O-Zone: Up full blast

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Mark from Ponte Vedra, FL and Section 215

I think some readers are confusing a player who has been offered but not signed a franchise tender with one who has an active contract and is holding out. Could you enlighten us on the differences?

A player who has been offered a franchise tender but who has not signed it has played out his contract and ordinarily would be an unrestricted free agent – but his team has placed the franchise tag on him to prevent him from signing with another team. If he does not sign the tender, he misses the season and does not get paid because he is not under contract. This was the situation with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell this past season; he played out his contract in 2016 and played under the franchise tag in 2017 after signing the tender. The Steelers franchised him again this past season, and Bell opted to sit out the season and not get paid. The Steelers had the option to franchise him again this offseason but decided not to do so. That made Bell an unrestricted free agent and he signed with the New York Jets. A player with an active contract who holds out is not a free agent. A primary difference in the two scenarios is that a franchised player can sign his tender and play for his team until the 10th week of the regular season – but he can’t play that season if he is unsigned at that point. A player under contract holding out can theoretically return to play at any point that season, but he won’t accrue a season toward free agency if he fails to report 30 days before the start of the regular season.

Jerell from Columbia, SC

John, it seems the Jags didn’t plan this out well with respect to having money aside for their draft picks that have performed and need and want new deals. I see teams like Philly who have a better roster top to bottom, but continue to sign their core players and dip in FAs – and also a team like the Vikings, who roster is very comparable to the Jags but seem to have locked up all their big-name players, Dallas too. So. this leads me to think the Jags didn’t have a plan.

Have the Jaguars lost draft picks they wanted to re-sign yet? Have I missed something?

John from Jacksonville

I had thought that contracts stated conditions with a timeline and an end date. If both sides of a contract agree to continue a working relationship, they work to sign a new contract prior to the existing one expiring. When did professional sports players decide it was not acceptable to have the new contract a year or more prior to the existing one expiring? Is that a recent precedent or has it been that way all along? I know they are entertainers and it's all about the money for them but a contract is a contract.

Contract disputes have been a part of professional sports for as long as professional sports have existed, though the dynamics have changed dramatically in the last few decades with free agency being earned and later evolving. But while a contract is indeed a contract, there’s also a reality – particularly in the NFL where contracts aren’t guaranteed – that a team can release a player before the end of the contract. Professional athletics careers are also shorter than most careers – particularly in the NFL where career-ending injuries are comparatively common – so players are under pressure to maximize earning as much as possible. Get it while you’re in your prime and healthy. Those years pass quickly – along with your earning power.

Tank from Mechanicsville, MD

Hey, Zone. Enough about contracts. I trust in the front office to get them done if at all possible. Far more important: What are your two favorite R.E.M. songs?

“Sitting Still” and “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)”.

Chris from Mandarin, FL

It’s going to look really bad for Jaguars’ management if they do not pay Yannick Ngakoue a contract comparable to that of Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark, given that his production has been near, at or above their level of play since coming into the league. This is especially true given their choice to pay a player like center Brandon Linder top of the market money early. Linder is not as good an offensive lineman as Ngakoue is a defensive lineman. I’m sorry, he’s just not.

I would agree Linder isn’t as good a center as Ngakoue is a defensive end, but I don’t know that the two issues quite connect. While Linder was the league’s highest-paid center when he signed, he averages earning a little more than $10 million a season. The pass-rushing market that could dictate Ngakoue’s contract is more than $20 million a season. That’s like … double.

Ray from Jacksonville

John: UF produces better players than Ramsey? Ah yes, I still remember Reggie Nelson whiffing on what some would call an attempt to tackle Reggie Wayne as he happily ran down the sideline untouched.

Can’t we all just get along?

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

Do you get any sense that - in terms of Ngakoue's extension - the Jags are waiting to see how Josh Allen performs, as well as some other high-priced guys we acquired in free agency? It's a dangerous game, but if Allen looks the part, and cornerback A.J. Bouye, Linder and guard Andrew Norwell all prove to be critical assets for the team moving forward, doesn't that slightly alter the relative importance of Yannick – even as talented and productive as he is?

I don’t get the sense that’s what the Jaguars are doing with Ngakoue. The Jaguars want to pay Ngakoue, and they want to pay him well. But they also have to make sure they’re paying him in such a way that makes sense. Is that $15 million a season? Or $17 million? Or $20 million. That will be the negotiation point. Now, if the sides can’t agree to something before the season and Allen has a huge rookie year? Could that change the dynamic? Probably, but I think the Jaguars would rather get something done before finding that out.

James from Destin, FL

Hi John, just saw a rumor linebacker Telvin Smith was fined over $88,000 for not attending minicamp. In the past, these numbers were not disclosed that I’m aware of – and even then the team could reduce or not fine a player. I guess the question I’ve been meaning to ask you is what does that money go to if a player is fined?

Smith posted on Instagram that the Jaguars fined him the precise amount of $88,650 allowed under NFL rules for missing last week’s mandatory minicamp. While Smith appeared to express surprise at the fine, the Jaguars really had no other course of action. While he has said via social media he plans to sit out the 2019 season, that’s not official until it’s official – and the Jaguars would set a risky precedent by not fining a player for missing mandatory minicamp. Remember, teams routinely fine players then not enforce the fine for many reasons including contract holdouts – and there are a lot of unknowns about how Smith’s situation will be handled on many fronts. When players are fined, the money typically goes to charity.

Marc from the Southside

Are the fines for missing minicamp practices mandatory, or can a team elect not to levy them?

A team can elect not to levy them.

Sunil from Jacksonville

I noticed that the St. Louis Blues play the 80s hit (okay that's a stretch) "Gloria" when they win a game. At first I thought it was weird ... but it grew on me. I now have it on my playlist. The Patriots play the Neil Diamond classic "Sweet Caroline" at their games. It made me wonder why the Jags don't have a special Jacksonville song that is played at the stadium. Sure, we played "Sweet Home Alabama" for many years. Unfortunately, that song seems to be more polarizing. But we have some great southern rock bands that have come out of Jacksonville. Lynyrd Skynyrd has many classics other that the one already mentioned like "Free Bird" or "Gimme Three Steps" and 38 Special has "Caught up in You" and "Hold on Loosely," These are great songs from bands that we can take pride in. I think sometimes those of born and raised in Jacksonville, run away from what is ours instead of embracing it. Everyone knows the words to “Caught up in You” and maybe ... just maybe ... it could something that brings us all together while celebrating our music heritage. What do you think Johnny? #Duuuval #DTWD

I’m fine with .38 Special. I’m relatively sure I still have my autographed copy of Wild-Eyed Southern Boys that the band members signed at the Record Bar at Regency Square Mall (“To John, Keep Rockin …) But why mess with perfection? Sweet Home Alabama is perfect. Skynyrd is Jacksonville. Sweet Home is Skynyrd’s anthem. Play it all night long.

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