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O-Zone: Widespread panic

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Dave from Los Angeles, CA

Just when I thought the Jags' decade had commenced. Houston's looking like a major problem.

The Houston Texans on Wednesday traded a second-round selection in the 2025 NFL Draft to the Buffalo Bills for Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs. This was the latest move in what has been a high-profile 2024 offseason for the Texans, and it continued an offseason-long trend of Jaguars fans – and certainly many here in the O-Zone – being really, really worried about their AFC South rival. The Texans almost certainly will be the AFC South favorite entering next season. They earned that by winning the division last season, and their offseason moves have many believing they are unbeatable. And perhaps they are. Sometimes high-profile offseasons and heady prognostications lead to memorable seasons. Just as often they don't. The prognostications for the Jaguars were pretty heady this time last offseason. We'll see how the 2024 season plays out. Meanwhile … embrace the panic. May it long reign.

Mark from High Springs

I feel like we could have matched the Texans' deal for Diggs, or even given more, without hurting our bottom line all that much. This tells me we either didn't pursue him, he didn't want to come here, or we tried to get him and otherwise failed. It doesn't look good, especially when we need a skilled player at his position and one of his caliber goes to a division rival for a song. It doesn't look good, particularly for our general manager. Maybe he thinks Diggs is washed out. Maybe he's eyeing a wide receiver No. 17, (although I'd argue now that the Texans have Stefon, our top priority should be CB). Can you explain it in a way that doesn't make me want to tear my hair out?

Here's one possible explanation. Diggs is 31 and the Bills were willing to take a dead "salary-cap" hit of $31 million in 2024 to make the trade. They would have had a $27 million hit had Diggs played for them, which means the Bills were willing to take a bigger salary cap hit to trade him than keep him. It's true that Diggs really has been good throughout out his career. It's equally true that he's entering his 10th NFL season – and that the Bills really, really, really didn't want him on their team.

Micah from Chicago, IL

Well, the Houston Texans have assembled a Super Bowl-caliber team just like that, John. Do you think the Jags will ever win the division again? Just curious.

The Texans haven't made the Super Bowl yet. And of course the Jaguars will win the AFC South again.

Fred from Naples, FL

Stefon Diggs has been traded by the Bills to the Texans. Now it really looks like we will be drafting a cornerback in the first round!!

I expect the Jaguars will select a cornerback in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. I expect this because it appears to be a need – because it appears likely there will be a really good corner available when they select No. 17 overall. I certainly hope for the Jaguars' sake that the Texans acquiring Diggs is a very small part of that decision – if it is indeed part of the decision at all. You build to be a very good team that other teams must beat, not just to beat a single team twice a season.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

You would agree the AFC South has become more competitive this year with all the free agent acquisitions by the Jaguars, Texans and Tennessee Titans?

If the free-agent acquisitions have their desired effect, yes.

Frank from St. Augustine, FL

Johnny O. Well, it appears that we're going cornerback with the 17th pick since the Texans signed Stefon Diggs. You see any other way you could go a different way now?

Yes, I could see the Jaguars selecting an offensive lineman in Round 1, or maybe – though not likely, from this view – a wide receiver.

Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone, I agree with you that "Christian Kirk, Gabe Davis and Zay Jones — along with Evan Engram —could give the Jags a very capable receiving corps," but would argue that group is not as capable as ​Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Robert Woods. Here's hoping we can get both corner AND receiver help! I understand that we were favored to win the AFC South last year just like the Texans will be favored this year and that anything can happen when the season plays out just like it did in 2023, but there is no denying that since 2021 when Nick Caserio became GM of the Texans within a week of Baalke being named Jags GM, Caserio has done a far better job of building a roster. Hoping for a better draft than last year in an attempt to try to keep pace.

Saying that Caserio has done a "far better job" than Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke is a bold statement and is seemingly a sentiment many Jaguars observers share. Whether it's true remains to be seen.

JZ from J-Ville

Zone, I just read an article on ESPN saying Kansas City voters voted against a tax to help with stadium renovations. I feel like there were national media people writing pieces about how Jacksonville people didn't want the Jags, or they were going to move because of the ongoing negotiations/feelings of Jacksonville people regarding paying for the stadium. I wonder if those same people are going to write articles saying the people of Kansas City don't want the back-to-back reigning champs in town.

Voters in Kansas City on Tuesday indeed voted down a sales tax measure that would have funded major renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. I don't read all articles on such topics, so I don't know what national media people are writing on this. I do recall a national outlet or two playing up polls regarding how people felt about the Jaguars' potential Stadium of the Future. I expect that Stadium of the Future to happen because I expect the people making those decisions to see the benefits of having the NFL in Jacksonville for the long-term to be worth working out the details of the deal. I expect that eventually will happen in Kansas City because I expect that city area to want the Chiefs there for the long-term.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo O-Zone! It is that time of year where fans speculate on which player is going to make a big impact this upcoming season and will only get more vocal as training camp ramps up. Taking away the head coach and the coordinators, which of our position coaches will have a big impact on the team this season? Because as we know it's always coaching in the NFL! GO JAGS!

I expect secondary coach Kris Richard to be an important addition. The Jaguars' defense under coordinator Ryan Nielson are expected to play more aggressive, press, man-to-man coverage. Richard's style and approach to that will be important.

*Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL       *

Hi, John. Does the NFL's player performance pay end up counting against a team's salary cap? Thanks.


Jim from Neptune Beach, FL

O, is it a bit simplistic to continually hear evaluations about a player playing one position but "could play at a different position?" I hear about so-and-so playing left tackle in college, but could play right tackle or move into a guard spot. Or a corner could also play safety. I get that all current players and future draftees "could" physically play a different position, but it's not all that's necessary, is it? There's muscle memory, instinctual reactions, reads and coordination at each position that need to be taken into account. Classic example for us who were around in the early days was Byrce Paup, a free-agent signee who played for Green Bay. Great inside linebacker, was moved outside to the edge (or maybe it was the other way around) and failed miserably for the team. Why not keep a player at a position he thrived at and let them continue to thrive. I'm thinking about those who think that moving Anton Harrison from right tackle to left tackle if Cam leaves. Opinion?

Paup signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from Buffalo Bills in the 1998 offseason. He played outside linebacker for both franchises, as he had for the Green Bay Packers earlier in his career. As for Harrison, he played almost exclusively at left tackle while at Oklahoma. I've heard nothing to indicate he can't "transition" back to left tackle if that becomes the plan.

Losing interest from Duval

Baalke pays a receiver from the Bills mid-high grade money while the Texans get a receiver for essentially a second-round pick from the same team. Our general manager is a single A talent playing in the big leagues and will continue to ruin this window we have with quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

One fer panic. Long may it reign.