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O-Zone: Utmost importance

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frank from Knoxville, TN:
Hey, Zone … You gotta hand it to Mr. Khan and his team for the ingenuity they are showing in the upgrades to EverBank Field. They're really going out of their way to make it more of an event on game day – and a can't-miss one at that. With the addition of the pool areas, scoreboards and now this, they are definitely making EverBank one of the more hip stadiums in spite of its age in relation to some of the newer venues. Now, if he can figure out a way to get that pseudo-tarp-moveable-roof screen to work then they'd really be cooking with some grease.
John: Your email refers to the proposed renovations to EverBank Field's east and west club areas, proposals that were announced in a press release early Monday morning. They will be discussed by Jaguars Owner Shad Khan and President Mark Lamping at the State of the Jaguars Tuesday, and the renderings show plans for yet another significant, state-of-the-art upgrade to a facility that continues to undergo phenomenal change. Do we gotta hand it to Khan and Jaguars leadership? Yeah, it's fair to say they deserve a hand – and then some. In less than three years, they have made significant strides to upgrade the facility and stabilize the franchise in Jacksonville – and this proposal is yet another example of that. Needless to say winning needs to go along with these improvements, but as far as what the business side has been able to control and improve, the developments have been remarkable. As far as the pseudo-tarp screen and how it relates to cooking, in due time, Frank … in due time.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
With Jameis Winston being talked about as a No. 1 pick I have a question about Dorial Green-Beckham. I have read he may be the best wide receiver, but he isn't projected as high as others. It has to be because he sat out this year – not the off-the-field problems right?
John: It's mostly likely a combination of factors. Green-Beckham – currently a junior at Oklahoma – indeed is projected as a first-round selection, though he is not generally projected in the Top 10. And it is indeed quite likely his absence from the Top 10 is because he was dismissed from the University of Missouri football team and did not play this past season after multiple marijuana-related incidents. Why do Green-Beckham's off-field incidents damage his draft stock more than Jameis Winston's off-field incidents damage his? First, we're not sure yet that they do; the draft hasn't been held yet and it's very possible Green-Beckham could go very high. But because elite quarterbacks are harder to find – and more important – than elite players at any other position, quarterbacks are often kept high on draft boards despite circumstances that might cause players at other positions to drop. Also, Winston never was forced to sit out a season and therefore was not off the radar. Bottom line: all of this doesn't matter too, too much. Each is going to be a first-round selection and get ample opportunity to put college off-field happenings behind them.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
John, out of the current wide receivers projected to be free agents, who do you realistically expect to be available? And out of those players, who would be the best fit for our team going forward? As far as immediate impact and leadership? Thanks.
John: I think it's pretty reasonable to think Torrey Smith might be available – and I do think he would be a good fit. He has speed and play-making ability, and you can't have too much of either. I don't know about leadership; impact is far more important, anyway.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I just read an article about the Jaguars spending less than the NFL average on every position except tight end and defensive line. You get what you pay for, and what we get is an inferior team that is not even competitive. I will reiterate that if Dave Caldwell does not start spending money to assemble a more competitive team, he should be fired. I am tired of spending my hard-earned money on season tickets while the Jaguars play it cheap and lose all the time. We, as fans, deserve better. Do not patronize me by being facetious. I am disgusted by losing because we won't spend money on decent players.
John: Your premise – that you get what you pay for – is bold, though not necessarily true; in the NFL, spending big doesn't always equate to winning. Still, I understand your point, and it's reasonable to be disgusted by losing – and to be tired of it, too. The main issue your email misses is that – as has been written multiple times here – the Jaguars spent less on veteran free agents the past two offseasons by design and as part of a long-term plan to build the foundation of the franchise. They did it to avoid wasting money on short-term, high-priced fixes while they drafted two draft classes they believe will form the base of a young roster. They also did it with the idea that they would spend in the third offseason because by then they would be in a better position to take advantage of the money they're going to spend. They will spend more this offseason. Whether or not that spending has the effects you desire remains to be seen.
KD from McAlester, OK:
I enjoy reading all the remarks and projections. I think everyone is going to be surprised at how many of these free-agents never hit the market … well, maybe not everyone will be surprised.
John: No, not all these free agents will hit the market. In fact, a great many will not – and if that surprises you or Keith or anyone else, then you never have paid much attention to NFL offseasons.
Cathy from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
In your opinion, what are the chances of both Marcedes Lewis and Paul Posluszny returning next season at their present salaries?
John: Very small. I think both have a good chance to be back – and I might through a "very" in front of the "good" in Posluszny's case – but I doubt either will be back at their present salaries.
David from Durban, South Africa:
There are really only two free agents the Jaguars must have and who are worth outbidding everyone else and those are Devin McCourty and Bryan Bulaga. The draft can provide the other components, if necessary. Do you think the team will take the approach that they will do whatever it takes to sign the free agents that they target or should we expect a measured approach like the one they adopted when attempting to sign Alex Mack last year?
John: I think if the Jaguars feel as strongly about McCourty and Bulaga as you do, they will try very hard to sign them – providing, of course, they are available. At the same time, I wonder about the perception that the Jaguars took a "measured" approach when signing Mack last offseason. The Jaguars made Mack an offer that made him the highest-paid center in the NFL and also guaranteed him up to $26 million over the first three years his contract. That's aggressive. Really aggressive. But while you sometimes must be aggressive in free agency, aggressiveness also must be done within reason. If being smart means being measured, then sure, maybe the Jaguars were measured. But you do have to be smart.
Jeff from Stuart, FL:
Welker, 4.65; Amandola, 4.58; Edelman, 4.52; Todman, 4.4. Todman is faster and just as shifty as these guys. Why not use him in the same way?
John: First off, I don't know that Todman is as shifty as the players you mention. He's very fast, but being fast does not mean being shifty, which is why Todman returns kickoffs for the Jaguars and not punts. Todman also isn't a wide receiver, but he is a good reserve running back and kick returner, and that will give him a chance to contribute somewhere next season.
Ron from Asheville, NC:
In a recent O-Zone you brought up that high-priced free agents who don't produce anywhere near what they earn will cause locker-room issues. What about a guy like Marcedes Lewis, who is regarded as one of the most overpaid players in the league? The Jags have plenty of cap room, but doesn't that send a really bad message to pay a player much more than what he is worth?
John: It's my experience that fans worry a lot more about Lewis' salary than players and coaches around the Jaguars. Lewis is very much a team guy and is respected by teammates and opponents. He's a very good blocker and it's harder to find tight ends of his caliber than many fans believe.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, is the mock draft on compiled from a consortium of sports writers and NFL insiders...or is it just you?
John: It's just me, and it means about as much as all the ones from sports writers and NFL Insiders.

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