transition and I understand the pessimism but it's not as if there's nothing to be excited about.

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

You think the Jags should do what the Seahawks did with Frank Clark? Trade Yannick. I think that they could get a least a first- and third-round pick. They might be a better with getting two good players with that trade. Why keep him if he doesn't want to stay? Correct me if I'm wrong: Didn't he say he wanted to be a captain and leader after the 2018 season? That's not how captains and leaders act on social media.

Ngakoue indeed said following the 2018 season he wanted to be a leader and captain, and he has been very public in recent days and weeks about his desire to play elsewhere. But be careful judging too harshly what professional players do or say during negotiations. This is the business side of the NFL, and things get done/said that have little to do with locker-room relationships and on-field play. If he plays for the Jaguars next season, I expect him to play hard. As far as what the Jaguars could get for Ngakoue in a trade, that's a hot debate right now. I'd guess around a second-round selection. He's considered a very-good-thought-not-elite pass rusher. Would a team be willing to give up a first-round selection (or more) for that and sign him to a long-term, premium-money contract? That's a lot of equity to give up. I doubt a team would do it.

Jason from Salem, OR

So, Yann no longer wants a long-term deal with the Jaguars and he looks forward to continuing his career elsewhere. It's really a shame that the Jags have botched player relations so bad in the last few years. Do you think the Jags need to change the way they deal with players?

The Jaguars certainly need to be wary of the perception that player relations are bad. They addressed the issue in late December by firing Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin in the wake of the fining issues with the NFL Players Association. But it's hard to say the Ngakoue situation is a matter of how the people running the Jaguars now deal with players. This is a matter of a player wanting to be paid something and the team not wanting to pay that something. Do the Jaguars need to change their ways and always pay players what they demand? It's hard to do business in the NFL that way.

Red from the O-Zone Comments Section

John, please help us understand what happened with cornerback A.J. Bouye. How does a player in his prime go from All-Pro in 2017 to being traded for a fourth-round draft pick two seasons later? He's only 28. Has he lost a step? Was his performance the past two seasons hampered by injuries? I don't think he forgot how to play cornerback, so why the decline in performance? The NFL salary cap forces tough business decisions, but I wonder why Bouye's performance has declined so much.

It's not as if Bouye went from elite to awful, but he did go from elite to good-to-pretty-good. Why? The defense around him wasn't as good in 2019 as in 2017, and the pass rush wasn't getting home as quickly. Plus, it's possible he slowed in two seasons just enough to not be elite; it doesn't take much fall off for that to happen in the NFL. Remember: Bouye played as well as any cornerback in the NFL in 2017, so not playing to that standard two years later isn't all that surprising.

Phil from Woodmere, NY

Is Josh Allen better than Yannick?

Now? It's close. Moving forward, almost certainly.

Alan from Ellington, CT

Looking back at before the 2017 season there was a large amount of turnover from free agency and cutting some longtime veterans. No use complaining about who's not here. Time for the draft picks over the past three years to step up.

True that.

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