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O-Zone: Weighing in again

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Don from Marshall, NC

I remember the Manning Colts days when he had three receivers over a thousand yards and the running back had over 1,500 yards rushing. Do you see similar results from Trevor in the coming years?

This is rarified air, and it should be noted that those Indianapolis Colts teams of the 2000s – powerful offensively though they were – didn't do that every season in quarterback Peyton Manning's career. But the Colts in 2004 had three 1,000-yard, double-digit-touchdown wide receivers – Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley – and a 1,500-yard rusher in running back Edgerrin James. Manning also set a then-NFL record with 49 touchdown passes that season. Remember, though: When you mention those numbers, you're talking about a peak-production season from an offense that featured three Hall of Famers (Manning, Harrison, James) and another (Wayne) who may be enshrined in the coming seasons. Even though I expect Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence to be very good very soon, I don't know that the Jaguars' offense can routinely reach those numbers in the coming seasons. Can it get close enough to be really successful? Yes.

Tim from Fort Wayne, IN

Based on the current roster and draft position, defensive line seems to be an option in the first round again this year. The last two defensive linemen drafted by the Jaguars in the back half of the first round (defensive tackle Taven Bryan and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson) haven't made major contributions. Were they both high risk, high-reward players? Did the front office at that time just miss on their evaluations? Did circumstances just not work out for them? Are there things that this front office can do to avoid another underwhelming pick there, or is it just the nature of the draft that not all players will develop the way you hope?

Not all NFL first-round selections are created equal. There is a huge difference in realistic expectation and potential for a player selected in the top five of the first round as opposed to players selected No. 20 overall (Chaisson in 2020) No. 29 overall (Bryan in 2018). What can the front office do to make the No. 24 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft successful? The same thing all front offices do with all draft selections: Research it tirelessly, then hope like hell they're right. There's a lot of luck in the draft. Players miss. They always have and always will.

Josh from Green Bay, WI

If you really need to keep all the players on a team year over year, go boot up Madden.

Pretty much.

Eric from Jacksonville Beach

Went down a rabbit hole that I thought was interesting. Looked at the Super Bowl quarterbacks in the last 11 years (22 total quarterbacks). Of them, 11 were still on rookie deals and another seven were on less than top of the market contracts (Tom Brady five times, Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Foles). Only four times were they top-paid quarterbacks in the league (Peyton Manning twice, Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford). I think Trevor is worth everything and more, and really hope he gets it. Just an eye opener to see we better make the most of these next few years to have our best shot before we have to balance the roster to account for the contract.

I didn't go down a rabbit hole, but I do know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl following the 2020 season with quarterback Tom Brady having a team-high $25 million salary-cap hit. I know the Los Angeles Rams won it following the 2021 season with quarterback Matt Stafford having a team-high $20 million cap hit. And I know the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl following the 2022 season with quarterback Patrick Mahomes having a team-high $35 cap hit. It seems winning the Super Bowl can be done with a quarterback having a team-high cap hit.

Sean from Saint Johns City

You know what they should do? Create a terrible playbook for Trevor. Then when everyone thinks he's bad sign re-sign him for the veteran minimum for 10-15 years.

Shad Khan … hire this man! Wait … don't.

Fan Guy from Westside

So, how much negative weight does the Arden Key statement about the Jaguars' front office hold? Clearly, Key was a valuable player for this team and was very vocal about being a part of the team moving forward. Seems a theme with this organization in the burning of bridges with former players. Maybe I'm off, but this is not the first and I doubt it will be the last player that is unhappy with how he has been treated by the front office.

Nah. You're misreading this one a bit. But while there perhaps was a negative perception among players leaguewide regarding the Jaguars under past regimes, that perception changed with the hiring of Head Coach Doug Pederson and the change in the team's culture last season. Outside linebacker Arden Key wanted to stay with the Jaguars. He was vocal about this. It didn't work out that the team could retain him and he signed with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent. The front office can't re-sign all players, even ones who would like to stay. That's too bad, but it doesn't mean there's a problem with the team's current front office.

Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL

John: What are your thoughts on guaranteed contracts in football? In football, unlike baseball, player performance can drop off dramatically and injuries are far more common.

My thoughts are that guaranteed contracts are one of the most misunderstood and mis-analyzed areas of the NFL. NFL players may not have long-term guaranteed contracts, but they do have guarantees in terms of guaranteed years in contracts and signing bonuses. That's where players' security happens. Players and agents have long known this, and they well understand the terrain. And you're correct that the nature of the NFL makes guaranteed contracts tricky. Careers are short and players have fewer productive seasons in the NFL than in any other major professional sport. Guaranteeing contracts sounds great in theory, but they're significantly more difficult to execute – and maintain – in reality.

Kerry from Millersville, MD

John, it seems many readers are unaware that the Kansas City Chiefs did not just "add" Jawaan Taylor to their offensive line. Orlando Brown, a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, left the Chiefs to join the Cincinnati Bengals. While the signing technically occurred after the Taylor signing, it was well known that Brown and the Chiefs were not on good terms (Brown was tagged the previous year). Brown also signed for less money than Taylor and is only one year older and has experience playing both left and right tackle. While nothing is guaranteed, I personally would prefer Brown to Taylor. The Chiefs also lost several defensive players that they will need to replace with draftees or second-tier free agency.

This references what has been a prominent O-Zone talking point in the last week – that the Chiefs committed $60 million guaranteed to sign former Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor and are able to have quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce on huge contracts. Many Jaguars observers have taken this as the Chiefs being somehow better with the salary cap than the Jaguars, and that the Chiefs somehow carry more large contracts and are more serious about winning than the Jaguars. Those observers neglect to recognize that the Jaguars were as active last offseason as pretty much any franchise ever in high-priced free agency, and they also neglect to recognize that the Chiefs have parted ways with multiple cap-eating players in recent offseasons. That list includes not only Brown, but wide receiver Tyreek Hill and pass rusher Frank Clark. No team can re-sign and retain all players under the cap. It's about decisions and timing. This is the Jaguars' offseason to pull back a bit. They'll make different decisions in future offseasons.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

At this point the Jaguars' success is dependent on the contributions of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 draft classes to wins and losses in 2023. There is no impactful cavalry coming from the 2023 draft class. All the free agent money has been spent and the in-house scouted and developed talent must perform this year and I believe it will. It has been a long time since Jaguar fans could look at the current roster of home-grown (drafted) talent and take some amount of significant hope for the future from that group.

The Jaguars need to be a draft-and-develop team. It's the way to build around a young quarterback who will take up a significant portion of the cap. If you're going to be a draft-and-develop team, your drafted players must develop and play well. This is that time for this team.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

You really suck when the Jaguars don't sign any free agents.

Good eye.