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O-Zone: Value added

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Navarre, OH:
They've picked up Blake Bortles' fifth-year option. Let the fanning commence.
John: There indeed was an inordinate amount of fanning after the Jaguars on Monday announced they had exercised the fifth-year option on Bortles' contract. I understand the fanning, because there was outcry and shock in the media about this. It's the shock and outcry I don't quite understand. This was a logical move because it protects the team if Bortles is indeed good in 2017. Is there some risk? Yes, but only if Bortles sustains a serious injury next season. That's the only way the team is committed to him beyond 2017. Otherwise, the team can part ways with Bortles after 2017 – just as it could have done had it not exercised the option – with no salary-cap or cash ramification. Monday's move gives the team control over Bortles' contract in 2017 if the Jaguars want it. That's it. The move doesn't mean they believe Bortles is great. It doesn't mean they are committed to him for the long-term. It doesn't even really change the conversation about Bortles. He still must improve this season to be the quarterback long-term. Bottom line.
Nate from York, PA:
I'm still all in for Blake Bortles. Even the greatest quarterbacks have had rough seasons in their early years and it's no reason he can't bounce back. He's shown he has the determination and maturity to do so. Also, I know it's not all coaching, but how dramatic his improvement was the last two games of last season with Doug Marrone … it makes for some optimism.
John: Hey, one fer Bortles!
Zach from Baltimore, MD:
Regarding the fifth-year option, I've cooled off finally, because it does seem like an injury-guarantee contract. I just feel there are other players that might be more deserving for the option than Bortles. Statistically, he's the worst fifth-year option picked up across the league. Khalil Mack plays a different position, obviously, but he definitely deserves his fifth-year option. I'm sure Branden Albert is scratching his head. Telvin Smith deserves money! The only reason I don't like it is because I don't think he earned a position where he should feel comfortable. I get nervous when the game is in his hands.
John: I'm glad you've cooled off because cooling off is … well, cool. People like it. But the things you mention don't have much to do with Bortles' option – and the option isn't really something players "deserve," because it doesn't in fact benefit the players all that much. It just enables the team to keep them for a fifth year without renegotiating their contract, so for a high-performing player such as Khalil Mack it's not really a very good thing at all. And it doesn't have anything to do with Branden Albert or linebacker Telvin Smith, because Albert's not on his rookie contract and Smith wasn't a first-round selection. To be clear, the fifth-year option pertains to all first-round draft selections only. They all sign four-year contracts with the team having the option for a fifth year. If the team picks it up, the player is committed to play his fifth season under the contract. If the team doesn't pick it up, the player's contract runs out after four seasons. The team can still release the player after Year 4 if it picks up the option, with the exception being if the player is injured. The team can also re-sign the player if it opts not to pick up the option. It's a very team-friendly rule, but the big thing to remember is it doesn't make Bortles any more or any less tied to the franchise. Just because the team executed doesn't mean he should feel comfortable and I can't imagine it will have that effect.
Zac from Section 114:
No splash? College's best offensive linemen and best receiver! Also, while not awarded … college's best running back. Sure, I would have liked the addition of another offensive lineman, but there was some splash.
John: Draft splash, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe a running back is worth the No. 4 selection, and if you believe Fournette and the current Jaguars offensive line can make this team a dominant running team, then this is a splishy, splashy draft class. If you believe the Jaguars didn't do enough in a weak offensive line draft to improve the offensive line, or if you expected a repeat of last year's dizzying Myles Jack/Jalen Ramsey draft, then you probably didn't like this year's draft. Remember, dizziness such as the Jack/Ramsey draft doesn't happen every year – or even every decade. And this offensive line draft was so thin that it was difficult to get much help if you didn't get it early. We'll know how exciting and effective this draft class is next season and the seasons after that, not before.
Josh from Pensacola, FL:
In my opinion people are getting carried away with their reaction to players' off-field issues. I do not condone these players' actions but the problems aren't new. We just have much more access to players' lives than we used to. Just look at some of the players that had questionable character. Lawrence Taylor, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Dez Bryant. I could go on and on and on. If put under a microscope, I'm sure more people than not would have some demons. People need to calm down.
John: We have more access to players. That's one factor. The other is the information we do have is so much more accessible and it's in our face 24/7/365. But your overarching point is correct: players with off-field issues and character concerns have been a part of professional sports since there have been professional sports. As of now, I see no reason that that will change.
David from Broward County, FL:
O-Man, Tom Coughlin/David Caldwell/Doug Marrone wanted to give BB5/our offense a better running game and a power-running game, along with a better O line. Knowing that, I get the first two picks. After much analysis and research I do not get at all the third-round pick, Duwuane Smoot. Clearly C/C/M know why they picked this player at that spot, but no one else does. He was drafted perhaps 100 spots too high, a potentially very bad reach. Far more talented players, especially offensive line, were available instead of Smoot. He still would have been available in the fourth spot – and maybe the fifth spot. Help me understand this pick and why the Jags didn't pick up more OL in the draft.
John: The Jaguars didn't select more offensive linemen in the draft for a simple reason I have discussed several times in recent days: they drafted Cam Robinson at No. 34 with the idea that he can play guard if Branden Albert starts at tackle – and that he can play tackle if Branden Albert doesn't start at tackle. The offensive line class weakened considerably after the third round, and the Jaguars didn't believe later-round linemen were an improvement over players already on the roster. As far as your research on Smoot, I assume it's quite extensive and accurate, but remember: most observers don't have the access to all 32 team's draft boards as you do. I'm one of those observers, so I always assume that what I read on the internet might not always jive with what scouts and personnel people know.
David from Puerto Rico:
If TC has final say over personnel and DM is the head coach; what exactly does Dave Caldwell do for the organization? To me, it seems as if his place with the team is redundant. It was obvious his demeanor is completely different from last year's draft. He did not look at all like he wanted to be there during the press conferences and the videos from the draft room of him making calls to the recent draft picks.
John: David Caldwell ran the draft and was integral in putting together the draft board and making decisions. I understand people thinking that Coughlin has made his position redundant, but everything I saw and heard this weekend indicates that's not the case. As far as Caldwell's demeanor, I've known him for about a decade and a half, and have watched him closely the last five offseasons. I noticed very little discernable change in his demeanor this offseason. Is the Jaguars' organization structure common? No. But even if it's unusual and difficult for outsiders to understand, Caldwell is a big part of it.
Richard from Jacksonville:
Would doubling the Jaguars' win total from last year be considered a successful season for 2017? At six wins, it would be the first time since 2010 that the Jaguars would break the five-win mark.
John: I believe reaching .500 would be a successful season for this franchise. I believe winning seven games would be an accomplishment, because that would mean a four-game improvement – and that's a big improvement in the NFL. I believe it will be difficult for the Jaguars to attain either goal, but I do believe it's possible.
Peter from Jacksonville:
Is it true the Jags drafted Gene Fournette with the first pick in the draft?
John: It was a value selection.

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